Minnesota returns to Texas Bowl against Syracuse

Minnesota looks to reach nine wins for the first time since 2003

and end a five-game bowl losing streak when the Gophers face

Syracuse in the Texas Bowl on Friday.

It’s their second straight trip to this bowl after they lost to

Texas Tech 34-31 last year after a late rally by the Red

Raiders.

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill hopes the familiarity with Reliant

Stadium will help his team.

”It certainly helps us manage,” he said. ”You just don’t know

when you’re playing one game, one shot. There’s a lot of enthusiasm

and so forth. I’m always kind of a routine guy, so to speak.

Certainly it doesn’t hurt any, that’s for sure.”

Quarterback Philip Nelson believes not just the location, but

simply playing in a bowl game last season will make Minnesota

better prepared this time.

”You definitely know what to expect now,” Nelson said. ”I

think the whole team has some good experience under their belt. We

know what a bowl game is all about, and what it takes to come

close, but now we just need to finish the job this year.”

Syracuse coach Scott Shafer joked that the game was ”a good

opportunity to play some football down in Texas where it might have

been invented.”

Five things to know about the Texas Bowl:

GOPHERS QBS: Minnesota uses two quarterbacks in Nelson and Mitch

Leidner. Nelson leads the team with 1,288 yards passing with nine

touchdowns, and Leidner has thrown for 414 yards and another score.

They also both like to run, with Leidner rushing for 383 yards and

seven touchdowns and Nelson adding 350 yards with six scores.

”I think we both have done a great job of picking up the

offense and being able to really process a lot of what the coaches

want us to do,” Nelson said.

DUAL-THREAT HUNT: Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt is a threat

to score through the air and on the ground. The sophomore has

thrown for 1,450 yards and 10 touchdowns and ran for 426 yards and

five scores. Hunt opened the season as a backup before earning the

starting job for the third game after a bad start to the season by

Drew Allen.

COBB’S HOMECOMING: Minnesota running back David Cobb is back in

his home state for the Texas Bowl. Cobb went to high school in

Killeen, Texas, which is about 190 miles from Houston. Cobb leads

the Gophers with 219 carries for 1,111 yards, and he has scored

seven touchdowns. He ranked sixth in the Big Ten in rushing and had

six 100-yard games this season.

BANGED-UP SYRACUSE: Four Syracuse starters will miss the game

with injuries: safety Durell Eskridge, tight end Beckett Wales,

defensive back Keon Lyn, and kicker Ross Krautman. Eskridge has 78

tackles and leads the team with four interceptions.

MINNESOTA BOWL HISTORY: This will be Minnesota’s 16th bowl game,

and its record is 5-10. The Gophers’ first appearance came in the

1961 Rose Bowl, and their first win was against UCLA in the 1962

Rose Bowl. They last won a bowl game when they beat Alabama in the

2004 Music City Bowl.

SYRACUSE BOWL HISTORY: Friday’s game will be the 25th bowl game

for the Orange, and they have a 14-9-1 record. They would have one

more bowl appearance but declined an invitation to the Rose Bowl in

the 1914 season because they’d already been to the West Coast

earlier that season. This is the second bowl trip to Texas for the

Orange, who beat Texas 23-14 in the Cotton Bowl in the 1959 season

to win the national championship. Syracuse has won four of its last

five bowl games.