Football team playing solely for pride over next two weeks

John R. Carter

Don’t worry parents, your Minnesota football sons will be home in time for the holidays.

The Gophers left their last chance of going to a third-straight bowl game with the 110,828 fans in Michigan Stadium on Saturday.

After playing in the Sun Bowl two years ago, and the Bowl last season, Minnesota (3-6, 1-5 Big Ten) is ineligible for a bowl for the first time since 1998.

For seniors such as safety Jack Brewer or center Derek Burns, the toughest thing about the loss to the Wolverines is the fact that they’re another step closer to finishing their career.

“It’s hard realizing my career is coming to an end,” Brewer said. “We have two games left and we’re not eligible for a bowl. But at the same time, we’re going to go out and keep everybody up so this program has something to build on for next year.”

Added Burns: “That was our goal, to go to three-straight bowl games. It takes a hard hit on you when you realize it’s not going to happen.”

The underclassmen, however, such as sophomore quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq, look at the final pair of games as a way to build for next season.

“We have to win these next two games so we can come into next season with our heads up,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “Hopefully, we’ll make a bowl game next season.”

While no bowl hardware will be coming to Minnesota this postseason, the Gophers are playing for a couple of trophies in the coming weeks.

Minnesota has the chance to ruin its opponents’ seasons as well.

The Gophers look to retain Floyd of Rosedale with a win at Iowa on Saturday. The bronze pig has lived in the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex since 1998.

At 5-4 (3-4 Big Ten), a Hawkeyes win at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday makes Iowa bowl eligible for the first time since 1997.

The following week, the Gophers will try to recapture Paul Bunyan’s Axe from Wisconsin. Minnesota hasn’t beaten the Badgers – its most heated rival – since 1994.

The Badgers are in slightly tougher bowl shape. Wisconsin (5-5, 3-3) must beat Michigan this weekend, then the Gophers a week later to become bowl eligible. Because they play 12 games, the Badgers must win seven games.

“We’re going to be fired up for the last two games,” Burns said. “As the saying goes, ‘Take the records and throw them out the window when two rivals play.'”

The seniors will use the final two games as a going away party. A win over Wisconsin would allow them to hoist the axe for the only time in their career.

“We’re not going to lay down,” Brewer said. “We have too much pride to do that. We’re going to give it our best shot, and hopefully we’ll come back with these two trophies.”

And be spoilers, too.


Saturday’s game against Iowa begins at 12:05 p.m. and won’t be televised. Nov. 24th’s Wisconsin game is set for 11:10 a.m. and is scheduled to be shown on ESPN2.

– Anthony Maggio contributed to this report