DETROIT — The Gophers accomplished a program first Wednesday, Dec. 26.
With a 34-10 win over Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field, Minnesota has now won its last regular season game — the memorable 37-15 win over rival Wisconsin — and its bowl game for the first time.
At the beginning of November, the Gophers seemed lost after a 55-31 blowout loss to Illinois. But a resurrection began with the promotion of Joe Rossi to defensive coordinator, which saw the unit buckle down.
Minnesota went on to win three of their final four to give second-year head coach P.J. Fleck his first winning record at Minnesota (7-6) and momentum to carry into 2019.
Minnesota’s defense held Georgia Tech’s nation-leading rushing offense well below its season average of 335 yards per game. The Yellow Jackets didn’t exceed 100 yards on the ground until the fourth quarter, and including garbage time, finished with 206.
The Gophers, meanwhile, had the most dangerous rushing threat Wednesday. Running back Mo Ibrahim eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards on the season Wednesday and burst right past that. He finished with 224 yards on 31 carries, wining bowl MVP honors and leapfrogging Laurence Maroney into second on program’s all-time freshman rushing list.
Georgia Tech, a six-point favorite, mustered its best offensive drive of the game in the fourth quarter, churning out a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. It cut the Gophers’ lead to 20-10, but Minnesota soon responded.
Ibrahim added a second touchdown to extend the Gophers lead to 27-10 with 12 minutes left. Then on a 30-yard connection with Tanner Morgan, receiver Tyler Johnson set the program’s single-season receiving touchdown record with his 12th.
Gophers kicker Emmit Carpenter made 2 of 3 field goals to help Minnesota take a 13-3 lead at the half. The U kept the Yellow Jackets scoreless until the last play of the first half, a 44-yard field goal from Wesley Wells.
In the first quarter, the Gophers jumped to a 10-0 lead, while Georgia Tech’s offense shut down with two three-and-outs and netting only three total yards.
Johnson also broke the Gophers’ single-season receiving yardage record and tied its touchdown mark with an stunning over-the-shoulder, 18-yard touchdown reception to make it 10-0.
The Gophers opened the game with a 10-play, 62-yard drive, which stalled in the red zone, but ended in a 31-yard field goal from Carpenter. The 3-0 lead helped improve Fleck’s record to 11-1 when Minnesota scores first in his tenure.
The Gophers have won three straight bowl games, including the 2015 Quick Lane and 2016 Holiday bowls. They stayed home with a 5-7 record last year.