Taylor, Kramer lead Gophers to 30-24 win over Bowling Green at Quick Lane Bowl

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 26: Darius Taylor #1 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Quick Lane Bowl against the Bowling Green Falcons at Ford Field on December 26, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.  ((Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images))

The University of Minnesota football team entered the Quick Lane Bowl on Tuesday with the story being Cole Kramer staying with the program to start at quarterback despite being ready to leave the program and get ready for a February wedding.

The story after a 30-24 win over Bowling Green was true freshman Darius Taylor. The Michigan native grew up not far from Ford Field, and he put on a show for Gophers’ fans with 219 total yards and a touchdown. Taylor missed the last five regular season games with an injury, but helped lead the Gophers to their fifth bowl victory under P.J. Fleck.

Minnesota has now won its last seven bowl games.

"This is amazing. Ever since bowl prep started, these guys have been amazing and I couldn’t be more proud of them. This has been a dream of mine ever since I was little," Kramer said after the win.

Taylor, Minnesota’s leading rusher and a three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, had 35 carries for 208 yards and a 17-yard touchdown that gave the Gophers a 30-17 lead with 8:04 to play. In his first career start, Kramer was 8-of-16 passing for 26 yards, and touchdowns to Elijah Spencer and Jameson Geers. He also ran for a score on a sneak.

Kramer made his only start for the Gophers in his final college game.

"Once he told me he was playing I’m like he saved Christmas!" Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said after the win. "I just told him thanks for coming back, now get ready for your wedding. We thanked Katie for allowing him to come back, and Katie made it very clear ‘I was the one who told him to come back right away.’ So she made it clear, we know who wears the pants in that family. What an ending to his career. We’re just really thankful for him, he gets to leave a champion."

Taylor announced he was returning to the program shortly after Minnesota’s 28-14 loss to Wisconsin to finish the regular season 5-7, with the help of Dinkytown Athletes, the Gophers’ collective for NIL. He earned Quick Lane Bowl MVP honors after the win. Minnesota ran for 255 of its 281 total yards, anchored by Taylor.

The Gophers started to pull away from the Falcons with a 14-0 third quarter after they out-gained Bowling Green 117-6. The Falcons got within 30-24 with 2:33 to play after Connor Bazelak scored from two yards out, but Minnesota recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock.

The last time Minnesota faced Bowling Green, it was a stunning 14-10 loss to the Falcons at Hungtington Bank Stadium as 31-point favorites in 2021.

The Gophers finish the season 6-7, and Fleck earned his 50th career win at Minnesota.

"The record is the record and everybody is going to say what they want to say about 6-7. We’re going to talk about being 1-0 and bowl champs," Fleck said.