The day after Christmas saw Bowling Green (7-6, MId-American Conference) and Minnesota (6-7, Big Ten Conference) play in the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field. Here’s what happened:
- Minnesota won the coin toss and deferred, granting BGSU the ball first.
- The Falcons had a dream start with a three-play drive, capped off with a beautiful pass from Connor Bazelak to Odieu Hiliare for a touchdown
- Minnesota responded with a 13-play scoring drive to answer the call when Elijah Spencer caught a four-yard slant route from Cole Kramer. The Gophers then tried to pull off a trick play going for two on a swinging gate pass attempt, but the play fell apart, forcing their kicker to try and run for the boundary— coming half of a yard short. The score after the first two drives was 7-6.
- Bowling Green’s next drive was a turnover-on-downs, but this would wind up being the first series of a seven-series stretch where the two teams would combine for just three points (a Dragan Kesich field goal to put Minnesota up 9-7 with 8:57 to go in the second quarter). Between the two teams, they wold trade five punts.
- The action heated up once agaion near the end of the first half, when Cole Kramer threw an interception to Darius Lorfils after getting hit while throwing. This was Bowling Green’s 27th forced turnover.
- Bowling Green would go nowhere after the pick, gaining zero yards on four plays and taking just over a minute off the clock before settling for a 33-yard field goal try from Alan Anaya.
- BGSU forced a three-and-out on Minnesota’s next series— even using a timeout to ensure possession with under a minute to go— but curiously knelt on the ball to take the game to halftime, going into the locker room up 10-9.
- Minnesota started with the ball in the second half, driving down the field and finishing off their drive with a Cole Kramer rushing touchdown to put the score at 16-10 Gophers.
- After a BG punt, Cole Kramer found a wide open Jameson Geers for a seven-yard touchdown to make the score 23-10 Gophers after the PAT.
- Bowling Green finally scored in the fourth quarter, thanks to special teams ace PaSean Wimberly put on a rushing clinic. Wimberly would score a touchdown after running for 60 yards in two plays to help the Falcons cut the deficit to 23-17 with 11:10 remaining in the game.
- After three Minnesota rushes, they would throw an incomplete pass. However, a pass interference on third-and-13 stalled any chance of getting a needed stop for Bowling Green, as the Gophers were given the ball just outside BGSU’s redzone. Two plays later, Darius Taylor would run it in from 17 yards out to make the score 30-17, requiring the Falcons to have to play perfect football to have a chance.
- The Falcons did manage to score on the next possession, but it was a slow drive, with 5:30 of game clock wasted on a 14-play, 75-yard drive which ended in a Connor Bazelak touchdown run to cut the deficit to 30-24.
- The Falcons would try the onside kick, but former Western Michigan receiver Corey Crooms recovered the onside kick.
- BGSU still had a chance if they got a three-and-out on the first series of downs, but it only took the first play for Minnesota to ice it, as (guess who?) Darius Taylor picked up the required yardage to end the game.
Another one possession loss in a Detroit bowl game. Dating back to the 2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, the Falcons have now lost their last three bowl games at Ford Field by one possession. Their last bowl win in Detroit was with that incredible 2003 team against Northwestern in the former Motor City Bowl.
Odieu Hiliare got his 2023 breakout game after an injury-riddled season. In a team sport, you have to be happy for the guy as he had a quiet season. 152 yards and a touchdown in his last game helped the Falcons get down the field many times.
The opposing rushing attack doomed Bowling Green. Even though they probably knew Minnesota would run the ball a majority of the game, they still could not stop it.
Rushing was also non-existent. Stewart was hurt, Keith is in the portal, and that did not help the Falcons. Wimberly did give a boost to the offense in the fourth quarter with 60 rushing yards in the touchdown drive— leading all Falcon rushers with 63 yards and the one touchdown. Coach Loeffler noted in the postgame conference, “You gotta be able to run the football, and... the good news is there’s a heck of a back that’s coming back.” Noting Stewart is coming back, the Falcons are hoping he has a full healthy 2024.
The key for the Falcons now is to figure out how to stay healthy, and get ready for spring ball, and 2024.
The Gophers made it cool to run the ball.
Darius Taylor finished the day with 208 of the Gophers’ 255 rushing yards, on s day where the Gophers picked up 281 total offensive yards.) He’s only a freshman, so we should expect the Detroit native to get more good looks in the future.
P.J. Fleck knows how to win bowl games. This is Minnesota’s fifth straight bowl victory under Fleck, and seventh-straight overall (longest active streak in FBS). This also marked Fleck’s 50th win at Minnesota since taking over in 2017.
The Gophers are still undefeated in the Quick Lane Bowl. This is their third win dating back to 2015 (against Central Michigan.)
Plays of the Game
The play of the game for Bowling Green was the pass from Connor Bazelak to Odieu Hiliare early in the game. It was an absolute dime in a dream start for the Falcons (Credit: BGSU Football/X):
ODIEU HILIARE HAS ENTERED THE CHAT— BGSU Football (@BG_Football) December 26, 2023
43-yards Bazelak ➡️ Hiliare for 6‼️
BGSU leads, 7-0.
Minnesota just dominated Bowling Green on the ground, so we’ll just put the Darius Taylor highlights here as well. The freshman had a big welcome home party to lead the Gophers to a bowl win. (Credit: Big Ten Football/X)