Minnesota to the Insight Bowl

Austin Cumblad

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 Year’s Eve day at 5 p.m. “We are excited to be selected as the Big Ten’s representative in the Insight Bowl and we are looking forward to playing one of the nation’s best teams in Kansas,” 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. Minnesota’s 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. “I think the month acts as an equalizer,” he said. “It’s really a brand new season going into a bowl game.” Indeed, if the Gophers topple the Jayhawks there likely won’t be any mention of the loss to Iowa. There probably won’t be much said about Kansas’ win over Missouri, either. This will be Minnesota’s 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 shouldn’t hinder him at all. “We’re a new team now,” 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 he’ll be thankful to be in Tempe at the end of December. “Arizona’s going to be a great, great place for us. I think everyone’s excited to get out of the cold weather – especially on a day like this.”