Jonathan Taylor wasn’t the game’s leading rusher the last time Minnesota faced Wisconsin. That distinction belonged to a Gophers freshman who was expected to watch most of the season from the sidelines.
Mohamed Ibrahim carried 26 times for 121 yards in Minnesota’s upset at Wisconsin, extending his surprising rise with Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks both injured at the time.
One key for the Gophers in that 37-15 win was “limiting” Taylor to 120 rushing yards, but they needed their own ground game to dominate time of possession — holding the ball for 35 minutes, 6 seconds, compared to 24:54 for the Badgers.
Now, the Gophers have a three-headed rushing attack, featuring Smith (1,063 yards), Ibrahim (425) and Brooks (386).
Ibrahim said having Smith and Brooks on the field with him instead of just coaching him in meetings has been different but good.
“I understand that they’re having a great season,” Ibrahim said. “We’re all complementing each other. So if they need a breather, I hop in. … We rotate backs pretty good. I give credit to Coach [Kenni] Burns. He makes sure everybody gets their carries.”
When the Gophers played against Nebraska on Oct. 12 — another cold and snowy game at TCF Bank Stadium — Minnesota’s rush stacked up 322 yards in one of the ultimate testaments to the Gophers’ running back trio.
In that 34-7 victory, Smith took 18 carries for 139 yards and a touchdown. Brooks followed with 99 yards on 13 attempts. Ibrahim ran 15 times for 84 yards but scored three touchdowns.
“We joke around with it,” Ibrahim said of how the backs wanted him to share the scoring next time. “Whoever’s got the hot hand, they’re going to get in the end zone.”
Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca said Ibrahim has handled moving from the driver’s seat to the back seat with grace. And Ibrahim will take the wheel again next season, with Smith and Brooks graduating.
“[He] really only concerns himself with the things he can control. And the only thing Mo can control is making sure he gets better every day and taking advantage of his opportunities,” Ciarrocca said.