TAMPA, FLA. – Mohamed Ibrahim has a thing for bowl games.
In last year’s Quick Lane Bowl, he earned MVP status with his 224 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. Wednesday in the Outback Bowl, he broke out again.
Ibrahim ran for 140 yards and a touchdown with his 20 attempts, breaking tackles en route to the Gophers’ 31-24 victory against Auburn.
“We prepare for it. I get a lot of time to prepare for these games,” Ibrahim said. “I get a month off for my body. I get to get on film for a whole month, and I find tendencies. And it slows down things.”
Ibrahim left the Wisconsin game Nov. 30 because of an apparent shoulder injury, but he didn’t look the least bit hindered against one of the most powerful defensive lines in the country. He powered past SEC Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brown and Co.
The sophomore was the Gophers’ No. 1 running back a year ago, after seniors Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks missed most of the year because of injuries. But with their return in 2019, Ibrahim took a step back, and Smith carried most of the load in his final season.
But the Outback Bowl felt like the formal passing of the torch back to Ibrahim. He dedicated his performance and the team win to the seniors, including Smith and Brooks, who have mentored him and defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere, who is also a Baltimore-area native.
“It’s a big win, definitely for those seniors,” Ibrahim said. “This was there last game out here with the block M, so I just wanted to leave it all out there for them.”
The Gophers offensive line had the toughest assignment against Auburn, having to block a veteran D-line. That was even harder when right tackle Daniel Faalele left a 6-9, 400-pound hole in the lineup. He left the Wisconsin game early and did not suit up because of a lower left leg injury Wednesday.
Yet the line didn’t allow any sacks and didn’t seem to have any trouble creating gaps for the running backs.
Blaise Andries slid into Faalele’s spot in his absence. The usual left guard has played at various positions along the line, but he didn’t take credit for the success of the line.
“It wasn’t me being the right tackle. I mean, our O-line, we just love playing with each other,” Andries said. “It was probably a matter of we practiced for 3½weeks for so long, and we just wanted to play somebody beyond our own team.”
Tight end tricks
The Gophers targeted tight ends several times, including once for a touchdown.
With starter Jake Paulson out because of arm and ankle injuries, Bryce Witham made some plays, including a short touchdown catch out of with wildcat formation, with Seth Green tossing him the score.
“It’s nice to be used,” Witham said. “But we go out there, and we do our job every single day, and we have details, and we execute. So if the ball comes to us, it does. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We’re out there to help our team.”
Brooks did not dress for the game because of an undisclosed injury. Neither did freshman running back Cam Wiley because of a left leg injury. Receiver Nnamdi Adim-Madumere wore a cast on his right lower leg. Others who sat out included quarterback Zack Annexstad, running back Jason Williamson, linebacker Alex Strazzanti, defensive back Caden Fey, offensive lineman Kyle Sassack and defensive lineman D’Vion Harris.