Minnesota Rides Its Running Game to a 30-24 Win

Minnesota Rides Its Running Game

When you go into some of the lower-tier bowl games, you can pretty much plan that some of your stars who have carried you all year will be sitting out. Some of the fun of the games is the “other guys” who step up. Minnesota rides its running game to a 30-24 win over Bowling Green in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Tuesday.

Quarterbacks Make Early News

Both backup quarterbacks started out hot, relatively speaking. Bowling Green’s Connor Bazelak threw for only 1,700 yards all season. But on the third play of the game, he went deep down the middle of the field to Odieu Hiliare for a 46-yard touchdown pass.

Minnesota answered with Cole Kramer making his first start in his last game of college eligibility. He had thrown one pass all season, an interception against North Carolina. He engineered a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive. On third and goal from the four-yard line, he connected with Elijah Spencer in the back of the end zone right down the middle. Kramer started the game by completing his first six passes. It was only good for 16 yards, but hey, when you have barely played for four years, you take it.

The Golden Gophers tried to get a little clever with a two-point conversion that had the place kicker Dragan Kesich trying to run it in. He was stopped just shy of the goal line and the Bowling Green lead was 7-6.

After the unexpected flash of “explosiveness” on both sides, the offenses started to bog down. The two teams traded a couple of field goals to make it 10-9 Bowling Green at the half.

Time To Get to the Ground Game

In the second half, it was time to get more looks at the future of the Minnesota offense. Freshman running back Darius Taylor did have 103 carries on the season for 591 yards. But that was in a reserve role as he battled injuries for much of the season. Now the Detroit native was literally playing in front of the home crowd at Ford Field. He made the most of it.

On Minnesota’s first drive of the third quarter, Taylor had six carries for 57 yards. Jordan Nubin added another 21 yards up the middle. From there, Kramer crammed his way up the middle from one yard out for the touchdown and the 16-10 Golden Gophers lead.

After a stalled Bowling Green drive, Minnesota went to the ground game again. The Golden Gophers ran it five times, (four for Taylor for 14 yards and one for Nubin for six yards). The one pass of the drive was good for a touchdown when Kramer connected with Jameson Geers at the two-yard line. The receiver lunged into the end zone and the Minnesota lead was up to 23-10.

In the fourth quarter, Bowling Green finally found a semblance of a ground game. Pasean Wimberly sprinted to the right side for 42 yards to the Minnesota 38-yard line. Four Bazelak completions moved the ball down to the Gophers 18-yard line. From there it was the ground game, and Wimberly took the ball to the right side on a jet sweep and went into the end zone untouched. The Minnesota lead was down to just one touchdown at 23-17. The 60 yards rushing on the drive nearly doubled Wimberly’s output for the entire season.

Hometown Hero

But the homecoming game for Taylor was just one of the postseason stories that had to happen. Lemeke Brockington returned the kickoff 51 yards to the Bowling Green 48-yard line. The short field was all Taylor needed. He had three rushes for 20 yards. Then from the Wildcat formation he rushed up the middle for 17 yards and the touchdown.

Bowling Green scored one more touchdown late in the game with Bazelak scoring from two yards out with 2:33 left in the game. But the Falcons burned 5:33 and their final timeouts off in getting it down to a 30-24 Minnesota lead. When they couldn’t recover the onside kick, it allowed Minnesota to run out the clock for the win. It is the fifth straight bowl win under head coach P.J. Fleck for Minnesota.

Taylor, in his homecoming, had 35 carries for 208 yards and a touchdown. Kramer, in his first and last start, was eight of 16 passing for 26 yards. He had two touchdown passes and an interception. He also added 31 yards rushing with a touchdown on three carries.

The Golden Gophers, who had to get in with their APR ranking, finish the season 6-7. Bowling Green finishes at 7-6.





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