Gophers claim Outback Bowl victory over Auburn

Career days from Mohamed Ibrahim and Tyler Johnson guided Minnesota to victory.

Gophers players celebrate their victory at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, Jan. 1. Minnesota took the bowl game with a 31-24 win over the Auburn Tigers. (Kamaan Richards / Minnesota Daily)

Kamaan Richards

Gophers players celebrate their victory at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, Jan. 1. Minnesota took the bowl game with a 31-24 win over the Auburn Tigers. (Kamaan Richards / Minnesota Daily)

John Miller

Looking to end their best season since 1904 on a high note, the No. 18 Minnesota Golden Gophers traveled to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida and fought hard for a 31-24 win over the No. 12 Auburn Tigers in the Outback Bowl.

“That’s a heck of a football team that our team just beat,” head coach P.J. Fleck said. “They found a way to win a game when I don’t think many people thought we had a chance.”

After not playing since Nov. 30 in its loss to Wisconsin, Minnesota started off the game a little sluggish with a topsy-turvy first quarter, but received record-setting bowl performances from key players to guide them to victory. 

“The bottom line is, they outplayed us and they out-coached us, they deserved to win today,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said.

On quarterback Tanner Morgan’s first pass of the game, he threw to a heavily covered Tyler Johnson and was intercepted by Auburn cornerback Javaris Davis. He returned it all the way down to the Minnesota 12-yard line, putting Auburn in prime position to put points on the board to take the lead.

However, Minnesota’s defense held its own, forcing Auburn to go three-and-out and kick a field goal. 

Morgan was quick to forget his mistake on the next drive, leading the Gophers down into field goal range to put kicker freshman Michael Lantz in position to tie the game. After struggling with the kicking game all year, Lantz converted on the 40-yard attempt to tie the game at three.

It didn’t last long.

On the ensuing kickoff, Auburn kick returner junior Noah Igbinoghene caught the kick and never looked back, taking it 96 yards down the field, nearly untouched, for a touchdown.