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A Quick Look at the Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota's success has come on the ground behind a decorated offensive line.

The West Virginia Mountaineers (6-6, 4-5) are headed to Phoenix, Arizona for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field to face the Minnesota Gophers on Tuesday, December 28th at 10:15 pm EST and will be televised on ESPN. 

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Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck concluded his fifth season 8-4 overall, including a 6-3 Big 10 Conference record, finishing second in the Big Ten West Division. 

The Gophers opened the season with a 45-31 loss to Ohio State and ended the month of September with a home loss to Bowling Green before ripping off four-straight conference wins over Purdue, Nebraska, Maryland and Northwestern. Minnesota then dropped back-to-back games, first at home to Illinois, then on the road at Iowa prior to bouncing back with consecutive wins over Indiana and rival Wisconsin. 

Minnesota has leaned heavily on the running game, with 69.5% of the play selection coming on the ground despite losing preseason. Heisman hopeful Mohamed Ibrahim early in the season due to an injury and sophomore running back Trey Potts to an injury in October. However, behind five offensive linemen that earned All-Big Ten accolades, the Gophers ranked third in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 193.8 yards per game with a pair of freshmen carrying the load, starting with Ky Thomas. He rushed for 591 yards and four touchdowns in the final six games, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Mar'Kiese Irving's carries increased in the back half of the season, and he had consecutive games of hitting the 100-yard mark against Northwestern and Maryland.

Nov 20, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Ky Thomas (8) evades a tackle by Indiana Hoosiers defensive back Devon Matthews (1) during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium.

Nov. 20, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Ky Thomas (8) evades the tackle by Indiana Hoosiers defensive back Devon Matthews (1) during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium.

Senior quarterback Tanner Morgan has completed 59.7% of his passes on the year. He's thrown for 1,935 yards and 10 interceptions on the season. 

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Chris Auman-Bell leads the team in receptions (35), receiving yards (490) and receiving touchdowns (6) in 10 games. He went over the century mark twice, hauling in a career-best 11 receptions for 11 for 103 yards and a touchdown in the win over Nebraska, and caught five balls for 109 yards and a TD at Iowa. 

Senior tight end Ko Kieft earned All-Big Ten Honorable mention after bringing in seven receptions for 101 yards a touchdown, but junior Brevyn Spann-Ford leads the group with 23 receptions for 296 yards and a touchdown. 

Defensively, three Gophers picked up All-Big Ten awards. Defensive lineman Boye Mafe has a team-leading nine tackles for a loss, including six sacks, earning All-Big 10 Third Team.

Defensive lineman Esezi Otomewo and linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. Sori-Marin is second on the team in tackles with 82, including five tackles for a loss along with an interception. Otomewo had 27.0 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. Additionally, defensive lineman Thomas Rush was second on the team in sacks with 5.5. 

This will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs. 

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