No. 18 Minnesota upsets Auburn, 31-24, to win Outback Bowl

Minnesota’s receivers hauled in some incredible catches in its upset win over No. 12 Auburn in Wednesday’s Outback Bowl to power the No. 18 Gophers to their first 11-win season in over a century.

Minnesota wide receiver Tyler Johnson had 12 catches for 204 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown — a score that broke a 24-24 tie in the fourth quarter — was a 73-yard catch and run after he beat Auburn defensive back Smoke Monday over the middle.

While that was good, his touchdown that gave Minnesota a 24-17 lead before halftime was even better. And one of the best catches of the college football season. Johnson made a one-handed snag as he turned his body around and got one foot down inside the back of the end zone.

There won’t be a better catch all day. Though his teammate Bryce Witham sure tried to top him.

With Minnesota’s defense playing feistily in the second half, coach P.J. Fleck decided to have the Gophers go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Auburn 41 with just over three minutes left. After getting stuffed on a QB sneak on fourth down earlier in the quarter, Minnesota threw the ball. 

The Gophers were able to run the clock down after Witham’s grab to end the game. While Witham and Johnson’s catches are certainly worthy of repeat viewing, Minnesota’s running game also deserves a ton of praise.

Minnesota ran 45 times for 215 yards against an Auburn defensive line that’s one of the best in the country. Minnesota’s offensive line created repeated creases for running backs Rodney Smith and Mohamed Ibrahim as they combined for over 200 yards. 

The bowl win puts Minnesota at 11-2 for the season and gives the Gophers the school’s first 11-win season since 1904. Yes, really. The last time Minnesota won more than 10 games was 115 years ago when the team went 13-0 as a member of the Western Conference.