Washington State entered the Holiday Bowl sporting the nation’s No. 2 passing offense. Minnesota took the Qualcomm Stadium field in San Diego with the 69th-ranked passing defense in America, and a whole lot of drama following the team’s short-lived boycott earlier this month.
But when the teams actually took the field on Tuesday, it was the Golden Gophers’ defense that made the loudest statement, as Minnesota won a surprisingly low-scoring contest, 17-12.
The 17 points tied the Holiday Bowl record for fewest scored in a win, matching Oklahoma’s total from 2005.
Washington State (8-5) also entered Tuesday in the top 20 in scoring, but the Cougars only managed a single touchdown, which came with just 19 seconds remaining in the game. The rest of their points came off field goals.
The game’s first touchdown came thanks to a bit of luck, as Mitch Leidner’s third-quarter pass should have been intercepted but instead fell in the arms of Shannon Brooks. The score gave the Golden Gophers a 10-6 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Leidner finished with just 129 yards passing. Washington State QB Luke Falk, however, was held to his third-lowest output of the season at 264 yards.
The game capped a tumultuous postseason for Minnesota (9-4), which saw its players stage a boycott in mid-December following the suspension of 10 players, reportedly relating to an allegation of sexual assault made by a female student in September. The players ended the boycott less than 48 hours later, however, after reportedly reading the 80-page report regarding the investigation into the sexual assault allegation.