In a performance that shocked many used to seeing SEC powerhouses run all over the Big Ten, the Gophers finished off a magical year with a big upset victory over the Auburn Tigers. The 31-24 at the Outback Bowl in Tampa caps off the best Gophers season in 115 years.
Senior receiver Tyler Johnson lead the way for the Gophers with 204 yards and two TD catches, including a brilliant one-handed grab late in the first half.
Minnesota, a 7-point underdog, was making only their second New Year's Day Bowl appearance since back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1961 and 1962. This is their first win on New Year's since that 1962 game, losing in the Citrus Bowl in 2015.
The Gophers got off to a rough start with Tanner Morgan throwing an opening possession interception. But the Gopher defense held Auburn to an ensuing field goal. The Tigers then returned a kickoff for a TD after a Gopher field goal to go up 10-3.
Despite facing one of the best defenses in the country, especially Auburn's stout defensive line, the Gophers had success both running and passing. They dominated the time of possession in the first half. Auburn ran only 22 plays the entire half while the Gophers went up and down the field.
The Gophers lead 17-10 at the half after Johnson's unreal catch in the back of the end zone.
After exchanging some punts, including an attempted fake that Auburn attempted (and had them screaming for interference), Minnesota was able to run the clock out.
That drive included a gutsy 4th-1 pass to tight end Bryce Witham who made his own spectacular catch.
The bowl win puts Minnesota at 11-2 for the season and gives the Gophers the school’s first 11-win season since 1904.