Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Five Takeaways

Guaranteed Rate Bowl
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Minnesota won with their smothering defense, but what did we learn? Here are LWOS’s five takeways from the Guaranteed Rate Bowl:

Field Conditions Were Simply Not Good Enough

Was it really absolutely crucial to have fireworks and skydivers pre-game, when it meant having the roof open in heavy rain? Whether that was the primary cause of the lousy field conditions is unclear, but it can’t possibly have helped. Players were slipping and falling, untouched, all night. Putting a football field in a baseball stadium in a matter of days can’t continue to be a thing if this is the best the field can be. Imagine a game hinges on an interception that happens because the receiver fell down on the play? Or someone gets injured like Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith did a few years ago?

The Future is Bright at Running Back

Redshirt freshman Ky Thomas and true freshman Mar’Keise Irving picked up where they left off in the regular season. Thomas carried 21 time, Irving 19, each with well over a hundred yards. Irving found the end zone, as did offensive lineman Daniel Fa’alele. (If you haven’t already seen it, keep reading for one of the best things you will see on a football field).

And it’s not just bright for Minnesota. Sophomore Tony Mathis did an admirable job replacing Leddie Brown for the Mountaineers after Brown opted to focus on draft prep rather than play in the bowl. He struggled a bit with blocking assignments and blitz pickup, but that’s to be expected from an underclassman who hasn’t played much and is facing a very good defense.

Boye Mafe, Esezi Otomewo, Coney Durr Improving Their Draft Stock

Numbers-wise, this wasn’t a standout game for either of Minnesota’s defensive ends. But defenses don’t rack up big numbers when the offense is on the field for 38:29 of the game. Mafe and Otomewo did combine for three of the team’s five sacks of Jarret Doege, helped by Doege’s propensity to hold on to the ball for far too long. That, in turn, was exacerbated by Minnesota’s strong coverage downfield- it’s tough to get the ball out quickly when there’s nobody free to catch it.

Coney Durr made big plays on back-to-back snaps in the third quarter, covering his man perfecting without committing a penalty. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen anyone throw to his side of the field.

Tanner Morgan Stepped It Up

Morgan’s numbers- eight of 13 passing, 109 yards, one interception- are not great. Let’s start off by saying that the pick was in no way his fault; Mike Brown-Stephens slipped and fell on the route. Fortunately for the Gophers, this was late in the third quarter and the writing was basically on the wall. Morgan was able to pick up some big chunk plays, averaging 8.4 yards per pass, which kept the defense just off-balance enough to allow success in the run game.

Peyton Manning he’s not. But with a run game like the Gophers have, he doesn’t have to be. All they need Morgan to do is give them a chance, and he did.

The Best Thing You’ll See This Bowl Season Came in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl

If you like Big Man touchdowns- the Thicc Six, if you will- you’ll LOVE Minnesota’s first touchdown of the game.