Going into the 2022 Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl, much was at stake for Minnesota and Syracuse. For the Golden Gophers, a nine-win season was on the line for head coach PJ Fleck's team. After a 6-0 start, Dino Babers and his Orange squad were looking to end the season on a high note after going 1-5 down the stretch.
Tanner Morgan threw two touchdown passes in relief of Athan Kaliakmanis as Minnesota won their sixth straight bowl game after defeating Syracuse, 28-20, in front of 31,131 fans at Yankee Stadium on Thursday.
Both teams were feeling out each other in the first quarter as the offenses attempted to find momentum early. Towards the end of the quarter, Minnesota started the first positive drive of the game as quarterback Kaliakmanis led the Golden Gophers down inside the Syracuse five-yard line. All-American running back Mohamed Ibrahim finished the nine-play drive with a four-yard touchdown run to put Minnesota ahead, 7-0, with 13:39 left in the first.
Syracuse looked to answer on the ensuing drive, but the Orange were turned away on a fourth-and-2 from Minnesota's 37-yard line as the Golden Gophers took possession. During Minnesota's drive, Kaliakmanis was helped off the field and Morgan, who started the season as the starting quarterback, was inserted into the game.
Despite losing Kaliakmanis, the Golden Gophers' offense continued to hum as Morgan lofted a pass to Daniel Jackson in the corner of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown and Minnesota extended their lead to 14-0.
“I think today had a lot of irony when you watched Athan start the first half and then he got hurt, and Tanner walked in and did what Tanner does,” said Fleck.
After another Syracuse punt, the Golden Gophers got the ball back and history was made as Ibrahim set the school's career rushing record after ripping off a tough ten-yard run.
“It's not something that I circled (the record),” said Ibrahim. “I just took it week by week, just doing my job, executing the game plan.”
“I would like to say I think his (Ibrahim) number should be retired, Mr. Coyle and President Gabel,” said Morgan. “That's my personal opinion. Ring of honor, whatever it's called, retirement. I don't think anybody should ever wear the No. 24 again at this university because of what he has meant to the culture, to the team, but his impact as a person, which is greater than any record he has ever set.”
After Minnesota punted, Syracuse moved the ball with under a minute left in the half from their 14-yard line. Garrett Shrader completed two passes to Devaughn Cooper for 52 total yards to set up the Orange with a first down at Minnesota's 34-yard line. After a long pass to Damien Alford put the Orange at the one-yard line, Shrader completed the drive with a one-yard TD run to put Syracuse on the board after a five-play, 86-yard drive in just 47 seconds. At halftime, Minnesota led Syracuse, 14-7.
Syracuse opened the second half with a nine-play, 65-yard drive that resulted in an Andre Szmyt 40-yard field goal to bring the Orange to within four points, 14-10. The Orange had all the momentum as they forced a three-and-out to get the ball back. After another Shrader completion, LaQuint Allen ran for 29 yards to push Syracuse into Minnesota territory. Two plays later, the momentum shifted to the Golden Gophers after Coleman Bryson intercepted Shrader's pass and returned it 70 yards to the end zone to extend Minnesota's lead to 21-10 with 7:22 left in the third quarter.
After a Syracuse field goal, Minnesota started their drive with excellent field position after a 72-yard kickoff return from Quentin Redding. On the drive's second play, Morgan found Daniel Jackson on a bubble screen, and the wideout did the rest en route to a 25-yard touchdown reception to put Minnesota up, 28-13, heading into the fourth quarter.
After a punt for each team to open the final quarter, Syracuse drove down the field meticulously as they looked to cut their deficit. After a 14-play drive, Syracuse could not convert on a fourth-and-16 to give the ball back to Minnesota with 5:45 left in the game. The Orange got the ball back and drove 52 yards. Shrader finished the drive with an eight-yard TD run to pull Syracuse to within eight. The ensuing onside kick was recovered by Minnesota, who ran out the clock for their first-ever Pinstripe Bowl victory.
“Could have went either way. Just really glad it came out the way it did for us,” said Fleck after the win. “Couldn't be more proud of our players. Couldn't be -- especially for our senior class. This senior class has, basically, three full seasons in a row won 11 games, 9 games, 9 games. That hasn't happened since 1900 through 1905.”
Allen picked up 154 total yards in his first collegiate start for Syracuse replacing star running back Sean Tucker, who opted to sit out the game as he prepares for the NFL Draft. With Tucker’s departure, Allen is in line to become the lead back going forward and he already has a plan for his ascension to the spot.
“Have a hell of an offseason,” said Allen. “Get bigger, faster, stronger, you know, and build along with the team so we come back stronger.
Shrader threw for 330 yards and ran for 45 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Justin Barron led the Orange with seven total tackles and two tackles for loss for a defense that held Minnesota to just 215 yards of total offense. After a promising start to the season, Syracuse finished the season 7-6, but Coach Babers is looking forward to the future.
“I think this team is still hungry. We're not average. We're above that, but I think that they're still hungry and still want to go after it.”
Ibrahim finished with 71 yards on the ground in his final game with Minnesota, while Mariano Sori-Marin finished with 10 tackles, 0.5 sack and 1.5 tackles for loss as he also finished his collegiate playing career.
“I will say that I couldn't be more proud of these seniors. They've given a lot to this program on and off the field,” said Fleck. “They've represented Minnesota in a first-class fashion, and they should be really proud.”