Thursday, December 29, 2022

Minnesota Takes Pinstripe Bowl, Outlasts Syracuse


Mohamed Ibrahim runs in Minnesota's opening touchdown in the second quarter. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl was held on Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers won it, 28-20, over the Syracuse Orange.

Minnesota, of the Big Ten Conference, finishes the season with an overall record of 9-4 (5-5 in conference play, while Syracuse, who represented the ACC, fell to 7-6 overall (4-4 ACC play).

The Pinstripe Bowl MVP was Minnesota defensive back Coleman Bryson, who had a 70-yard interception return with 7:22 left in the third quarter to give them a 21-10 lead at the time.

The Golden Gophers were also led by quarterback Tanner Morgan, who had two touchdown passes and completed four out of seven passes for 58 yards, and a passer rating of 221.

Morgan, who led Minnesota with 1,324 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season, did not start this one, entering after their redshirt freshman QB Athan Kaliakmanis exited with a leg injury in the second quarter. Kaliakmanis was 7-9 with 80 yards passing.

After a scoreless first quarter, Minnesota, who never trailed in the game, broke through 1:21 into the second when Mohamed Ibrahim ran one in from four yards out to make it 7-0. This capped a nine-play, 62-yard, 4:33 drive.

Minnesota's defense then stepped up on Syracuse's ensuing drive, as they halted a nine-play, 37 yard drive when they stopped the Orange on a fourth down-and-three at the Minnesota 38 when they forced Garrett Shrader to throw for a loss.

The Golden Gopher offense capitalized on the next drive, the one in which Morgan entered the game, and made his impact felt immediately.

Morgan found Brevyn Spann-Ford for a ten-yard pass to the Syracuse 23-yard line, and then fired a 20-yard pass down the left side to Daniel Jackson for a touchdown to make it 14-0 with 6:31 left in the second.

Syracuse would not respond until they had the ball with 55 seconds left in the first half, and Shrader fired a 31-yard pass to Devaughn Cooper to bring them to the Minnesota 34, then, after a four-yard pass to LeQuint Allen, he fired a 29-yard pass to Damien Alford that brought them to the 1-yard line. Shrader ran it in from there with just eight seconds left to pull Syracuse within 14-7 at the half.

Syracuse got a field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter to make it 14-10 Minnesota, and then after they forced the Golden Gophers into a three-and-out, Shrader got picked off by Bryson at the Minnesota 30 and he ran down the left side to complete the pick-6 and make it 21-10 at the 7:22 mark.

After Syracuse got another field goal, Minnesota expanded their lead. Quentin Redding returned the ensuing kickoff 72 yards to the Syracuse 25. On the second play of the drive, Morgan fired a 25-yard pass to Jackson, their second TD of the day, with 35 seconds left in the third to make it 28-13.

Syracuse couldn't get anything going in the fourth until Shrader ran in a touchdown from eight yards out with 2:30 left to make it 28-20. 

Shrader, who threw for 2,310 yards and 17 touchdowns in the regular season, completed 32 of 51 passes for 330 yards in this one, and ran for 38 yards, including the two rushing touchdowns.

Minnesota recovered the onside kick to seal the win, and the celebration was on.

Minnesota Head Coach P.J. Fleck said afterwards, "Could have went either way. Just really glad it came out the way it did for us. Couldn't be more proud of our players. Couldn't be -- especially for our senior class. This senior class has, basically, three full seasons in a row won 11 games, 9 games, 9 games. That hasn't happened since 1900 through 1905. 

"I don't think that gets enough credit. I think we talk about what we haven't done at times more than what we do talk about what we do do, and that's hard. I know. I will say that I couldn't be more proud of these seniors. They've given a lot to this program on and off the field. They've represented Minnesota in a first-class fashion, and they should be really proud. I told them this is not goodbye. This is just goodbye for now. You have a chance to come back any time they want to come back.

"Couldn't be prouder of the young guys like Coleman Bryson who got a chance to step in there, and there were a lot of young guys on that field today, but very good players that are the future of this program.

"I think today had a lot of irony when you watched Athan start the first half and then he got hurt, and Tanner walked in and did what Tanner does. I'll say one thing about this guy, he never blinked. He supported Athan all the way through it. And he has had to work through some things with his health and did a tremendous job doing that and supported Athan after he was cleared. A lot of irony that he came in to finish the game and do what he did. Couldn't be more proud of our time, like I said, and especially this guy right here."

Morgan said of his big moment, and how he overcame his own injuries to get here, "I mean, yeah, I wouldn't have wanted it to be the way that it happened with Athan, but I think just going back to when I received -- when I got hurt the second time, just the care that everybody had in terms of my personal health outside of who I am or was as a football player, but my personal health.

"And then I think me and Coach had a conversation about just stepping into whatever role I could to help out in that time, and I think I really embraced that. And I had a lot of fun doing it, whether that was helping coach Athan, throw some ideas out there, continuing to lead, and then continuing to get healthy and then be able to play if that was an option.

"I'm just thankful that I got to that point and thankful that I got to step on the field again and wear the maroon and gold for one last time. I'm proud to be an alum now. It's been an honor to wear that jersey and to rent the No. 2 for the last six years. Can't wait to watch who wears it next."

Minnesota rushes the field after the final play. Photo by Jason Schott.

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