By Al Curtiss
Archived under Featured Articles – College & Outback Bowl

Our KSP/ISM correspondent, Al Curtiss, will be updating the 2020 Outback Bowl every quarter.  He will be adding to this article as the game progresses.  Enjoy.

First Quarter Recap : 10-10

Minnesota Quarterback Tanner Morgan’s first throw resulted in an interception by Cornerback Javaris Davis, who returned it to the Gopher’s 11-yard line. The receiver drifted his inside route and Davis jumped in front of him. P.J. Fleck’s defense bowed up from there, holding Auburn to 5 yards on three plays and forcing a field goal to go up 3-0, less than three minutes in the quarter. The big play for Minnesota on the goal line stand was made by Defensive Back Benjamin St.-Juste, who broke up a fade route in the left corner of the end zone.

Minnesota took the ensuing kickoff and drove using a mix of deep crossing routes to eat up 18 yards at a time and a few zone read run plays that gashed the Auburn defense both inside the tackles and outside the ends. Auburn stopped the Gophers on their own 25-yard line, forcing a 40 yard field goal by Michael Lantz, who matched Auburn kicker Anders Carlson’s earlier field goal, making it 3-3 at the 6:36 mark in the first quarter.

The tie didn’t last long, as Noah Igbinoghene returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards, making the score 10-3 after the extra point. The Auburn blocking was superb on the play, as Igbinoghene ran untouched into the endzone for the longest kickoff return in Outback Bowl History.

Auburn forced a punt after 3 plays, but fumbled the punt which was recovered by Thomas Barber on the Auburn 40 yards line. In less than 10 minutes the game has featured 2 turnovers and a kickoff return touchdown. The fumbled punt turned into a touchdown when the Gophers took just 3 plays to tie it up, with Mohammed Ibrahim scoring on a run from 18 yards out. The first quarter ended at 10-10.

Second Quarter Recap : 24-17

Minnesota’s first drive of the 2nd quarter resulted in a touchdown, with the Gophers going 92 yards in 12 plays. The call of the game may have come on 4th and goal on the Auburn one, after UM was stuffed on 3 consecutive runs. P.J. Fleck called timeout and came out with a direct snap to wide-receiver Seth Green who hit TE Bryce Witham with a play-action pass in the back of the right end zone. Placekicker Michael Lantz made it 3 for 3 on the day and the Gophers went up 17-10 over the Tigers with just under 7 minutes in the 2nd quarter.

Auburn responded with a touchdown of its own, and not to be outdone by Fleck, Gus Malzone made a gutsy 4th down call of his own. With the ball resting on the Minnesota 37-yard line and facing 4th and 5, Malzone called a rollout pass and Bo Nix – moving to his right after breaking contain, threw back across the middle of the field hitting WR Sal Cannella for a 37 yard touchdown. Cannella was wide open at the 10, with the broken coverage the result of Nix’s rollout. The extra point was good and the game was tied again at 17-17.

Minnesota once again matched Auburn. Taking over on their 25 yard line with 4:15 left in the half, they went 75 yards in 9 plays, led by both RB Ibrahim who tallied 40 yards on the drive and QB Tanner Morgan, who was 3-4 on the drive, finishing it off with a great one-handed leaping catch by WR Tyler Johnson in the back of the endzone. Another made extra point made the score 24-17 with 35 seconds left in the half. The half ended with Minnesota up 24-17, which is a surprise for many in RayJay.

Third Quarter Recap : 24-24

Both teams traded punts to start the 3rd quarter, but Minnesota did record their 2nd sack of the day on Auburn’s first drive, when Sam Renner got to Nix, giving the Gophers a total of 2 sacks and 3 tackles for losses early in the 3rd period.  On their second drive of the half, Auburn got down to the Minnesota 2-yard line with the help of a questionable pass interference call and then a great play-action pass throw from Nix to Seth Williams. After a timely fumble recovery by offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn faced a 3rd and goal when RB Ja Whitlow took a direct snap and leaped over the line to knot the score at 24-24.

Minnesota responded on their first play with a sweep pass that would have netted 50 yards, but was called back because of a holding call. The Gophers could not get out of the hole and were forced to punt.  They then forced Auburn to punt from the 50 yard line, but Auburn ran a fake, with punter Arryn Siposs overthrowing a seam pass, allowing Minnesota to take over on the 50.  One run netted 9 yards and that brought the quarter to a conclusion, with the score tied at 24-24.  The story of the game so far is Minnesota’s 162 yards rushing to Auburn’s 49.

Fourth Quarter Recap : 31-24

Minnesota may have had 162 yards rushing enter the 4th quarter but needed 1 more yard on 4th and inches, when a fumbled snap stopped the drive on the Auburn 30.  The fumbled snap didn’t hurt the Gophers, as their defense rose to the occasion once again by harassing Nix and forcing another 3-and-out.  Morgan didn’t miss on his next possession, hitting Tyler Johnson once again, this time for a 73 yard touchdown on perfectly thrown pass.  The TD gave Johnson 12 catches for 204 yards and 2 TD’s.  With 10 min left in the game, the score was UM 31 and AU 24. And that is how it ended folks.  The Gophers upset the Tigers 31-24 and win the 2020 Outback Bowl.