NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Once he was able to hold on to the ball, Marion Barber III proved too much for Alabama to handle.
Barber rushed for 187 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries as Minnesota overcame three turnovers in the first quarter to defeat the Crimson Tide, 20-16, in the Music City Bowl.
The Golden Gophers (7-5) wore down Alabama with its potent ground attack, rushing for nearly 300 yards against the nation's second-ranked run defense. Laurence Maroney also surpassed the century mark with 105 yards on 29 attempts.
Barber and Maroney are the first pair of running backs in NCAA history to each rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.
"The big fellows up front set the tone all game and made it easy on the running backs," said Barber, who surpassed the career rushing of his father at Minnesota. "Laurence is like my little brother we feed off of each other."
Alabama had not given up 100 yards to a running back all season.
"They (Barber III and Maroney) have great vision, and they are very hard to bring down," Alabama defensive back Roman Harper said. "Their linemen get on you, and they have great technique."
The loss saddled Alabama (6-6), playing in its first bowl game since 2001, with consecutive non-winning seasons for the first time since 1954-57.
"It wasn't our best effort defensively today," Crimson Tide coach Mike Shula said. "It takes a little away from what we've done this season. Hopefully, this lights a fire under us for next year."
After Minnesota gave up a safety when punter Rhys Lloyd stepped out of the end zone, Alabama reached the Golden Gophers 15 on the ensuing possession, but Alabama's hopes ended when Spencer Pennington threw incomplete to D.J. Hall on 4th-and-6 with 1:23 remaining.
"I threw the ball too high, I'd like to have that one back," said Pennington, who was 22-of-36 for 243 yards.
The Golden Gophers committed turnovers on their first two possessions, including Barber's fumble at the 2-yard line on the game's second play. It took Alabama only one play to convert the turnover into a score as Pennington tossed a two-yard TD pass to Le'Ron McClain 48 seconds into the contest.
Later in the first quarter, Minnesota missed a chance to add to its lead when Barber was intercepted in the end zone by cornerback Anthony Madison on an option pass from the Alabama 4.
However, the Crimson Tide turned the ball over twice in a wild opening quarter, including a critical mistake by Pennington, who fumbled at his own 1. Defensive end Keith Lipka scooped up the fumble and dove into the end for the tying score with 4:21 left in the first.
"That touchdown was a real momentum swing for us," Minnesota head coach Glen Mason said. "When we got that score, it lifted us all up three feet off of the ground."
Minnesota also converted a fumble by backup quarterback Tyrone Prothro into the go-ahead score as Barber's five-yard TD run on the first play of the second quarter made it 14-7.
After Lloyd converted a 27-yard field goal midway through the second, the Crimson Tide closed to 17-14 at the half on McClain's one-yard TD run with 2:57 left in the quarter.
But Alabama sputtered on offense in the second half, frequently facing third-and-long situations. It was 0-for-11 on third-down conversions.