Best of Citrus Bowl: Missouri takes down Minnesota, 33-17
This was the second loss in a row and third in four games for Minnesota, which fell flat vs. Missouri en route to a 33-17 defeat. The Golden Gophers got out to a 7-0 lead but were outscored 33-10 the rest of the way.
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Still, Minnesota can build on this loss as the roster continues to develop with Jerry Kill heading into his fifth season next fall.
BEST OF CITRUS BOWL
Best play: Early in the fourth quarter and trailing 13-7, TE Maxx Williams caught a pass near the sideline. He proceeded to leap not one, but two, Missouri defenders en route to the end zone to give the Gophers a 14-13 lead. Minnesota would never lead again.
Best player: In addition to his aforementioned jaw-dropping play, Williams finished with seven catches for 98 yards and TD. Will he turn pro?
Best stat: 267, yards passing for Minnesota. Ideally, the Gophers don’t have to throw for that many yards or attempt 33 passes, which they did vs. MU. Still, without that production, this game could have been even uglier.
Offense: C. Minnesota’s inability to run the football was killer. The Gophers finished with just 106 yards on the ground (3.2 ypc) and lost three fumbles. That forced QB Mitch Leidner to pass too much, as he completed 21-of-31 attempts for 258 yards with a touchdown. David Cobb ran 21 times for 81 yards, as MU contained the star back.
Defense: D. Missouri couldn’t pass the ball well (97 yards) and had two turnovers, but it didn’t matter. The Tigers ripped Minnesota for 339 yards rushing and two TDs, averaging 7.9 ypc. Marcus Murphy had 157 yards rushing and Russell Hansbrough had 114.
Special teams: C+. The coverage teams were tested. Early in the second quarter and trailing 7-0, Mizzou executed a successful fake punt. But Minnesota eventually forced a punt. MU opened the second half with a pooch on-side kick and recovered it. The Gophers held the Tigers to a field goal, falling behind 13-7. In the fourth quarter, Mizzou tried a fake field goal that was snuffed out by penalty. Minnesota hit its lone field goal and had one long kickoff return. But early in the third quarter, Minnesota muffed a punt that Missouri recovered in Gophers’ territory. MU turned the turnover into a TD to take a 19-14 lead.
It was over when: Entering the fourth quarter, this was still a game, as Missouri led, 19-17. But Tigers RB Russell Hansbrough busted off a 78-yard TD run with 9:22 left in the game to push MU’s lead to 26-17. The Tigers added a seven-yard TD pass with 4:51 to go to make it 33-17, essentially ending the game.
A look toward 2015: Jerry Kill has this program rolling. The Gophers o-line will be a veteran front, and QB Mitch Leidner is back. The receiving corps has some good young players to amp up an inconsistent aerial attack. But TE Maxx Williams may turn pro. The defense will have more work to do with players like DT Cameron Botticelli, DE Michael Amaefula, LB Damien Wilson and S Cedric Thompson gone. Still, lots of talent will be back.