Dec 26, 2023; Detroit, MI, USA;  Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Darius Taylor (1) runs the ball against the Bowling Green Falcons in the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Lane Bowl: Darius Taylor runs wild as Minnesota beats Bowling Green

Darius Taylor had 35 carries for 208 yards and a touchdown, and Minnesota held on for a 30-24 win over Bowling Green in the Quick Lane Bowl on Tuesday afternoon in Detroit.

Cole Kramer passed for two touchdowns and rushed for one more for Minnesota (6-7), which won its seventh straight bowl game. Elijah Spencer and Jameson Geers had one touchdown catch apiece.

Connor Bazelak passed for 221 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another score for Bowling Green (7-6). Odieu Hiliare had 10 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown, and PaSean Wimberly led the way on the ground with 63 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Kramer won in unlikely fashion in an unexpected start. He completed 8 of 16 passes for only 26 yards as the replacement for season-long starter Athan Kaliakmanis, who entered the transfer portal last month.

The Golden Gophers pulled ahead for good with two touchdowns in the third quarter.

Kramer delivered the go-ahead score on a 1-yard quarterback keeper with 9:20 to go in the third quarter. That gave Minnesota a 16-10 edge.

On the Golden Gophers’ next drive, Kramer came through with his arm. He threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Geers to increase Minnesota’s lead to 23-10.

Bowling Green cut the deficit to 23-17 with 11:10 remaining in the fourth quarter. Wimberly took the handoff on a jet sweep and raced down the right sideline for an 18-yard score.

Minnesota answered with a touchdown on its next drive to grab a 30-17 lead. Taylor added to his dominant day with a 17-yard rushing score.

Bazelak brought the Falcons within 30-24 with 2:33 to go. He stretched across the goal line for a 2-yard rushing touchdown.

Minnesota recovered the onside kick moments later.

Bowling Green opened the scoring with a big play on its first possession. Bazelak launched a deep pass down the middle of the field and found Hiliare for a 46-yard touchdown.

Minnesota pulled within 7-6 midway through the first quarter. Spencer hauled in a 4-yard touchdown pass, but the Golden Gophers’ two-point conversion attempt failed moments later.

A 31-yard field goal by Dragan Kesich gave Minnesota a 9-7 lead early in the second quarter.

Bowling Green regained a 10-9 advantage with 1:38 remaining before halftime when Alan Anaya made a 33-yard field goal.

–Field Level Media

Sep 2, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Bowling Green Falcons head coach Scot Loeffler looks on before a game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Bowling Green meets Minnesota in return to Quick Lane Bowl

Bowling Green might experience deja vu when it squares off against Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl on Tuesday afternoon at Ford Field in Detroit.

The Falcons are back in the Quick Lane Bowl for the second straight year. Their latest invitation followed a 7-5 season that included a 5-3 record in the MAC.

Falcons coach Scot Loeffler jumped at the chance to make the 90-minute trip north from campus in Bowling Green, Ohio.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to return to Detroit, which is in our recruiting footprint,” he said.

Bowling Green faces a Minnesota team looking to finish on a positive note after posting a 5-7 record overall and going 3-6 in the Big Ten.

The Golden Gophers were the only team with a sub-.500 record to earn a bowl invite. That is because there were not enough teams that finished 6-6 or better to fill all the bowl slots, and Minnesota was first in line among the five-win teams because of the team’s academic marks.

“We’ll always accept a bowl bid — always,” Golden Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said.

Minnesota has won six consecutive bowl games, including four straight with Fleck as coach. This will be Fleck’s fifth bowl appearance, which ranks second in school history behind only Glen Mason, who made seven from 1997-2006.

Meanwhile, Bowling Green is looking for its first bowl victory since 2014 when it won the Camellia Bowl. The Falcons have lost their last two bowl games, including a 24-19 setback against New Mexico State in last year’s Quick Lane Bowl.

Bowling Green is led by Connor Bazelak, who passed for 1,709 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. Camden Orth also earned time under center and tallied 486 passing yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Terion Stewart was Bowling Green’s leading rusher with 762 yards and eight touchdowns. The top receiving target was tight end Harold Fannin Jr., who compiled 573 yards and six scores.

Minnesota turns to Cole Kramer at quarterback for the first time this season. Kramer replaces Athan Kaliakmanis, who started every game this season but has entered the transfer portal.

The Golden Gophers’ top rusher is Darius Taylor, who had 591 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season. Wide receiver Daniel Jackson led the team with 831 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Kramer, a senior, thought that his college football days were finished after the Golden Gophers’ last game. Now he finds himself as an unlikely starter for a team that did not expect to reach a bowl.

“You know, it’s crazy to see all these things unfold,” Kramer said.

This will be the fifth all-time meeting between the programs. They last played in 2021, when Bowling Green held on for a 14-10 win on the Golden Gophers’ home field in Minneapolis.

Loeffler said he expected Minnesota to be “hungry to play.”

“Our game against them two years ago was a physical battle to the end,” Loeffler said. “And this one will be, too. It will be an exciting game for both programs.”

–Field Level Media

Minnesota defensive back Tyler Nubin (27) jumps on a fumble by Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill (10) at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, October 21, 2023 in Iowa City.

Minnesota upsets No. 24 Iowa after late TD nullified

Dragan Kesich connected on four field goals and Tyler Nubin and Devon Williams each contributed a sack and forced fumble to help visiting Minnesota edge No. 24 Iowa 12-10 on Saturday in Iowa City.

Minnesota (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten) snapped an eight-game losing streak in the Floyd of Rosedale trophy series in a contest that featured 18 combined punts — and a would-be punt return touchdown in the final two minutes that was nullified.

Iowa’s Cooper DeJean appeared to return a punt 54 yards for a touchdown that would have put the hosts ahead 16-12. DeJean allowed the ball to bounce before receiving the punt near the Minnesota sideline, then made multiple defenders miss before cutting back across the field.

A replay review, however, showed that DeJean waved his left hand, a gesture deemed an invalid fair catch signal. The ball was ruled dead at the spot of recovery, and Minnesota’s Justin Walley intercepted Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill three plays later.

Hill rushed for a touchdown late in the second quarter and Drew Stevens connected on a 23-yard field goal for Iowa (6-2, 3-2).

The Golden Gophers outgained the Hawkeyes 239-127. Iowa had just two yards on seven second-half possessions.

Kesich hit from 43, 44 and 28 yards earlier in the game. He kicked a go-ahead 31-yard field goal with 8:33 to play. A 39-yard connection between quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis and Daniel Jackson on a deep crossing route set up the score.

Jackson had seven receptions for 101 yards, as Kaliakmanis was 10-for-25 passing for 126 yards. Darius Taylor gained 59 yards on 16 carries.

Hill went 10-for-28 passing for 116 yards and an interception. Diante Vines had three catches for 62 yards for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa took a 10-3 lead into halftime. Hill capped a six-play, 46-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring run with 49 seconds left in the second quarter. Minnesota committed four penalties on the possession.

Hawkeyes linebacker Karson Sharar was ejected for targeting moments later. Officials ruled that Sharar led with the crown of his helmet when he tackled Golden Gophers kick returner Quentin Redding.

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Darius Taylor (1) leaps over Northwestern Wildcats linebacker Kenny Soares Jr. (35) during the second half at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota, Louisiana try to brush off last week’s shaky endings

Louisiana and Minnesota both saw big leads shrink in the fourth quarter last week.

The Ragin’ Cajuns (3-1), who were able to hold on for a victory, and the Golden Gophers (2-2), who fell in overtime, will meet in a nonconference game on Saturday in Minneapolis.

Minnesota had a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter last week at Northwestern yet wound up losing 37-34 in OT.

Golden Gophers coach P.J. Fleck called the finish “a catastrophic 15 minutes.”

“We weren’t able to make enough plays on the offense, defense or special teams, and it cost us,” Fleck said. “It’s 100 percent on my shoulders. I’m the head football coach. Everything runs through me.”

Adding injury to insult was the fact that freshman running back Darius Taylor, who had 198 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Northwestern, was lost to an undisclosed injury late in the game. Fleck said he wouldn’t announce the status of Taylor, who has averaged 176.3 rushing yards over the past three games, for Saturday until “two hours before game time.”

Minnesota will try to shake off the effects of last week’s missed opportunity and avoid looking ahead to next week’s home game against No. 2 Michigan as it plays a Louisiana team that led visiting Buffalo 45-24 midway through the fourth quarter last week.

The Cajuns allowed back-to-back touchdowns that trimmed the gap to seven points with two minutes remaining. After a three-and-out by the Louisiana offense, Tyree Skipper made an interception that sealed the victory with 17 seconds left.

Redshirt freshman Zeon Chriss, making his first career start in place of injured Ben Wooldridge, completed 22 of 29 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown and two interceptions.

“I didn’t even want him to throw it that many times, to be honest with you,” Louisiana coach Michael Desormeaux said. “I didn’t want him to have to feel like he’s got to do it all.”

Chriss, who appears to be the starter for the foreseeable future, added 70 yards and two touchdowns on 11 rushes.

–Field Level Media

Jul 27, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA;  Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Matt Rhule speaks to the media during the Big 10 football media day at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Rhule era at Nebraska begins with test at Minnesota

The latest Nebraska reboot begins Thursday night when the Cornhuskers visit Minnesota to open the 2023 season in a Big Ten Conference game in Minneapolis.

Matt Rhule is the program’s fourth full-time head coach in the past decade, taking over for Scott Frost, who was fired midway through the 2022 campaign after going 16-31 in four-plus seasons. Rhule returned to college after two-plus years coaching the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, but he has experience in rebuilding collegiate programs with successful turnarounds at Temple and Baylor.

Nebraska is coming off a 4-8 season in 2022, one in which it lost five games by one score.

“We won’t know truly who we are until we play a game, and probably a couple games,” Rhule said. “I talk a little bit about getting to that first game and there being a messy front end. There’s also a messy front end to each season and a messy front end to a new coach.”

Minnesota went 9-4 last year and won five of its final six games, including a victory over Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Golden Gophers have made bowl games in four of six seasons under P.J. Fleck, who is 44-27 with the school, and his three nine-win seasons are tied for second most in school history.

“We’ve gotten the most out of every football team we’ve been able to coach,” Fleck said.

Like many teams, Nebraska is overloaded with newcomers. The roster features 63 players who weren’t in Lincoln a year ago, including quarterback Jeff Sims, a transfer from Georgia Tech who is expected to start. Sims had more than 5,600 yards of total offense in three seasons with the Yellow Jackets, while Virginia transfer Billy Kemp IV’s 192 career receptions ranks sixth among active FBS receivers.

Minnesota’s changes are more subtle, and mostly within. Greg Harbaugh Jr., the tight ends coach, is now coaching quarterbacks and will be co-offensive coordinator, and his No. 1 will be redshirt sophomore Athan Kaliakmanis, who takes over for Tanner Morgan.

Kaliakmanis played in 11 games with five starts a year ago, while Western Michigan transfer Sean Tyler steps in as the main ball carrier after school career rushing leader Mohamed Ibrahim graduated.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) runs the ball against the Northwestern Wildcats during the third quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Not an oinker: Iowa meets Minnesota in key Big Ten West clash

For the past few weeks, it appeared as if Saturday’s Iowa-Minnesota game would be nothing more than a battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy.

All of a sudden, there will be much more at stake than just the pig-shaped trophy when the teams meet in Minneapolis.

Thanks to two straight home losses by Illinois, the Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers are in a four-way tie for first place with Illinois and Purdue in the Big Ten West with 4-3 league records.

Iowa (6-4 overall) and Minnesota (7-3) enter Saturday’s game on three-game winning streaks. After this week, the Hawkeyes will end their regular season at home against Nebraska, and the Golden Gophers will close at Wisconsin.

Since getting blown out at Ohio State 54-10 on Oct. 22, Iowa has recorded wins at home against Northwestern, at Purdue and home against Wisconsin to gain bowl eligibility and get back in the hunt to appear in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 3.

Iowa’s offense has been among the worst in the country all year, but defense and special teams continue to keep the Hawkeyes in games.

“We have enough guys at the top that have been really strong,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I couldn’t sign off on that three weeks ago, four weeks ago. But you bet on people, and you bet on people that you’ve been around and see how they respond.”

Since a lopsided 45-17 loss at Penn State on Oct. 22, Minnesota has home wins over Rutgers and Northwestern and a road win over Nebraska sandwiched in between.

The biggest question is the status of Golden Gophers starting quarterback Tanner Morgan, who missed the Northwestern game after suffering an upper-body injury against Nebraska.

Regardless of whether it’s Morgan or backup Athan Kaliakmanis under center, Minnesota will continue to ride senior running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who has rushed for 1,261 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.

Ibrahim had 36 carries against Northwestern, but Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said he isn’t concerned about fatigue.

“You’re not going to make the club if you’re not in the tub,” Fleck said. “That’s 2022. He’s mentally, physically and emotionally ready to do it come Saturday.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mel Tucker reacts to a fourth down stop against the Washington Huskies during the first quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan St. looks to get back on track vs. undefeated Minnesota

If Minnesota and Michigan State were stocks at the moment, they would be trending in completely opposite directions on Wall Street heading into their Big Ten matchup on Saturday afternoon in East Lansing, Mich.

Minnesota comes in trending way up after a 3-0 start to the season, with all three wins being blowouts.

The latest rout for the Golden Gophers was a 49-7 win at home over Colorado last Saturday, as Minnesota has now outscored opponents 149-17.

Minnesota features one of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks in Tanner Morgan in addition to one of the top running backs in Mohamed Ibrahim, and is rightfully ready and confident heading into its first road game of the season.

“All we can control is ourselves,” Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck said. “We’re as prepared as we are. We were prepared to be 1-0 in the Colorado season. This week, we’ll do everything we can to play one of the best teams in the Big Ten.”

On the other side, Michigan State’s stock has taken a drastic tumble.

The Spartans (2-1) went from No. 11 to unranked following a 39-28 loss at Washington last week in a game that saw them trail 29-8 at halftime.

Michigan State might have gone 11-2 last season, but two big weaknesses from 2021, offensive line play and pass defense, reared their heads again in Washington.

Ranked last in the country in passing yards allowed per game in 2021, Michigan State saw Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. throw for 397 yards and four touchdowns.

Offensively, Michigan State struggled to block, with its leading rusher for the game, Jalen Berger, rushing for 27 yards on 13 carries.

The Spartans had to fly back from the West Coast early Sunday morning and now have a shorter turnaround than normal to prepare for a red-hot opponent.

“We’re going to learn a lot from it,” Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker said. “We’re going to show up (Monday) ready to work and we’re going to have a better football team next week.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Resurgent No. 14 Wisconsin tries to lock up Big Ten West vs. Minnesota

As unlikely as it seemed one month into the season, Wisconsin can clinch a berth in the Big Ten title game when the Badgers travel to face archrival Minnesota on Saturday in Minneapolis in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

Wisconsin (8-3, 6-2 Big Ten), ranked No. 14 in the College Football Playoff poll, would win the Big Ten West with a victory over the Gophers (7-4, 5-3). The Badgers have won seven straight since opening the season 1-3, including two conference losses, with each defeat to a ranked team.

Wisconsin enters tied with Iowa atop the West, but holds the tiebreaker by virtue of its 27-7 victory over the Hawkeyes. Minnesota could still win the division with a win over Wisconsin, but also would need Nebraska to beat Iowa and Purdue to defeat Indiana.

The bordering state rivals have met 130 times. The Badgers have won the last two meetings, including 20-17 in overtime last season, and 16 of the last 17. The Gophers’ only win in that span was 37-15 at Madison in 2018.

“The game has always meant a lot,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “I know the times I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of it, and I know every one of our guys, you get a chance to play in this game, it’s the longest rivalry in college football and to be a part of that is special. And certainly, we know it’s against a very good football team.”

Wisconsin is coming off a 35-28 home victory over Nebraska in which the Cornhuskers shredded the nation’s top-ranked defense for 452 total yards, including 351 through the air. Nebraska drove to Wisconsin’s 11-yard line in the final minute before being stopped on fourth down.

Freshman Braelon Allen continues to power the resurgent Wisconsin ground game, especially with the loss of then-leading rusher Chez Mellusi to a season-ending leg injury three weeks ago. After just 12 carries through the first four games, the 238-pound Allen has topped 100 yards seven consecutive games, including a season-high 228 yards with three touchdowns against Nebraska.

Wisconsin leads the nation in rushing defense (64.3 yards per game), is second in total defense (237.7 ypg) and fifth in scoring defense (15.8 ppg). The Badgers have 19 takeaways during their seven-game win streak.

When asked what jumps out at him about the Badgers defense under coordinator Jim Leonhard, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said, “Everything. All of it.”

“They are maybe one of the best defenses we played against in our time here of any opponent,” Fleck said.

After consecutive losses to Illinois and Iowa, Minnesota bounced back last week with a 35-14 win at Indiana.

Quarterback Tanner Morgan completed 14 of 20 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns, including 5-for-5 on third down with for four first downs and a touchdown. Morgan has completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 1,736 yards and nine touchdowns, with seven interceptions.

“They’ve got an identity and they’re good at what they do,” Chryst said. “We’ve played against their quarterback a number of times and he’s a really good football player. … They’re physical, they play hard, they’ve got guys than can make plays, skill players that can make plays.”

After injuries to preseason All-American Mohamed Ibrahim in the opener, and then Trey Potts midway into the season, redshirt freshman Ky Thomas has become the top ball carrier with 625 yards, topping 100 yards in four of the last five games. Freshman Mar’Keise Irving has rushed for 531 yards.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers Derik LeCaptain (35) runs for a touchdown in the second half against the Northwestern Wildcatsat Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Streaking Minnesota battles RB injuries ahead of Illinois tilt

A steady stream of injuries to the program’s running back corps has prompted Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck to diversify his lineup, inserting players from other position groups into the offensive backfield.

While he wouldn’t name names, Fleck said to expect more of the same shuffling as the Golden Gophers aim to remain atop the Big Ten West when they host conference rival Illinois on Saturday. He also lauded the resiliency of Minnesota (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten), which enters on a four-game winning streak.

“I’m proud of our guys for developing on Sundays,” Fleck said. “It’s a lot of work that we do with them to get them ready for that because they’re all playing different positions, as well.”

Fleck confirmed Monday that Bryce Williams suffered a season-ending injury to his lower left leg during the team’s 41-14 road rout of Northwestern on Oct. 30. That follows previous injuries to Mohamed Ibrahim (lower left leg) and Trey Potts, who was hospitalized for nearly a week with an undisclosed injury.

Freshmen Mar’Keise Irving and Ky Thomas are Minnesota’s lone healthy scholarship running backs, and both surpassed 100 yards at Northwestern. Still, the Golden Gophers have been forced to be creative in order to foster depth. The latest display: Linebacker Derik LeCaptain gained 31 yards on three carries at Northwestern, including a 24-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.

Illinois (3-6, 2-4) hopes to limit a Golden Gophers attack that averages 222.3 rushing yards a game, second in the conference.

The Fighting Illini are coming off a frustrating, 20-14 home loss to Rutgers on the heels of a 20-18 win at then-No. 7 Penn State in nine overtimes the previous week. Illinois sputtered down the stretch after building a 14-10 halftime lead.

Quarterback Brandon Peters went 14-for-19 passing for 190 yards and two touchdowns, but Illinois mustered just 107 yards on the ground.

“Huge emphasis the last several weeks on trying to score early,” coach Bret Bielema said. “I think it’s an obstacle that we’ve been trying to work ourselves through; we just haven’t been able to overcome it.”

Illinois, which has limited opponents to 24 points or fewer in six straight games, has not won at Minnesota since 2009.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers wide receiver Mike Brown-Stephens (22) runs with the football in the first half against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Mar’Keise Irving helps Minnesota run by Northwestern

Mar’Keise Irving rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries to lead Minnesota to a 41-14 win over Northwestern in a Big Ten contest on Saturday at Evanston, Ill.

With the win, Minnesota (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten) won its fourth straight and took over sole possession of first place in the West division.

Ky Thomas rushed for 106 yards on 21 carries and Tanner Morgan went 12-of-17 passing for 134 yards and one interception for Minnesota.

Andrew Marty went 10-of-16 passing for 93 yards and two touchdowns, and Evan Hull rushed for 107 yards on 15 carries in defeat for Northwestern (3-5, 1-4), which lost its second straight.

Minnesota got off to a strong start, taking a 13-0 lead after the first quarter.

Following a 26-yard field goal by Matt Trickett with 7:55 left in the first, the Golden Gophers took a 10-0 lead 11 seconds later on a 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Justin Walley.

Trickett then connected on a 30-yard field goal with 52 seconds left in the first quarter to make it 13-0 Minnesota.

Northwestern made it a 13-7 game with 11:51 left in the second quarter on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Marty to Evan Hull.

But Minnesota regained a 13-point lead at 20-7 with 4:47 remaining in the second quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by Irving.

After a scoreless third quarter, Minnesota took a 27-7 lead with 14:54 remaining in the game on an 18-yard touchdown run by Morgan.

The Golden Gophers then took a 34-7 lead with 9:33 left on a 41-yard touchdown run by Irving.

Northwestern closed to within 34-14 on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Marty to Berkeley Holman with 6:37 remaining.

Minnesota went ahead 41-14 with 1:56 left on a 24-yard touchdown by Derik LeCaptain.

–Field Level Media