For the second time in five years, the Gophers are in a New Year's Day bowl game.
Minnesota has never faced Auburn in history, so the Minnesota Daily rewound the clock to Jan. 1, 2015, when the Gophers played Missouri in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
Final: Missouri 33, Minnesota 19
Ranked No. 25 coming into the game, Minnesota (8-4) entered the Citrus Bowl against No. 16 Missouri (10-2) hoping to rebound from a 34-24 loss to Wisconsin to end the season. However, turnovers and a late charge by the Tigers proved too much for the Gophers to overcome.
The Gophers began the scoring. Midway through the first quarter, running back Rodrick Williams busted off a 20-yard run for a touchdown to put the Gophers up 7-0.
Those would be the only points the Minnesota offense would score in the first half, as the Tigers scored 10 points in the second quarter to take the lead into halftime. First, a 21-yard field goal from kicker Andrew Baggett got them on the board. Then, with a minute remaining in the first half, quarterback Maty Mauk found receiver Bud Sasser for a 25-yard touchdown pass.
The Tigers picked up where they left off to begin the third quarter. Less than two minutes into the half, Bagget drilled a 33-yard field goal to put the Tigers up by six.
However, Minnesota answered back. One minute and 15 seconds later, Mitch Leidner found current Arizona Cardinals tight end Maxx Williams for a 54-yard touchdown pass to give Minnesota 14-13 lead.
Mauk drove the Tigers offense the length of the field on the very next drive to put Mizzou on top, finishing the drive with a 18-yard touchdown run that gave the Tigers a 19-14 lead, after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
The Gophers answered with a field goal before the end of the third quarter, but the defense couldn't put enough stops together to keep Minnesota in the game. Missouri added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter: first on a 78-yard touchdown run by Russell Hansbrough, then with just a shade under five minutes remaining, Mauk found Sasser again for a seven-yard touchdown pass to put the game away.
Mauk threw for only 97 yards in the game as the rushing attack did most of the heavy lifting for the offense. The Tigers finished with 337 yards on the ground, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
Leidner had a solid day for the Gophers, throwing for 258 yards and a touchdown, but turnovers cost Minnesota, losing three fumbles on the afternoon.
The game featured a pair of head coaches that are no longer with the programs in Jerry Kill for Minnesota and Gary Pinkel for Missouri.
Quotes from the game:
"We took advantage of some critical turnovers. It's 23 [wins] — the best back-to-back seasons in Missouri history," Pinkel told the media after the game. "You're always judged when you have the most adversity and how you respond. And we did."
"The bottom line is you can't turn over the ball and win the turnover battle. I say that all the time," Kill told the media after the game. "The game flipped because of a couple of turnovers."
"We talk about [how] you have to have perseverance and competitive drive. Sounds easy, it's not," said Pinkel to the media after the game. "Bottom line is you've got to make plays. You got to make blocks. We did."