By David A. Willauer | Contributing Writer
San Diego, Calif — The Minnesota Golden Gophers initially wanted to boycott this bowl game after ten of their teammates were suspended for an alleged sexual assault. While they did not want to play, their play showed differently as they got the win for those teammates.
The Golden Gophers defeated the Washington State Cougars 17-12 in the National Funding Holiday Bowl on Tuesday night at Qualcomm Stadium.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of anybody not wanting to be here. It’s just a matter of wishing our brothers could be here with us as well,” Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner said. “I love this team, these coaches. You couldn’t ask for a better way to go out. I’m just really proud of these guys.”
Minnesota ends their season with a 9-4 record. Washington State completed their campaign with an 8-5 mark.
The Cougars had 567 yards in the game, while the Golden Gophers had 425 yards.
Luke Falk – who is one of the most prolific quarterbacks in college football – was held to 264 passing yards. It’s the second straight games that Falk did not for 300 or more yards – and his fourth game with less than 300-yards all season.
Falk nearly has as many 200-yard passing games (4) as he has 400-plus passing games (5). In Week 2 against the Boise State Broncos, he threw for a season-high 480-passing yards.
Falk threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Sweet. Washington State’s two-point conversion failed.
“I don’t think we played well offensively at all,” Washington State head coach Mike Leach said. “We never got any rhythm. We were frantic. You can say we were rusty and had some time off, whatever it is. We tried to make things happen and then when it didn’t happen, we got frantic. We unraveled. We were pouting on the sidelines.”
Cougars kicker Erik Powell also made two field goals.
Leidner had a 129 passing yards and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Shannon Brooks. Rodney Smith had 74 rushing yards and scored on a nine-yard rushing touchdown.
Golden Gophers kicker Emmit Carpenter also made a 43-yard field goal.
“You’ve got to go off practice, and those kids practiced awfully well,” Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys said. “They did a tremendous job. All of them played their tails off. When you get in those situations and you’re missing people, it all goes back to that the next person’s got to step up and you ask them to do things, they’re going to do it. Nobody’s going to be successful if you ask them to do things you’re not very good at.”
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