As the Minnesota Golden Gophers and head coach Jerry Kill prepare for what they assume will be warmer weather when they arrive in Houston for the Texas Bowl, there are undoubtedly many things on their minds. It would be a near impossibility to pass over six states as they head south without reminiscing about their bowl game from a season ago which also would have seen the team follow the same route. Surely the team will not want their trek home to be reminiscent of their unsatisfactory return flight following a disappointing loss.
In 2012, the Golden Gophers were in Texas to play the Texas Tech Red Raiders and their always vaunted offensive passing arsenal in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The Golden Gophers briefly held the lead over the Red Raiders twice in the first quarter, but never again had sole control of the game. The game, however, was highly contested until Texas Tech kicker Ryan Bustin sent the Golden Gophers packing on their long trip home with a 28-yard field goal on the final play of the game breaking the tie in favor of the Red Raiders, 34-31.
While not played in Texas, the Insight Bowl is played in the south, Just a bit to the west actually in Arizona. The Insight Bowl has played host to the Minnesota Golden Gophers on three occasions in a four-year span. Like the 2012 disappointment, the Golden Gophers lost the 2008 Insight Bowl to a Big 12 opponent, this time it was the Kansas Jayhawks coached by Mark Mangino. The Jayhawks were able to double the score of the Golden Gophers, winning by a score of 42-21 largely because of the three touchdown connections between quarterback Todd Reesing and wide receiver Desmond Briscoe. The 2009 Insight Bowl ended in more dramatic fashion; this time it was at the hands of the Iowa State Cyclones, a 14-13 loss that saw the Golden Gophers being shut out in the fourth quarter, preventing a victory.
In 2006, the Golden Gophers had the same opponent they faced in 2012, the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The Red Raiders were then coached by the ever popular Mike Leech. Like the 2012 game, the Red Raiders won by a three-point margin, but a kicker did not prove to be the deciding factor in the game as the Red Raiders scored a touchdown to outdo the Golden Gophers’ field goal in overtime. However, in the Music City Bowl of 2005 when the margin of victory was once again three points, a kicker was to thank for the Golden Gopher loss as Virginia Cavaliers kicker Connor Hughes nailed the game winner with a little over a minute to play. In fact, one must go back nearly a decade to 2004 to unearth the most recent Golden Gopher bowl victory and that was in another Music City Bowl where the Golden Gophers defeated the current reigning champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
In all, the Golden Gophers have won five bowl games. They will be looking turn that five into a six as they play the Syracuse Orange in 2014. If history proves anything, fans should expect a close game. Both teams have had embattled seasons and will be desperately wanting to end their seasons on a high note. The Golden Gophers lost their final game of regular season play to the Northwestern Wildcats, but should have had sufficient time to recover and prepare for this all important bowl game.
Coach Kill will accept nothing but the best from his players. Expect to see excellent game planning, execution and coaching from the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a win to cap off this season. In case it comes down to it, the Syracuse kickers are averaging 68 percent this season, but have had to force more than one in at times because of off-the-field issues. Hopefully the Golden Gophers do not play another bowl game well and lose it to an opponent’s kicker.