If you thought the Big Ten bowl season was off to a rough start after the Alamo Bowl, there were more disasters in store. This afternoon in Nashville, Minnesota--the team that brought you an epic collapse at home against Wisconsin--blew a two-touchdown lead and lost to Virginia 34-31. The Gophers exploded for 14 points out of the gate, and consistently held the lead until the Cavs finally tied it at 31 late, and then finally won it on a field goal with under two minutes to play.
Minnesota's renowned rushing game performed well. Laurence Maroney rushed for 110 yards and Gary Russell posted 85. Bryan Cupito rifled four touchdown passes, and his only interception was a long heave toward the end zone in the desperate final minute. But the Gopher defense let Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans conduct an impersonation of Peyton Manning. Hagans hit his throws at a 25/32 clip, and rang up 357 yards.
There is no getting around the disastrous nature of the conference's start to bowl season. This game should have been a lock. Michigan had a clear advantage over Nebraska. While there's five more games to bounce back with, these were the two that favored the Big Ten the most. The 2005 season started with a non-conference wipeout back on September 10. It is now in danger of ending the same way.