Gophers squeeze past Oregon in Sun Bowl

Aaron Blake

EL PASO, Texas – The wind, the pressure and Oregon defensive lineman Junior Siavii’s forearm did all they could to prevent it, but Rhys Lloyd’s 42-yard field goal in the final minute of play in the Sun Bowl was enough for No. 20 Minnesota coach Glen Mason to change his stance on his team’s 2003 campaign.

“I used to hear people tell me we had a great season, and I would correct them and say we had a good season,” Mason said. “With a 10th win and a win over Oregon, in my book, it’s a great season.”

The Gophers won 31-30 on New Year’s Eve on Lloyd’s field goal with 23 seconds left in the game. With the win, Minnesota avenged a 1999 loss to the Ducks in the same game and won its second consecutive bowl game.

It’s the first time since 1905 that the Gophers have won 10 games in a season. The 10-3 mark is Mason’s best effort in his seven-year tenure.

The Gophers struggled to contain Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens throughout much of the game. But holding the Ducks offense to a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter made a difference.

Clemens finished 32-for-42 for 363 yards and three touchdowns. But his main target, senior receiver Samie Parker, stole the show with a Sun Bowl record 16 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Despite his team’s loss, Parker was named the game’s most valuable player.

Freshman running back Laurence Maroney paced the Gophers offense, carrying 15 times for 131 yards and a touchdown. Senior fullback Thomas Tapeh set a team bowl game record with three touchdowns.

The teams traded scores in the second and third quarters

after a scoreless first. The Gophers led 28-24 heading into the fourth quarter, but a couple of Jared Siegel field goals put Oregon up 30-28.

The rest was up to Lloyd. “I think it was reminiscent of the 1999 game,” Mason said. “I thoroughly enjoyed the 1999 game, and we lost. I thoroughly enjoyed this game, and we won.”