A season that was looking less-than-successful around Halloween finished with a positive bang. Despite losing arguably their best two players on each side of the ball to injury within the first month of the season, Minnesota won two of their last three games in blowout fashion to become bowl-eligible. They carried that momentum into the Quick Lane Bowl, beating Georgia Tech 34-10. Counting the bowl game, Minnesota finished with a winning record- not bad for the youngest team in FBS! Now that the college football season is over, it’s time to hand out the Golden Gophers Post-Season Awards.
Golden Gophers Post-Season Awards
Offensive MVP: WR Tyler Johnson
Over the course of the season, Johnson averaged 15 yards per catch and was responsible for nearly half of the team’s yardage and scoring through the air. His 57 yards and two touchdowns in the Quick Lane Bowl vaulted him over Rob Johnson into first place for both single-season receiving yards (1,169) and touchdowns (12) by a Gopher. In a tough spot, surrounded by freshman and with both senior running backs injured, the junior rose to the challenge. How Tyler Johnson doesn’t receive more national attention, I don’t know.
Defensive MVP: LB Blake Cashman
There were several worthy candidates for this award, but I went with Cashman. The Eden Prairie native finished 2017 with 30 total tackles, and more than tripled that this season to 104. His season highlight was a 40-yard scoop-and-score against Purdue. Not bad for a former walk-on.
Freshman of the Year AND Bowl Game MVP: RB Mohamed Ibrahim
Ibrahim got better each week of his freshman season, stepping up in a huge way after the injury to Rodney Smith. He’s not a huge guy- 5’10”, 205- but he drags tacklers like one, and is very good at falling forward for an extra yard or so. His 224 yards in the Quick Lane Bowl made him the hands-down MVP and put him over 1,000 yards for the season, despite missing two games due to injury in September. Ibrahim and Tyler Johnson became Minnesota’s first duo with 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season since 2000. Gopher fans should be very excited about watching #24 carry the ball for at least another two seasons.
To sum up the season…
It may not have been the record Gopher fans hoped for, but the 2018 season was a successful one. The team rebounded from a painful 0-4 stretch in October to win three of their last five, including a rivalry game against Wisconsin that also made them bowl-eligible. The Sporting News actually has Minnesota ranked at #25 in their (far too) early pre-season rankings. Whether you agree with that assessment or not, the Gophers are clearly heading in the right direction.