Our Golden Gophers ended the 2014 season by playing a game in 2015 against the SEC East Champs from Missouri. It was a highly entertaining game, the Gophers had several opportunities to grow their early lead but in the end it was a few special team's mistakes and Missouri's rushing attack wore down the Gopher defense as they cruised to a 33-17 Citrus Bowl win.
One of the tools the Gophers utilized throughout the season was strong special teams play to aid a strong defense and adequate offense. This formula did not play out today as the Gophers made a few key special teams mistakes that allowed Missouri to regain momentum and lead to Tiger points.
The first quarter was largely dominated by Minnesota. The Gopher secondary intercepted Missouri quarterback, Maty Mauk on each of their first two possessions. Following the second turnover the Gophers drove 80 yards and Roderick Williams ran 20 yards for a touchdown and an early 7-0 Gopher lead. Missouri's third possession was a three-and-out. The quarter eventually ended with 23 offensive yards for Mizzou, 2 picks and a seven point hole.
But early in the second quarter with Missouri pinned deep and lining up in punt formation on 4th and 3, a well executed fake punt resulted in a 19 yard gain and a huge momentum shift. The Tigers scored 10 points in the second quarter, holding Minnesota to just 36 yards and zero points to take a 7-10 lead into the half. The Gophers were content to sit on the ball to end the half with the understanding that we would be receiving the ball to start the third quarter.
But Gary Pinkle had other plans and Missouri executed an onside kick to open the third quarter with possession of the ball. This possession ended in a FG and just a six point lead that the Gophers quickly erased. Starting at the 25 the Gophers rushed for one yard, completed a nice pass to KJ Maye for 20 and then Maxx Williams made the offensive highlight of the game for the Gophers. On our own 46, Mitch Leidner completed a pass to Williams who then streaked down the sideline hurdling not one but two Missouri defenders on his way to the endzone and a Gopher lead 14-13.
Momentum appeared to be back in the Gopher's favor with the lead and holding Missouri to a three-and-out on their next possession. But special teams problems came back into play as Marcus Jones tried to field the punt off the bounce in traffic and Missouri ends up controlling the ball. This lead to a Maty Mauk 18-yard run four plays later and a Tiger lead 19-14. The Gophers managed a FG on their next possession, still in the third quarter, but 17 points and down two was the closest they would get.
Missouri dominated the fourth quarter with a running attack that wore down the Gophers and the Tigers ran away with this game in the end. Individual runs of 78 yards and 69 by Russell Hansrough and Marcus Murphy respectively essentially put this one away.
The final was 33-17 and an end to what was a great Gopher season. This game entertaining and frustrating. The silver lining was that Mitch Leidner looked rather good completing 21 of 31 passes, no picks, a touchdown and 258 yards. Missouri shut down David Cobb and the ground game after the first quarter and Leidner did a nice job of keeping the offense moving at times through the air. This is the Mitch we need to see for the rest of 2015.
Missouri won this game and deserved the Citrus Bowl trophy. The Gophers are continuing to build this program and 2015 should be another fine season and we should all be very excited. Thanks to the Gopher seniors who did their part to build this program to this point. Good game and a great season.