3 takeaways from Minnesota's Quick Lane Bowl win vs. Bowling Green
Minnesota had a disappointing finish to the 2023 regular season. Despite some highlights and a rivalry win over Iowa, the Golden Gophers finished November on the wrong side of a 4-game losing streak.
The losing streak gave Minnesota a 5-7 record, the worst performance in a full-length season for PJ Fleck since his initial season with the program. Fortunately, the Gophers received a bit of a mulligan in the postseason.
Despite falling short of bowl eligibility, Minnesota was the first 5-7 team in line to get a bowl bid with a lack of 6-6 teams in FBS. That sent the Gophers to the Quick Lane Bowl vs. Bowling Green where Minnesota shined.
For much of the second half, the Gophers dominated the competition and built a 30-17 with 8 minutes left in the game. Bowling Green would cut the score to 30-24 in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons ran out of time as Minnesota recovered an onside kick and iced the clock.
Here are the key takeaways from the game:
What a difference Darius Taylor makes
Anyone who watched Minnesota early in the season understands the magnitude of Darius Taylor. He delivered a trio of 100-yard performances (and 2 with 190+ rushing yards) in September but had not played since the win over Iowa.
The good news is Taylor returned for the Quick Lane Bowl, and the impact was immediate. It was his touchdown with 8 minutes to go that gave the Gophers 30 points and a two-score lead, and Taylor would get a chance to secure a career-high rushing mark at the end of the game.
After Bowling Green scored to make it 30-24 late, Minnesota needed one first down to guarantee a win. Taylor delivered that on his first carry of the drive to eclipse 200 yards on the ground.
When it was all said and done, Taylor finished the game with 35 catches for a career-high 208 yards and a touchdown. He was also Minnesota’s leading receiver with 11 yards as the Gophers heavily leaned into Taylor’s production as a workhorse.
PJ Fleck continues impressive bowl game streak
PJ Fleck undeniably had a disappointing season with the Gophers previously winning 18 games combined across the 2021-22 seasons. Without the veteran contributions of Tanner Morgan and Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota undeniably regressed and even saw Athan Kaliakmanis hit the transfer portal following the regular season.
Fortunately, the bowl game provided a way to soften those blows of the regular season. With a strong performance in Detroit, Fleck delivers a bowl win for the program in 3 straight seasons, and he continues an elite postseason stretch for his tenure in Minneapolis.
Since his second season in 2018, Fleck has had the Gophers in 5 bowl games. The only season without an appearance was the shortened 2020 COVID season. More importantly, Fleck is winning those bowl games.
With the win over the Falcons, Fleck is still undefeated in the postseason while at Minnesota with a now 5-0 record in bowl games. He already held the program record for bowl wins, and the Gophers added another in Detroit.
Revenge game complete
This is a minor angle as there were unlikely any Gophers living two years in the past. However, the last time these two teams faced, Bowling Green produced a stunner.
In the 2021 season, Minnesota started the season with a 2-1 record and entered its final nonconference game against a struggling Bowling Green team in Scot Loeffler’s 3rd season with the program. However, anyone hoping for a smooth victory would be disappointed.
Minnesota would turn the ball over 3 times, Matthew Trickett would miss a field goal and the Falcons would hold Tanner Morgan to 59 yards on a 5-for-13 passing performance. The Gophers would go on to win 9 games and a bowl, but that loss undeniably stung.
Whether it was a thought or not, Minnesota has officially achieved a bit of revenge for that defeat.