Gophers accept bid to Bowl

Published 9:05 am Monday, December 3, 2012

The University of Minnesota football team will be playing in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 28 in Houston, according to an announcement from Gophers athletics director Norwood Teague on Sunday.

The Gophers (6-6) will play at 8 p.m. at the Houston Texans’ Reliant Stadium against a Big 12 opponent that has yet to be announced. Their last postseason bowl appearance resulted in a 14-13 loss to Iowa State in the 2009 Insight Bowl in Tempe, Arizona.

“We look forward to playing in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas and will work hard to make the Big Ten Conference and Gophers fans proud,” Teague said in a statement. “It is an honor to accept this invitation, and we look forward to working with Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas Executive Director Heather Houston and all the staff and volunteers to make this one of the most enjoyable and successful bowl games of the holiday season.

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“Our student-athletes and coaching staff have worked hard this year to reach this important milestone, which would have been impossible without the continued support of Gophers fans. So we hope Gopher fans will join us in Houston to cheer on our team. We are working on attractive travel packages with Creative Charters for our fans and look forward to having a strong contingent of Maroon and Gold in the stands.”

Minnesota second-year coach Jerry Kill’s last bowl game was a 27-3 loss to South Florida with Northern Illinois in the International Bowl in Toronto in 2010.

“We are thrilled to be heading to Houston to play in the Meineke Care Car Bowl of Texas,” Kill said in a statement. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our team to get better and a great accomplishment for our senior class. We have 13 players from Texas and I know they will be excited to play in their home state. Our opponent will be announced later tonight, but I know we will play a great team and will have our hands full. However, I know our team will be ready to play and will do their best to represent both the university and state of Minnesota.

“Houston is a great destination and offers a lot of entertainment options for our fans. Those who make the trip will have a great time at the bowl game and around the city.”

The Gophers lost the last two games of the regular season, including a 26-10 setback to Michigan State on Nov. 24 at TCF Bank Stadium. But they will have a chance to win a bowl game for the first time since beating Alabama 20-16 in the Music City Bowl in 2004.

Purdue (6-6) and Minnesota were both in the running for the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but the Boilermakers first announced Sunday afternoon that they were accepting a bid to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Jan. 1. and projected that the Gophers’ bowl opponent would be Baylor.

The Bears (7-5) finished 4-5 in the Big 12, but they won three straight games to finish the regular season. That includes an upset over then-No. 1 Kansas State 52-24 on Nov. 17.

Despite having to replace Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, Baylor still finished third in the nation in passing (353.3 yards per game) and fifth in scoring offense (44 points per game) behind senior quarterback Nick Florence, who threw for 4,121 yards and 31 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Terrance Williams had 95 catches for 1,764 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.

The Bears were part of a record-setting offensive explosion in a 70-63 loss to West Virginia on Sept. 29. Florence threw for 581 yards and five touchdowns in that game, while Williams had 17 catches for 314 yards and two touchdowns.