Ibrahim’s big night spoiled by Maryland’s comeback win

The Baltimore native ran wild in the return to his home state, but that couldn’t mask the Gophers’ defensive woes.

Gophers+Runningback+Mohamed+Ibrahim+carries+the+ball+for+a+touchdown+at+Raymond+James+Stadium+in+Tampa%2C+Florida+on+Wednesday%2C+Jan.+1.

Kamaan Richards

Gophers Runningback Mohamed Ibrahim carries the ball for a touchdown at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, Jan. 1.

Brendan O'Brien

Coming into its matchup against Maryland, Minnesota was hoping to tune up some of its defensive issues from a week ago.

Late in the third quarter, it seemed like the Gophers would be able to overcome those deficiencies by riding with Mohamed Ibrahim as the workhorse running back. Minnesota had a 17-point lead and Ibrahim was running all over the field.

But then came the comeback.

After scoring three touchdowns to start the game, the Terrapins’ offense was quiet throughout the middle portion of the game. The Baltimore native played a large role in this effort, rushing effectively, finding the endzone and churning the clock to keep the ball away from Maryland. Ibrahim finished the half with 118 yards and four rushing scores, tied for a school record.

As the game continued, Ibrahim kept getting his attempts, finishing with 41 carries on the night. But this led to Maryland keying in on the Gophers’ run, and it was able to swallow him up when it mattered. And soon, a 17-point lead became only 10 points. And then only seven points. And eventually, a tied game heading into overtime.

Ibrahim finished with an impressive statline: 207 yards and four touchdowns. His 41 carries makes him just the sixth Gopher to have at least 40 carries in a game. But the end result is not what Ibrahim and Minnesota imagined with Brock Walker missing the extra point to tie the game in overtime. Instead of leaving College Park with what many thought might be an easier victory, the Gophers walked away with a 45-44 loss.

“I thought Mo played tremendous. We thought we could finish some drives with him,” head coach P.J. Fleck said after the game. “…But we had way too many explosive plays on defense and that put us in too many holes.”

Controlling the clock with Ibrahim to stop the bleeding from the defensive unit worked for only so long and gradually became more and more predictable. In the second quarter, the Gophers rushed for 100 yards. By the fourth quarter, they only had 11.

Ibrahim has shown these past two games what he has the previous two seasons; he can be a dominant runner in the Big Ten. In order to execute the Gophers’ overall game plan of playing balanced football offensively and defensively, it has been important for the team to run the football effectively.

But his most recent performances have been overshadowed by a defense that has allowed at least 45 points in its first two games of the season, a style that has not complemented the offense.