akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

DETROIT — The Minnesota Golden Gophers did not expect the opportunity to play another game in 2023 after their defeat in the regular-season finale. Quarterback Cole Kramer did not expect to play another game of football in his life. Star freshman running back Darius Taylor was supposed to be rehabbing his supposed season-ending injury he suffered two months ago at this time.

The team, its new quarterback and the star of their future all got reprieves earlier in the month and, one day after Christmas, earned the memorable present of a bowl victory.

Taylor, a native of Detroit, rushed for 208 yards and a touchdown in leading Golden Gophers to a 30-24 victory over Bowling Green in the Quick Lane Bowl inside Ford Field on Tuesday afternoon. Kramer, the senior third-string quarterback, threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in his first-ever collegiate start as Minnesota won its seventh consecutive bowl game, and the fifth under head coach P.J. Fleck.

Taylor rushed for at least 138 yards in three consecutive games in September — including efforts of 193 yards against Eastern Michigan and 198 yards against Northwestern — before suffering a leg injury in the victory against Iowa on October 21 that sidelined him for the rest of the regular season, though there was hope that he could come back if Minnesota ended the season bowl eligible. With the Golden Gophers finishing at 5-7 after a defeat to Wisconsin in the regular season finale, today’s game was only made possible by the Gophers having the best Academic Progress Rate among five-win teams and the college football bowl season being one team short of filling all of its bowl obligations with bowl-eligible teams.

The Gophers’ assignment of heading to Detroit only raised the stakes even higher for Taylor, whose 17-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter gave Minnesota a 30-17 lead and proved to be the game-winning score.

“It’s so cool to watch him come back to his home city and his home state and do what he did in front of a lot of people who came to support him,” Fleck said. “He’s a really special individual, a great young person. And he’s going to be one of the faces of this program for a long time.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Tuesday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by Detroit-area photographer Aaron J. Thornton. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 20 pictures in total.

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Tags : Big Ten ConferenceBowling Green FalconsMid-American ConferenceMinnesota Golden GophersQuick Lane Bowl

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