MADISON, WIS. – P.J. Fleck was a wide receiver in his playing days, so the Gophers coach naturally pays special attention to that position group. What he saw Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium pleased him immensely.
In their 23-16 victory over Wisconsin, Gophers redshirt freshman quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis spread the ball around among four pass-catchers, and all played key roles.
Le'Meke Brockington caught the winning touchdown pass on a slant from Kaliakmanis, racing 45 yards to score with 3:40 left in the fourth quarter. Brockington finished with two catches for 52 yards.
"He's really explosive player who's been inconsistent with catching the football,'' Fleck said of Brockington. "But you've got to have a game like that to say, 'Aha.' That was an aha play.''
Daniel Jackson caught five passes for 86 yards, including a 6-yard TD grab in the first quarter. He also had a long of 42 yards.
"That's gonna be really special in the next few years,'' Fleck said of the Kaliakmanis-Jackson connection.
Dylan Wright had his most productive game of the season, also catching five passes for 86 yards and earning praise from Fleck for his strong play.
Tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford led the Gophers with seven catches for 95 yards, twice hurdling Wisconsin defenders to gain extra yardage.
"We just really trusted the receivers and how they practiced,'' Kaliakmanis said. "They had a great week of practice.
Streak ends, records await
Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim rushed 27 times for 70 yards as his streak of surpassing 100 yards on the ground ended at 19 games. Still, Ibrahim has the Gophers bowl game to break two prominent school rushing records.
Ibrahim has 1,594 rushing yards this season and needs 33 more to break David Cobb's single-season record of 1,626. Ibrahim has 4,597 career yards and needs 58 to break Darrell Thompson's program record of 4,654.
Ibrahim left the game briefly after the Gophers' first play from scrimmage, seeming to favor a shoulder, but quickly returned.
Nubin doesn't play
Gophers senior safety Tyler Nubin, the team's leader with four interceptions, had a cast on his right hand and missed Saturday's game. Nubin was injured during last week's game against Iowa and played through it.
Fleck said Nubin and his parents made a decision about having the injury address now rather than later. Nubin has a year of eligibility remaining, but he could leave early to enter the NFL draft.
"It's hard when you lose your best player on defense, respectively," Fleck said. "That was really hard for Tyler. It's a tough decision to make, but it's a family decision. … Rodney and Sherese [Nubin, Tyler's parents] made that decision, and I back them up 100 percent."
Michael Dixon started in Nubin's place, finishing as team co-leader in tackles with linebacker Cody Lindenberg. Each made seven tackles.
Waiting game on bowls
With their regular season over, the Gophers now will wait until Dec. 4 to find out their bowl destination.
Athletic director Mark Coyle sees positives from their appearances in 2019 and last year.
"The bowls get to pick which teams they want [with input from the Big Ten],'' Coyle said in a pregame interview on KFXN-FM. "The great thing about Minnesota is when we went to the Outback Bowl, we sold out our ticket allotment. When we went to the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, we sold out our ticket allotment. That sends a strong message.''
The bowls that could be in the mix for the Gophers are the Music City on Dec. 31 in Nashville, the Pinstripe on Dec. 29 in New York, Duke's Mayo on Dec. 30 in Charlotte. They cannot go to the Guaranteed Rate Bowl for a second consecutive year, Coyle confirmed.