Minnesota Gives Arkansas the Boot
If Minnesota Coach Glen Mason had his way, Dan Nystrom would not have been named the most valuable player of the Music City Bowl.
Nystrom tied an NCAA record by kicking five field goals Monday as Minnesota upset No. 25 Arkansas, 29-14, for the Golden Gophers’ first bowl victory since 1985.
“I wish he was standing next to me and we were scoring touchdowns. I’ve got a lot of respect for this guy. He’s had some slumps and he’s had periods where he kicked well,” Mason said of the senior kicker. “He had a great day today.”
The Gophers (8-5) had lost three consecutive bowls since defeating Clemson in the 1985 Independence Bowl. They entered the game having blown their best start since 1961 by losing their final four games of the regular season and finishing seventh in the Big Ten.
Arkansas (9-5), the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division champ, was seeking its first 10-win season since going 10-2 in 1989.
But Minnesota, with only two senior starters, dominated the Razorbacks. Arkansas is 1-10 in its last 11 bowl games.
The Gophers controlled the ball and forced four turnovers, including two interceptions by senior cornerback Michael Lehan.
Asad Abdul-Khaliq threw for a touchdown in the third quarter and Thomas Tapeh added a 33-yard run in the fourth.
“If Danny wasn’t on the top of his game, then it would’ve been a lot tougher to win,” said Abdul-Khaliq, who was 16 of 31 for 216 passing yards.
Nystrom had kicks of 24, 45, 21 and 22 yards in the first half for a 12-7 halftime lead and added a 29-yarder in the fourth. His first three kicks made him the Big Ten Conference’s career field-goal leader, passing Travis Dorsch, who had 68 at Purdue.