Connect with us

WVU Football

Gameday Guaranteed Rate Bowl: December 28

Published

on

Tonight, at Chase Field, the 8-4 Minnesota Golden Gophers and West Virginia Mountaineers will face off for the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bowl trophy. This is the first meeting of the two teams, as well as the sole Big Ten – Big 12 match-up this bowl season.

“Bowl games are rewards to me,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “This has been an up and down year for us. I think it’s been challenging at times. I think if I polled our people and said, ‘Hey. We’re going to beat Texas, we’re going to beat Virginia Tech, we’re going to beat Iowa State,’ I think our initial reaction from our fanbase would be ‘Man. We’re going to have a really good year.’ While we did win those games, we faltered in a couple, particularly before the BYE week, where we didn’t play our best football. It’s been a challenge. I’m proud of how our kids responded. I felt like they handled adversity… These games are rewards and we’re going to treat them as that.”

WVU will earn that reward sans one of the most influential contributors to that success.

West Virginia enters this game down its go-to running back, senior Leddie Brown. In his place will be a combination of redshirt sophomore Tony Mathis Jr. and true freshman Justin Johnson Jr. It doesn’t appear to be an area that Brown is worried about, as the three have been moderately swapping reps all season. Still, losing a rusher who’s notched 1,065 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season alone will be a difficult step to maneuver.

Minnesota’s run game has also taken a brutal swing. Head coach PJ Fleck began the season with seven, quality, scholarship running backs. Throughout the wear and tear of the season, the roster dwindled to two freshmen: Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving. That’s not to diminish the run game’s continued impact though. The freshmen combined for 1,250 yards on 259 rushes for nine touchdowns in the latter part of the season. Even with season-ending injuries to nearly the entire room, running backs coach Kenni Burns has coached five different players to 100+ yard rushing performances. The Golden Gophers are the only FBS team in the country to feature that kind of running back depth. Minnesota runs the ball on 67.4 percent of its snaps, good for fourth-highest, efficiency-based, run offense in the nation. That will be difficult to stop, even when the rush is being lead by limited experience, on paper.

“I think both teams are going to come in with confidence,” Brown said. “[Minnesota] won a huge rivalry game there in the last game of the regular season. We had two conference wins closing out: an emotional home win over Texas and beat Kansas on the road in a tough environment, so yeah, I think both teams are playing some good football down the stretch.”

Stay up-to-date with all the action from WVU Football ahead of ESPN’s 10:15 p.m. EST kick-off here, on WVSportsNow.com!

UPDATE (10:25 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (10:12 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (10:11 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (10:07 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (10:05 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (10:02 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (9:45 P.M.) – CAPTAINS AND FLAG CARRIER

UPDATE (9:26 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (9:11 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (8:56 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (8:01 P.M.) –

UPDATE (7:48 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (7:00 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (6:56 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (6:40 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (6:38 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (5:51 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (4:22 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (4:00 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (2:40 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (2:38 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (12:43 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (12:38 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (12:34 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (12:30 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (12:09 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (12:00 P.M.) – 

UPDATE (10:25 A.M.) – 

UPDATE (10:11 A.M.) – 

UPDATE (10:02 A.M.) – 

UPDATE (10:00 A.M.) – 

UPDATE (9:31 A.M.) – 

UPDATE (8:00 A.M.) – 

Welcome to the new home of WVU football and basketball breaking news, analysis and recruiting. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and check us out on YouTube. And don't forget to subscribe for all of our articles delivered directly to your inbox.

Get WVSN in your mailbox!

Enter your email address to subscribe to WVSN and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Sign up for the best in WVU sports!

Subscribe to WVSN today and get all of our posts directly in your inbox the second they're published.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Send this to a friend