In head coach P.J. Fleck’s first bowl game with the Gophers, freshman running back Mohamed Ibrahim paved the way to victory.
Ibrahim finished with a career-high 224 rushing yards — the most for a Minnesota player since 2005 — with two touchdowns to show for it. Ibrahim had more yards himself than Georgia Tech’s rushing total, bringing a 34-10 victory on Wednesday night at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.
"I mean you saw [Ibrahim] in full force, the kid is a work horse," quarterback Tanner Morgan told reporters. "I mean he plays his heart out every single time he goes out there. ... He's an animal."
The Gophers damaged the Yellow Jackets with the ground game. They used Ibrahim effectively with 31 carries, and wide receiver Tyler Johnson as the finisher with four catches for two scores. Each had two of the four total Gophers’ touchdowns in the matchup.
Johnson put his name in the Gophers' record books, passing former Minnesota receiver Ron Johnson for the single-season receiving record at Minnesota with 1,169 yards. Tyler Johnson also surpassed the single season record set by Ron Johnson and Omar Douglas for receiving touchdowns, bringing his total to 12.
"It's really a blessing, really. The hard work and dedication paid off," Johnson told reporters. "But basically I'm not done yet. I just got to keep changing my best."
The Gophers' defense was without a few of their key starters on defense, including linebacker Blake Cashman, who sat out to prepare for professional football; linebacker Kamal Martin, who Fleck said was suspended for violating team rules; and defensive tackle O.J. Smith. They managed to keep the Yellow Jackets' offense in check. Georgia Tech’s No. 1 ranked rushing offense, which averaged over 330 rushing yards a game in the regular season, was held to 206 yards on the ground.
"Not very [many] mental mistakes out there at all. Maybe a couple here and there, but nothing drastic, nothing that shot out the gates big. Just preparation, we were very confident and prepared," linebacker Thomas Barber told reporters.
It was Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson’s final game at the helm of the program and Fleck’s first bowl game with Minnesota. The win marks Minnesota’s first bowl win since 2016 and their second win in the Quick Lane Bowl, with the first coming in 2015.
"It just shows the depth we're starting to form on this team," Fleck told a reporter from ESPN. "There's a lot of young guys that played tonight. We got a lot of seniors who have left a champion. We said at the beginning of the year that we can find a way to be a champion."
The Gophers got on the board first, in the first drive of the game, with a 31-yard field goal from kicker Emmit Carpenter after missing on a third down pass to receiver Rashod Bateman. Johnson made an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown, giving the Gophers a 10-0 lead over Georgia Tech with 4:14 left in the first quarter. After the first, the Gophers were winning 10-0 with 124 total yards of offense. Georgia Tech had 3 total yards and ran just six plays in the first quarter.
Carpenter made field goals of 31 and 27 yards. He missed a 54-yard attempt with 18 seconds left in the second quarter. Georgia Tech took advantage of the field position and scored, hitting a 44-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. The late-field goal made the score 13-3 at halftime.
Minnesota's offense was on the field for nearly twice the time as Georgia Tech's in the first half and scored on every drive except for one, when Carpenter missed the 54-yard field goal.
Ibrahim ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 8:24 to play in the third quarter. He finished the effort started by wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell who caught a pass for a long gain and nearly made it to the end zone. It initially looked like Autman-Bell made it for the score without stepping out-of-bounds, but the officials called him out at the 3-yard line after review.
With 0:55 left in the third quarter, Georgia Tech’s Nathan Cottrell took the pitch and ran it 20 yards for a 20-10 score — the only touchdown the Yellow Jacket’s would score.
Ibrahim responded with a 57-yard run on the next drive to set him up for a 1-yard touchdown, that made the score 27-10. Johnson capped scoring with a 30-yard touchdown for a 34-10 lead over Georgia Tech with 6:19 left in the game and the Yellow Jackets didn’t get anything moving after that.
"It's just been a year that you can really learn from, very educational year," Fleck told reporters. "And I told them in the locker room that they learned life lessons about how to not give up, not quit, keep your oar in the water, keep persevering and you're going to find a way to be successful, it's just a matter of time."