Insight Bowl gameday: Minnesota vs. Kansas

Austin Cumblad

Halftime update The first quarter was about as evenly matched as they come; the second, about as lopsided as they come. Kansas took firm control of the game with a little over a minute left in the half when Todd Reesing completed his fourth touchdown pass of the afternoon to stretch the Jayhawks’ lead to 28-14. Kansas held the ball for nearly the entire quarter, and at one point, Reesing completed 14 straight passes. Any offensive momentum Minnesota built up in the first quarter disappeared completely. The Gophers’ only sustained drive came in the last minute of the half, but it was derailed when Adam Weber was sacked for a loss of 14 yards. To have any chance, Minnesota must get some pressure on Reesing and throw him off his rhythm. Otherwise, there’s no telling how ugly this game could get. First quarter update The first quarter in Tempe provided plenty of fireworks. Kansas’ first play from scrimmage was a 60-yard touchdown from Todd Reesing to Dezmon Briscoe. Minnesota’s was a 75-yard pass from David Pittman (on a pitch from Adam Weber) to Eric Decker. The Gophers scored three plays later. It’s 14-14 after a quarter of play. Weber has lined up under center for most of his snaps, after doing so maybe only a handful of times during the regular season. The Gophers are putting together a respectable downhill run game, and walk-on back Jon Hoese has punched in both of Minnesota’s touchdowns from a yard and two yards out, respectively. Clearly, Tim Davis has already made significant changes to the Gophers run game, and they’ve been pretty effective thus far. And with the run heavy play calling, Weber has had plenty of time and looks comfortable in the pocket. He threw only four times in the first quarter, but has three completions for 50 yards. Pregame A bowl game is a little like a separate season. It’s been 40 days since Minnesota played its regular season finale. In that time, the Gophers have held 15 practices, hired a new offensive line coach/run game coordinator, and generally tried to forget their late-season collapse that culminated in a 55-0 embarrassment at the hands of Iowa. Wide receiver Eric Decker had knee surgery, Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went…point is, it’s been awhile. The “separate season” feel means different things depending on who you talk to. Ask sophomore quarterback Adam Weber: to him, a bowl game is like a bridge to next season – Minnesota can create momentum for spring practice and beyond with a win over Kansas. If it’s senior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg, however, there is no next year. So all he’d like to do is end his college career on a high note. Beat the Jayhawks and it’s like the four-game skid to finish the regular season never existed. Here are a couple things the Gophers must do to have a shot at knocking off Kansas: 1) Rekindle the Weber to Decker connection: During Minnesota’s 7-1 start, Weber to Decker was one of most fruitful passing combinations in the country. But a high ankle sprain against Northwestern hobbled Decker (and in turn the Gophers’ offense) for the rest of the season. Arthroscopic knee surgery and the month-long hiatus should have Decker back to health, however, and if Weber can find him again, look out. 2) Create turnovers: It’s what won Minnesota several games early in the season, and especially with Todd Reesing at quarterback for Kansas, the Gophers must keep the Jayhawks’ offense off the field. 3) Establish a run game: The lack a rushing attack haunted Minnesota all season, so much that offensive line coach Phil Meyer stepped aside two days after the Gophers finished their regular season. In came Tim Davis, who not only took on the O-line duties but also was given the post of run game coordinator. Head coach Tim Brewster hinted that the run game would undergo a number of changes; this will be our first look at those. Expect Weber to line up under center and the offensive line to have it’s hand on the ground more often today.

If you’re like me, you’ve felt a little lost for the past month.  Especially on Saturdays, something was missing.  I wasn’t making a mid-morning trek to the Metrodome or waking up in a hotel room somewhere in the upper Midwest, and while my body appreciated the extra rest, my mind still wandered to Minnesota football.  But my fix is here at last.  The Insight Bowl kicks off at Arizona State’s Sun Devil stadium in just over four hours.

We arrived in Mesa, AZ around 10 p.m. local time last night after a three-day road trip that took us through Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico before finally arriving in the Valley of the Sun.  I won’t bore you with too many details, but a few things I’ve learned:

1) Watching the sunset in Arizona makes you feel quite insignificant.

2) It snows in New Mexico.

3) Nebraskans ice fish in 50 degree weather.

4) Don’t buy pepperjack flavored Kraft Singles.

5) Three people can eat 17 turkey sandwiches very quickly.

Overall, the drive went as smoothly as any road trip possibly can, and here’s hoping for the same on the trip home.

Well, we’re going to head to the stadium shortly, remember that kickoff is at 5 CT.  Keep it locked to Upon Further Review for pre- and in-game analysis, then check the sports section on mndaily.com later this evening for a wrap up of the game.  Happy New Year’s Eve!

To see trip pictures go to mattmeadlife.blogspot.com.