Minnesota headed to the Insight Bowl

Dec. 31, 2007 was dissimilar in nearly every way for the Minnesota and Kansas football teams. The 11-1 Jayhawks were in Miami Gardens, Fla., just days away from a 24-21 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. The Gophers? At home, still licking the wounds of a disastrous 1-11 season. Dec. 31, 2008 will be similar in nearly every way for the two teams. What a difference a year makes. On Sunday, Minnesota accepted a bid to the Insight Bowl to face Kansas at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. on New YearâÄôs Eve day at 5 p.m. âÄúWe are excited to be selected as the Big TenâÄôs representative in the Insight Bowl and we are looking forward to playing one of the nationâÄôs best teams in Kansas,âÄù head coach Tim Brewster said. Both the Gophers and Jayhawks finished the regular season with identical records. How they got to 7-5, however, was anything but identical. Kansas went out on a high note: a 40-37 win over a Missouri team already headed to the Big 12 championship game and ranked 12th at the time. MinnesotaâÄôs last note, on the other hand, was about as low as it gets: a 55-0 drubbing at the hands of Iowa that capped off a four-game skid to end the season. But as sophomore quarterback Adam Weber is quick to assert, a bowl game provides a clean slate. âÄúI think the month acts as an equalizer,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs really a brand new season going into a bowl game.âÄù Indeed, if the Gophers topple the Jayhawks there likely wonâÄôt be any mention of the loss to Iowa. There probably wonâÄôt be much said about KansasâÄô win over Missouri, either. This will be MinnesotaâÄôs second trip to the Insight Bowl in three years. In 2006, the Gophers squandered a 31-point lead, then lost to Texas Tech in overtime. For upperclassmen like defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg, the trip to Tempe will be a chance to erase that memory as well. In fact, the memory shouldnâÄôt hinder him at all. âÄúWeâÄôre a new team now,âÄù the senior said. New team, same destination. Not like any of the players are complaining. As snow fell outside the Gibson-Nagurski football complex Sunday evening, Weber said heâÄôll be thankful to be in Tempe at the end of December. âÄúArizonaâÄôs going to be a great, great place for us. I think everyoneâÄôs excited to get out of the cold weather âÄì especially on a day like this.âÄù