The Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 34-10 in the Quick Lane Bowl on Wednesday at Ford Field in Detroit.
Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim ran for 224 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. According to the team's official Twitter account, Ibrahim is the first Minnesota player to hit 200 yards on the ground since 2004.
Minnesota entered Wednesday's game having allowed an average of 170.7 rushing yards per game, 76th in FBS. The Golden Gophers were a better team against the run than that number would indicate, though. Their defensive line was 34th in line yards per carry (2.36) and ninth in stuff rate, stopping 25.3 percent of its opponents' rushing attempts at or before the line of scrimmage, per Football Outsiders.
Minnesota opened up a 13-3 halftime lead in large part because of its defense. Georgia Tech gained 74 yards as a team.
Ibrahim provided the spark on the other side of the ball.
Typically, the Yellow Jackets can sustain lengthy offensive drives that help the defense stay fresh by keeping the unit off the field. With Georgia Tech unable to move the ball Wednesday, the shoe was on the other foot.
Three of Minnesota's first four drives lasted at least five minutes, and Ibrahim's physical running style made life even more difficult for Tech's defense.
Ibrahim helped give Minnesota a 20-3 lead on a three-yard touchdown run with 8:24 left in the third quarter. After Georgia Tech scored its first touchdown on its next possession, Ibrahim again found the end zone to help make it a 27-10 game. On that possession, he carried the ball on six of Minnesota's seven plays.
A redshirt freshman, Ibrahim finished the year with 1,160 rushing yards and appears to have a bright future ahead.
Adam Rittenberg @ESPNRittenberg
#Minnesota's run game should be incredible next year. Mohamed Ibrahim will be just a third-year sophomore, and Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks both are expected to return, too. The offense needs a bit more balance but Tyler Johnson is possibly the Big Ten's top receiver.
Winning seven games and capping off the year with a bowl victory represents progress for Minnesota in P.J. Fleck's second season.
Cory Hepola @CoryHepola
Year 2 of @GopherFootball under @Coach_Fleck, all w/ YOUNGEST roster in FBS: -Winning record. -Won 3 of last 4. -Won at Wisconsin. -Won Bowl Game. -Top 40 recruiting class for 2019. If ur not a fan of what he’s building, you’re not paying attention. #gophers #SkiUMah #RTB https://t.co/viX2mKCzHf
The program as a whole still has a long road ahead to reach the point where it's a credible threat in the Big Ten's West division. Between 2017 and 2018, Minnesota is 5-13 in the conference. The Golden Gophers' 2019 recruiting class is also on pace to be eighth-best in the conference after they were seventh in 2018, per 247Sports' composite rankings.
Fleck isn't on the hot seat or in serious jeopardy of losing his job anytime soon. Likewise, nobody expects Minnesota to challenge for a Big Ten title in 2019.
Having said that, the pressure on Fleck might start increasing if Minnesota is once again fighting until the end of the regular season to gain bowl eligibility.
For Georgia Tech, a difficult period of transition likely lies ahead.
New head coach Geoff Collins will have the Yellow Jackets using a more pro-style offense, a stark contrast to the game plan utilized by Johnson. An overhaul of that scale will require a few years to cycle through the players Johnson recruited specifically for the option game.
Georgia Tech will have overachieved in 2019 if it can return to a bowl game in Collins' first season.