By Mike Hendrickson

Final score: 

Minnesota 21, Central Michigan 14

Recap:

Central Michigan kept it close, but Minnesota earned its first bowl win since 2004.

Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner gave his team the lead for good in the fourth quarter of the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit Monday, rushing for a touchdown to end a 13 play, 74-yard drive. He then found senior wide receiver KJ Maye for a two-point conversion to put the Gophers up by seven.

Minnesota scored first in the game with a field goal on its opening drive. The Chippewas responded with a 15 play, 82-yard touchdown drive at the start of the second quarter to go up 7-3.

Leidner responded with his first touchdown of the night, an 11-yard pass to Maye. The Gophers added a field goal at the beginning of the second half to increase their lead to 13-7 but Central Michigan running back Romello Ross dragged tacklers on a 13-yard touchdown run to put the Chippewas back on top.

Leidner, who was named the player of the game, led the Gophers right back down the field though, and a late interception by senior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun helped seal the bowl win for Minnesota.

Key play:

Leidner ran in for the go-ahead score, and then muscled out of a sack to find Maye in the back of the end zone for a two point conversion. The successful play put the Gophers up 21-14 and the score would hold the rest of the game.

It was over when:

Boddy-Calhoun intercepted Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush with 2:10 left in the game. Minnesota punted in the waning seconds but sacked Rush to end the game.

Five observations:

1. Leidner has another good bowl game

Leidner had his third strong bowl game in a row for the Gophers, throwing for 223 yards and completing 80 percent of his passes. For the first time in his career though, Minnesota was able to come away with a postseason win.

2. Passing defense shines

Rush threw for an average of 308.6 yards per game before Monday. He finished with just 145 passing yards and an interception against the Gophers secondary.

3. Seniors have nice send off

Maye had 67 receiving yards off of eight catches and a touchdown in his final collegiate game. Boddy-Calhoun had the key interception to end his time at Minnesota and senior linebacker De’Vondre Campbell had two sacks.

4. Run defense struggles

The Chippewas came in with one of the worst rushing attacks in the FBS but were able to run for 104 yards and two touchdowns against the Gophers. With Rush struggling to move the offense through the air Central Michigan was forced to take a balanced approach.

5. Lack of penalties helped Gophers 

Minnesota finished the game with only one penalty for five yards. The secondary was not flagged once despite playing against the Chippewas vaunted passing attack.