Minnesota Caps 11-Win Season With Upset of Auburn in Outback Bowl

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Minnesota football beats Auburn Outback Bowl

No. 18 Minnesota beat No. 12 Auburn 31-24 in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day in the first-ever meeting between the two schools, ending a hugely successful 11-2 season for PJ Fleck's team.

The 11 wins are the most in Minnesota program history since going 13-0 in 1904 as a member of the Western Conference.

The Gophers sealed their win on a final drive in the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth-and-1 and up seven, Bryce Witham made a leaping, one-handed catch for an 11-yard gain. Mohamed Ibrahim, who had a 140-yard day, then helped drain the clock on the ground to ensure the Gophers' big victory.

Minnesota WR Tyler Johnson had an impressive day, racking up 204 receiving yards and making two critical go-ahead touchdown catches for the Gophers in the second half. The first came on an impressive grab in the back of the end zone, while the other was a 73-yard play that gave Minnesota its final margin over Auburn.

Both teams struggled in the red zone early on and settled for field goals to tie it 3–3 early in the first quarter. However, Auburn's Noah Igbinoghen pulled the Tigers ahead when he evaded multiple defenders and returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. It marked the junior's second kickoff return for a score in his career, with his first being another 96-yarder against Arkansas in 2018.

Minnesota evened the score when Christian Tutt muffed a punt and Thomas Barber recovered it for the Gophers on the Tigers' 40. Ibrahim ended a short drive with a a 16-yard touchdown run.

In the second quarter, Minnesota prevailed after struggling at the goal line on three straight plays to take a 17–10 lead. Both plays on second and third down had to be check by officials, who determined the Gophers did not score. On fourth down, Seth Green found Bryce Witham for a wide-open one-yard touchdown pass. 

Minnesota was ahead 24–17 at the half, but Auburn tied it up in the third quarter by moving down the field on a 13-play, 86-yard drive to set up JaTarvious Whitlow's three-yard touchdown run. He jumped over the pile out of the Wildcat formation to keep the score 24–24, until Johnson again broke the deadlock.

Minnesota finishes the season at 11–2 in a 2019 campaign that set them up for a potential appearance in the Big Ten championship game. However, the Gophers lost to Wisconsin in the final week of the regular season, which sent the Badgers to the title matchup against Ohio State.

Auburn ends at 9–4 after a season that featured a tough schedule against SEC opponents. The Tigers lost to Florida, LSU and Georgia but capped off the regular season by beating rivals Alabama in the Iron Bowl.