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Quick Lane Bowl Recap: Darius Taylor takes over to power Minnesota past Bowling Green

Taylor rushed for more than 200 yards in his return to action

NCAA Football: Quick Lane Bowl-Bowling Green at Minnesota Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-7) defense looked shaky in the first and fourth quarters, but Darius Taylor was a problem for the Bowling Green Falcons (7-6) from his first carry, leading his team to a 30-24 win for an unprecedented third Quick Lane Bowl victory.

The true freshman running back was named Quick Lane Bowl MVP after 35 carries for 208 rushing yards and a touchdown in his first game action since Oct. 21.

The Gopher defense was without All-Big Ten safety Tyler Nubin, starting strong safety Darius Green, and starting will linebacker Devon Williams, in addition to key contributors Maverick Baranowski and Aidan Gousby. The Falcons wasted no time taking advantage. They opened the game with a three-play scoring drive capped by a 46-yard touchdown pass from Conner Bazelak to Odieu Hiliare, who beat cornerback Justin Walley deep.

With fifth-year senior quarterback Cole Kramer making his first (and last) career start, the offense responded to Bowling Green’s quick scoring drive by chewing up nearly eight minutes of game clock. Taylor, seeing his first action since the Iowa game, made his presence known with eight carries for 43 rushing yards on Minnesota’s opening possession. Kramer connected with Elijah Spencer for a four-yard score to get the Gophers on the board.

But Minnesota failed to tie the score, attempting a two-point conversion play that saw kicker Dragan Kesich hurdle a defender before landing on his butt short of the goal line.

The Gophers took their first lead of the game on a 31-yard field goal by Kesich midway through the second quarter. The go-ahead field goal was made possible by Kramer, who sprinted through the middle of the defense for 31 yards to set up Minnesota at the 26-yard line.

The Falcons were able to retake the lead before halftime thanks to an interception by defensive back Darius Lorfils. Kramer dropped back on a play-action pass and was hit as he threw by Bowling Green pass rusher Cashius Howell, sending the ball floating into the waiting arms of Lorfils. Taking over at the Minnesota 15-yard line, Bowling Green failed to gain a yard on three plays before settling for a 33-yard field goal by Alan Anaya and a 10-9 halftime lead.

The Gophers came roaring out of the locker room, riding Taylor on an 11-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that ended with Kramer scoring on a quarterback sneak. With a 16-10 lead, the Minnesota defense proceeded to force a three-and-out, with the punt coming after Jah Joyner sacked Bazelak on third down. Quentin Redding returned the punt 27 yards to set up his offense at the Bowling Green 27-yard line. Six plays later, Kramer faked a sneak on 3rd & 2 and instead found Jameson Geers for a seven-yard touchdown, extending their lead to 23-10.

In the fourth quarter, the Gopher defense took their foot off the pedal. Falcons running back PaSean Wimberly broke loose for 42 yards down the sideline, getting Bowling Green into Minnesota territory. Facing 4th & 3 at the 31-yard line, Bazelak took advantage of egregious no-call on a hold and found Hiliare for 13 yards and a first down. Wimberly capped the drive with an 18-yard jet sweep for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 23-17.

Le’Meke Brockington responded by returning the ensuing kickoff 51 yards to the Bowling Green 48-yard line. The Gopher offense took care of the rest, with Taylor finding the end zone on a 17-yard run. The Falcons refused to go quietly, mounting a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on their next possession to make it a six-point deficit with two minutes and 30 seconds left to play. But Minnesota recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock from there.

Kramer finished 8-of-16 for 26 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.