Minnesota sophomore Bryce Witham was far from a household name, even in the state of Minnesota. But bowl season can make a hero and a program legend out of anyone at any given moment. Williams entered the Outback Bowl with just one reception in two games this season. He ended the season with three catches, and his two receptions in the Outback Bowl could not have been more significant as No. 18 Minnesota (11-2) scored a 31-24 victory over No. 12 Auburn (9-4) in the Outback Bowl.
Witham caught his only touchdown of the season, and his fourth-down reception late in the fourth quarter helped to allow Minnesota to run out the clock on the Tigers. For Minnesota, the underdog mentality was well suited and perhaps there was no player better to thrive in the moment the way Witham did. Minnesota dominated Aubrun in the stat sheet with close to 500 yards of offense against a solid defensive team from the SEC. Auburn managed just 232 yards of offense, and just 56 of those yards came on the ground.
Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan passed for 278 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Morgan’s touchdowns were thrown to Tyler Johnson, who caught 12 passes for 204 yards. Young rising running back Mohamed Ibrahim led all players with 140 rushing yards, including some hard runs at the end of the game to pick up a first down and contribute to milking the clock in its entirety. Auburn’s Bo Nix was limited to 17-of-26 for 176 yards and a touchdown.
The win was Minnesota’s second striaght postseason bowl victory under PJ Fleck. It was also Minnesota’s first bowl victory over an SEC team since beating Alabama in the 2004 Music City Bowl. The Gophers have won each of their last three bowl games played, dating back to 2016. Minnesota’s 11 wins this season are the most for a single season since the Gophers won 13 games in 1904. Minnesota’s only other seasons with 10 or more wins came in 1900, 1903, 1905 and 2003.
Although this season may have fallen shy of playing for a Big Ten title in what has been a dream season for the Gophers, Minnesota continues to look to have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the program, beginning in 2020 as a rising contender in the Big Ten picture.
Minnesota will begin the 2020 season with high expectations. The season will begin at home against FAU in non-conference play on Thursday, Sept. 3. Auburn will begin its 2020 season two days later on Sept. 5 with a home game against Alcorn State.
Minnesota (3-3, 0-3 Big Ten) had their chances but the Gophers were unable to pull off a major upset on the road in the Big Ten. No. 3 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) walked away with a hard-fought 30-14 win to remain undefeated and in charge of the path to a Big Ten championship.
Dwayne Haskins, who was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week each of the past two weeks, should be on his way to a third straight weekly award from the Big Ten after passing for 412 yards and three touchdowns in the win. It was the second-straight week Haskins passed for at least 400 yards to help Ohio State pull away from a potential upset bid at home. Minnesota did well in not allowing the Buckeyes to gain an advantage in the running game, but KJ Hill was a receiver the Gophers just had no answer for. Hill caught two of the touchdown passes from Haskins and led all players with 187 receiving yards.
Minnesota freshman running back Mohamed Ibrahim was finding running lanes for much of the afternoon against Ohio State, as he rushed for a career-high 158 yards and two touchdowns, but Minnesota couldn’t find enough in the tank to cash in on a few opportunities. Zack Annexstad was intercepted twice and has now been intercepted seven times in the last three games after starting the season without a pass picked off in the first four games of the year.
Minnesota trailed Ohio State 17-14 at halftime but missed two field goals in the second half. Ohio State scored 10 points following those two missed field goals.
Ohio State will now prepare for a road game next week at Purdue. It will be another primetime game for the Buckeyes away from home, with games against TCU and Penn State also having been played under the lights already this season.
Minnesota will be back on the road again next week when they visit Nebraska.
Minnesota was a heavy underdog this afternoon against Ohio State, but the Gophers are keeping the Buckeyes within reach after one half of play in Columbus. Ohio State leads Minnesota 17-14 at halftime, thanks in part to two touchdowns coming after pivotal instant replay situations to go their way.
One play after it appeared Minnesota may have stopped Ohio State on a fourth and short, there was no replay called by the Big Ten replay official to review the spot where Mike Weber landed on the field. Dwayne Haskins wasted no time capitalizing on the lack of replay and went deep for a touchdown for the Buckeyes.
Minnesota was not rattled, however. The Gophers responded with a nine-play 75-yard touchdown drive, ending with Mohamed Ibrahim punching one in from three yards out to regain the Minnesota lead. It was then Minnesota’s defense with a chance to make a big play, stonewalling Ohio State on 4th and 1 from the Minnesota 17-yard line out of an Ohio State timeout. The Buckeyes’ 11-play drive not cutting into the lead or taking the lead was a nice spark for the Gophers, but a fumble on the next offensive series for Minnesota led to an Ohio State touchdown.
This time, the instant replay booth did get involved to decide if a fumble by receiver Tyler Johnson would be upheld. After review, the ruling was made Johnson did secure the catch and lose control of the football after doing so. Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah recovered the football and Haskins later completed a 36-yard touchdown pass to KJ Hill as the Buckeyes took a 17-14 lead, which held for the remainder of the first half.
Minnesota’s own mistakes have hurt them in this first half, as well as they are playing overall. Two turnovers and three personal foul penalties have not helped the upset bid. However, with one half to play, Minnesota is in position to keep the pressure on Ohio State in the second half if the Buckeyes cannot make enough adjustments. Big plays have favored Ohio State, but will they continue to wear down Minnesota in the second half?
Minnesota Coney Dur was ejected from the game for targeting on Haskins.