On Minnesota’s first offensive play of the second half in the Quick Lane Bowl, Mohamed Ibrahim took a handoff and plowed his way to a 14-yard gain, bowling over a pair of Georgia Tech defenders. A loud cracking sound echoed across Ford Field after the freshman’s shoulder pads bounced of the helmet off a Yellow Jacket.
Ibrahim delivered the hit on that play, but it was a microcosm of his performance on Wednesday night. Despite Georgia Tech’s best efforts to stop him, the freshman continued to deliver gut punch after gut punch, helping Minnesota post a convincing 34-10 win in the Quick Lane Bowl.
When it was all said and done, Ibrahim ended the night with 224 rushing yards — the most by a Gopher running back since Laurence Maroney amassed 258 yards against Wisconsin in 2005 — and two touchdowns. He surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season in the first half, becoming just the third freshman in Minnesota history to hit the milestone. It was a career day, and he was recognized as the Quick Lane Bowl Most Valuable Player at the end of it.
The 14-yard run from Ibrahim was loud but his performance at Ford Field was deafening. He’s got the tools to be a special player, and we caught a glimpse of his potential.
The Quick Lane Bowl wasn’t the first time Ibrahim flashed his brilliance. Four times this year the running back eclipsed the 100-yard mark. He did it in his first career game against New Mexico State, totaling 101 yards on just nine carries. Then he eviscerated Ohio State’s defense, amassing 157 yards and two touchdowns. Ibrahim added 155 yards against Purdue and 121 vs. Wisconsin.
Not a bad year for a freshman who was expected to be in a limited role this fall.
But Wednesday night was different. Ibrahim ran the ball effectively up the middle. He picked up extra yardage getting to the outside. He found gaping holes in the Georgia Tech defense. He powered through defenders.
Vision, speed and power are the characteristics every coach wants from his running backs. Ibrahim has showcased all three traits throughout the season, but he was the complete package in Detroit. It felt like Wednesday night might’ve been the start of something special.
Ibrahim’s talent alone isn’t all that should receive credit, and it’s not the only reason high expectations will shadow the freshman into the offseason. There’s also a pretty good offensive line developing in Minneapolis, one that includes names like Daniel Faalele, Curtis Dunlap and Connor Olson. It’s a group that is still working on consistency and gelling as a unit. But it’s also a front line that any running back would covet, especially in a hard-nosed league like the B1G.
Minnesota’s offense has looked similar to Wisconsin recently, a compliment that Gopher fans might mistake as an insult. The passing attack is much better than what the Badgers field, but the big-bodied linemen and do-it-all back is certainly a comparison worth making.
And while Ibrahim might not exactly be the next Jonathan Taylor — there aren’t many running backs who can replicate his production — he’s certainly capable of having that same type of presence every time he steps on the turf.
Before Wednesday night, Ibrahim was going to be a running back in Minnesota’s offense for the 2019 season. Now, he might be the running back in the Minnesota offense — one that will include Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks.
Ibrahim ended his freshman year with a bang in the Quick Lane Bowl. The echo will continue to ring until the start of next season.