MINNEAPOLIS — While it remained a chance throughout November, the Gophers were officially eliminated from a bowl game on Saturday evening, Nov. 25.
For Minnesota, it took more than just the 31-0 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, which finalized being one win short of bowl eligibility in a 5-7 season.
"We were one game away from bowl eligibility," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. "There (are) no moral victories. It's unacceptable, but we are exactly where we are. We got exactly what our work deserves."
The NCAA's bowl lineup needed until the final week of the regular season to have 78 eligible teams for its 39 bowls. If they failed to reach that mark, they would have had to pluck 5-7 teams to round out the field.
The final nail in the Gophers' season came more than an hour after their loss of Paul Bunyan's Axe to the Badgers. The deciding game was Temple reaching six wins in its victory over Tulsa. The Owls will be at least the 78th team pegged to reach six wins this season.
Gophers linebacker Thomas Barber had to couch how he talked about the end of the season because an extra game remained a possibility in the postgame press conference.
In 2015, the Gophers went 5-7, and with a shortage of six-win teams, the academic tiebreak pushed them into the Quick Lane Bowl. That remained a possible repeat scenario this season because the Gophers have one of the best Academic Progress Rates in the nation.
A few weeks ago, the Gophers were slated for a bowl game with a projected 5-7 record, but that became a diminishing possibility as other middling college programs started to win more games. During a 2-7 Big Ten season, Minnesota lost four of its last five games and ended its five-year run of bowl games.
The NCAA had to dip down and take three teams with losing records in both 2015 and 2016. They placed a moratorium this spring on adding more games to limit the chance of teams with losing records going to bowls. The discontinuation of the Poinsettia Bowl this year cut two berths from the mix.