Gophers replay: Wisconsin 38, Gophers 17
For the first quarter, at least, the Gophers had everything in their hands. Up 7-0, having started fast with a defensive three-and-out and a quick-strike 51-yard touchdown pass on the second play, the Gophers seemed primed to take down their border rival and reach their first Big Ten Championship Game. But that energy did not hold, as Wisconsin outplayed and outcoached the Gophers from the second quarter on to reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Axe in blowout fashion and likely deprive the Gophers of their first Rose Bowl since 1962. “They played better than us,” quarterback Tanner Morgan said. “We didn’t win the game. We didn’t do the little things right, didn’t take advantage of opportunities. But I know this: We’ll respond from this. This team will fight back and claw back.”
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• Injuries abound: The Gophers lost two players to injury against Wisconsin: right tackle Daniel Faalele and running back Mohamed Ibrahim. Faalele exited in the first quarter, leaving the field on a cart, and returned to the sidelines in the second half on crutches with his left leg in a boot. Ibrahim was down on the field for several minutes in the fourth quarter, eventually walking off holding his right arm gingerly. Plus, tight end Jake Paulson was still on crutches after an apparent right ankle injury at Northwestern, and running back Cam Wiley also leaned on a crutch with his left leg braced.
• Record night: Three Gophers players achieved school records in the loss. Morgan already owned the passing touchdown mark at 28, but he also broke Adam Weber’s 2007 record for passing yards, making it to 2,975 this season. Tyler Johnson tied Ron Johnson’s 2001 total of 31 receiving touchdowns. And Rashod Bateman surpassed Tyler Johnson’s single-season record for receiving yards set last season, raising his mark to 1,170 yards.
• End of an era: The Gophers honored 13 graduating players, plus two redshirt juniors, ahead of the final home game this season. The Gophers will need to replace two starters on offense (Tyler Johnson and Rodney Smith) and at least five on defense (Winston DeLattiboudere, Sam Renner, Carter Coughlin, Kamal Martin and Thomas Barber) next year.
Up next: What to expect in December
• Tuesday: College Football Playoff rankings released at 6 p.m. Where the Gophers fall in this will likely impact their bowl game fate. The newest Associate Press Top 25 poll ranked the Gophers No. 15, behind No. 12 Penn State, No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 2 Ohio State.
• Sunday: Bowl games announced. The Gophers will find out their destination and opponent to cap off their 2019 season once the conference championship games wrap up Saturday.
• Dec. 18-20: Early national signing day. This will be the third year of the three-day period when college football recruits can sign national letters of intent ahead of the official Feb. 5, 2020, date. The Gophers had 23 players join at this time a year ago. The Gophers have 23 commitments this year, but Gophers coach P.J. Fleck and his staff departed Sunday on recruiting trips to tie up loose ends in the next two weeks.
• Jan. 1: Bowl game. The Gophers likely will end up in a New Year’s Day bowl, which would mean a week’s worth of lead-up activities starting the day after Christmas.