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Gophers bowl without four defensive starters

DETROIT — To say the Gophers defense was shorthanded in the Quick Lane Bowl against Bowling Green is an understatement. Minnesota was missing four starters and a defensive coordinator Joe Rossiwho left the program to take the same position at Michigan State.

Tuesday at Ford Field, the Gophers tinkered with just enough things on defense to secure a 30-24 victory. The main shoemaker, according to the coach PJ Fleckwas Danny Collinsthe safeties coach who had the role of interim defensive coordinator.

“Danny filled in and did a great job,” Fleck said. “…I knew he could do it. He was definitely a different person on the other side (of the headphones), but he was really composed.

Collins was without starting the safeties Tyler Nubinwho chose not to prepare for the NFL, and the injured Darius Green. Injured linebackers were also absent Maverick Baranowski And Devon Williams.

Redshirt freshman Coleman Bryson and true freshman Kerry Brown filled in at safety, while he was a redshirt freshman Tyler Stolsky replaced at the free linebacker position opposite the junior Cody Lindenberg. Stolsky and Lindenberg tied for the team lead with six tackles, with Stolsky adding a sack. Bryson and Brown each had five tackles.

The Gophers allowed 303 yards and 30 points, but the defense was solid in key moments, like when Bowling Green intercepted a ball. Cole Kramer pass and had the ball at the Gophers 15 but came away with only a 33 yard field goal by Alan Anaya for a 10-9 lead late in the first half.

“You look at a lot of positions, and we play, you know our twos and threes, and it’s not disrespectful,” Fleck said. “They’ll be our ones and twos next year. … They had to grow fast, and I thought Danny’s preparation with his team was superb.

Darius Taylor returns

The Gophers received some good news regarding who was not listed on the availability report. True freshman running back Darius Taylor, the team’s leading runner, returned after missing the last five games with a leg injury. Taylor, a former star player at Western High School in Walled Lake, Mich., rushed 103 times for 591 yards and four touchdowns this season.

On Tuesday, he had career highs of 35 carries and 208 yards with a touchdown, setting the tone for a Gophers ground game that amassed 255 yards on 44 attempts. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Preparation for the pros

The absences of Nubin, tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford and wide receiver Chris Autman Bell This is the second straight year the Gophers have had at least one prominent player miss the game, eliminating the risk of injury as they focus on the NFL Draft. Pan American Center John Michael Schmitz didn’t play in the Pinstripe Bowl last year and ended up as a second-round pick by the New York Giants.

Nubin and Spann-Ford were invited to play in the Senior Bowl on February 3 in Mobile, Alabama. This marks the fifth straight year the Gophers have had at least one player invited to the Senior Bowl.

Etc.

• The best runner in Bowling Green, Terion Stewart, missed the game due to a leg injury. The Falcons’ second runner, Ta’ron Keithentered the transfer portal after the regular season.

• The Gophers improved to 12-12 all-time in bowl games and are on a seven-game bowl winning streak. Fleck is 5-0 in bowls as coach of the Gophers, the most wins in Minnesota history. His five appearances only drag Glen Mason’s Seven.

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