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Minnesota survives sluggish second half to stave off Syracuse in Pinstripe Bowl

The Gophers have now won six straight bowl games

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Syracuse vs Minnesota Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-4) escaped the treacherous field conditions of Yankee Stadium with a 28-20 win over the Syracuse Orange (7-6) in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Quarterback Tanner Morgan saw his first game action since Nov. 5, taking over under center after starter Athan Kaliakmanis was lost to an apparent right ankle injury in the second quarter. Morgan finished 4-of-7 for 58 passing yards and two touchdowns in his final game.

The Gophers were also without Mohamed Ibrahim in the second half. He rushed for 71 yards and one touchdown in the first half, wrapping up his place among the greatest running backs in Minnesota history. In this game alone, Ibrahim secured the single-season school record for rushing yards and the all-time school records for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Syracuse vs Minnesota Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After a scoreless first quarter, Mohamed Ibrahim got the Gophers on the board with a four-yard touchdown run in the opening minutes of the second quarter. That score made him the program’s leader in career rushing touchdowns. On that same drive, Ibrahim also broke the school’s single-season rushing yards record, surpassing David Cobb’s previous mark of 1,629 rushing yards.

Syracuse attempted to respond on their next possession, driving down to the Minnesota 36-yard line. But on 4th & 2, the Orange dialed up a screen pass to Trebor Pena and safety Darius Green dropped him for a loss in the backfield to create a turnover on downs.

On the ensuing drive, Kaliakmanis took a low hit from a Syracuse defender after completing a 12-yard pass to Le’Meke Brockington on third down. He had to be helped off the field, taking great care not to put weight on his right leg. Kaliakmanis did not return to the game, forcing Morgan into action. Four plays after entering the game, Morgan dropped a dime to Daniel Jackson on a slot fade, extending the Gophers’ lead to 14-0 with a 21-yard touchdown pass.

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Syracuse vs Minnesota Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With less than a minute left before halftime, the Syracuse offense went up tempo and the Gopher defense proceeded to collapse in spectacular fashion. After gaining 52 yards combined on back-to-back throws to Devaughn Cooper, Orange quarterback Garret Shrader took advantage of a coverage breakdown in the Minnesota secondary and put Syracuse on the goal line with a 29-yard pass to Damien Alford. Shrader then scrambled and scored from one yard out to get the Orange on the board and cut the Gophers’ lead to 14-7 going into the break.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota defense found themselves on their heels again coming out of the locker room, as Syracuse needed only five plays to drive down to the Gophers’ 23-yard line on their opening possession of the second half. Minnesota bent but did not break, only allowing the Orange to cut their lead down to 14-10 with a 40-yard field goal.

After a three-and-out by the Gopher offense, the defense took matters into their own hands. True freshman safety Coleman Bryson, starting in place of Tyler Nubin, jumped the route on a Shrader pass attempt to Oronde Gadsden and returned the interception 70 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time in school history that Minnesota has had a pick six in a bowl game.

Syracuse was able to tack on a 38-yard field goal on their next drive to make it 21-13 in favor of Minnesota, but on the ensuing kickoff, Quentin Redding’s 72-yard return set up the Gopher offense on the doorstep of the red zone. Minnesota made the most of it, with Morgan connecting with Jackson again on a tunnel screen for a 25-yard touchdown pass.

The Orange had one last gasp late in the fourth quarter. The Gophers thought they had put the game away after Mariano Sori-Marin recovered a Shrader fumble, but the play was negated because Minnesota had 12 defenders on the field. On 4th & Goal, after three consecutive incomplete passes, Shrader scrambled and scored from eight yards out to give us our final score.

Game Nuggets:

  • Linebacker Cody Lindenberg was lost to a left ankle injury in the second half.
  • The Gophers were without All-American starting center John Michael Schmitz, who opted out of the bowl game in preparation for the NFL Draft. Nathan Boe started in his place.
  • Minnesota improved to 4-0 in bowl games under head P.J. Fleck