In his final game in maroon and gold, Tyler Johnson delivered a historic performance worthy of the Outback Bowl MVP, leading the Minnesota Golden Gophers past the Auburn Tigers, 31-24. The senior wide receiver finished the game with 12 receptions, 204 receiving yards, and two touchdowns, including the game-winner.
Redshirt sophomore running back Mohamed Ibrahim also came to play, rushing for 140 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown. He was operating behind a Minnesota offensive line that was without starting right tackle Daniel Faalele. But the Minnesota Movers more than held their own against one of the best defensive lines in the country.
The Gophers and the Tigers traded blows in the first half. Tanner Morgan threw an interception on the first drive of the game, and Auburn capitalized with a field goal four plays later to take an early 3-0 lead. But Minnesota responded with a field goal drive of their own, marching 53 yards on 10 plays to set up a game-tying 40-yard field goal for Michael Lantz.
But it was not a tie ballgame for long. The Tigers’ Noah Igbinoghene took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, nearly untouched, for a 10-3 lead. Auburn later returned the favor with a special teams gaffe of their own, muffing a punt return that the Gophers recovered. Three plays later, Mohamed Ibrahim punched it in for a score to pull even again.
Minnesota took their first lead of the game with a 12-play, 92-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter that saw saw two touchdowns at the goal line overturned upon review. The Gophers finally made it 17-10 with a play-action touchdown pass to tight end Bryce Witham from Seth Green.
On their next drive, the Tigers evened the score when Bo Nix scrambled away from pressure to extend the play on fourth down, finding a wide open Sal Cannella for a 37-yard touchdown pass. With less than five minutes to play in the first half, the Gopher offense went back to work, capping a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a go-ahead touchdown pass to Tyler Johnson in the back of the end zone that has to be seen to be believed:
ARE YOU KIDDING?!? #SCtop10 pic.twitter.com/M5bAU1a0QM— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 1, 2020
It was a historic final game at Minnesota for Johnson, who broke the school records for career receiving touchdowns and receiving touchdowns in the first half.
Late in the third quarter, Auburn was able to tie the game on a touchdown drive that saw wide receiver Seth Williams take a swing at Mariano Sori-Marin after the play in front of two refs (no flag), blatant holding (no flag) allow Bo Nix to run for 16 yards and a first down, and a late pass interference penalty thrown well after the play give the Tigers a fresh set of downs instead of fourth and long. It was capped by a three-yard JaTarvious Whitlow touchdown.
But Tyler Johnson would not be denied, blowing past Auburn safety Smoke Monday for a 73-yard touchdown on the first play of a Gopher drive in the fourth quarter to take back the lead.
The play of the game make have come on the next Minnesota offensive possession, as the Gophers drove down the field to work the clock with a 31-24 lead. Facing 4th and 1 at the Auburn 41, the Gophers opted to go for it and Tanner Morgan, with a defender in his face, lofted a pass to Bryce Witham, who hauled it in with a one-handed catch:
What a catch on 4th down pic.twitter.com/kZwEEfJqqX— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) January 1, 2020
The Gophers were able to run out the clock from there.