Kansas (7-5) vs. Minnesota (7-5)|
Wednesday, December 31st, 6:00 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The Kansas Jayhawks and the Minnesota Golden Gophers own identical
7-5 records, and they will meet in the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in
Kansas is playing in a bowl game for the second consecutive year for the first
time in history. The Jayhawks are playing in a bowl game for the fourth time
in the last six years, all under Mark Mangino, and the program has won four of
its last five bowl games overall. After a strong start to the 2008 season,
Kansas went through a stretch in which it lost four of five games. On a
positive note, the Jayhawks were able to beat Missouri in their most recent
outing, a source of confidence heading into this New Year's Eve showdown with
Speaking of the Golden Gophers, they finished a dismal 1-11 in 2007, but
turned things around in 2008 under the guidance of head coach Tim Brewster.
"Minnesota has made huge strides in their second season under Tim Brewster,"
said Mangino about his counterpart. "They are making outstanding progress and
will be a formidable bowl opponent."
On a down note, the club enters this bowl game on a four-game losing streak
that includes an embarrassing 55-0 loss to Iowa in the regular-season finale.
The Golden Gophers are playing in a bowl game for the eighth time in the last
10 years, and the program is 5-7 all-time in postseason play. The most recent
appearance for Minnesota was, ironically in the 2006 Insight Bowl.
Kansas and Minnesota have split six previous meetings, and the teams haven't
squared off since 1973.
Kansas is scoring 32.7 ppg while racking up 431.2 total ypg, and the offense
is led by Todd Reesing, an undersized quarterback with a ton of heart. Reesing
has completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 3,575 yards with 28 touchdowns
and 12 interceptions. He has a couple of outstanding targets to throw to in
Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe. Meier leads the team with 87 catches for 932
yards and seven touchdowns, while Briscoe has found the end zone 12 times and
has racked up 1,206 yards on 78 grabs. The coaches have really had a lot of
confidence in me late in the season and I have responded by making plays when
the ball came to me," says Briscoe. "I am just planning on doing the same in
the bowl game.
The ground attack of Kansas is mediocre at best, as the leading rusher, Jake
Sharp, has recorded only 796 yards. Sharp does have 11 touchdowns to his
credit, and he averages 4.7 yards per carry. Perhaps the greatest strength of
the Jayhawk offense is its ability to convert on third down, as it has made
good on 50 percent of its attempts this season.
The Jayhawks are yielding 29.5 ppg and 402.2 total ypg this season, numbers
that suggest the team has struggled defensively this season. Kansas has
surrendered 46 total touchdowns, 26 of which have come through the air. Foes
have found a great deal of success throwing the ball against the Jayhawks, who
are allowing 275.5 passing ypg. The run defense has been stronger for Kansas,
but even that aspect of the game could stand some improvement.
James Holt leads the Jayhawks with 97 total tackles, and he has made 15.5
TFLs. Holt has registered seven sacks and forced six fumbles, proving to be
one of the top defenders in the Big 12. Justin Thornton has been a standout
defender as well, as he has recorded 11 pass breakups.
Recently, senior linebacker Joe Mortensen gave his assessment of the challenge
that the Minnesota offense poses for the Jayhawks. "They run a lot of empty
(sets) and we have seen a bunch of spread this year, so we should be ready,"
said Mortensen. They have a really good wideout and a good quarterback. They
love to pass the ball."
Minnesota does not have an explosive offense, as the squad is averaging a
modest 23.4 ppg and 322.2 total ypg. The Golden Gophers have struggled
mightily in their efforts to run the football, as they are averaging just
105.8 ypg on the ground while netting 3.2 yards per carry.
Minnesota is led by quarterback Adam Weber, who is capable of making plays
with both his arm and his legs. Weber has completed 62.8 percent of his passes
for 2,585 yards and 14 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. His favorite
target is clearly Eric Decker, who has made 76 catches for 925 yards and six
touchdowns. Considering that no other player on the roster has made more than
32 receptions, Decker's importance to the offense can not be overstated. He is
recovering from a knee injury, but is listed as probable for this contest.
Weber has run for four touchdowns, second most on the roster behind the seven
logged by DeLeon Eskridge.
Opponents are averaging 23.3 ppg against Minnesota, which is yielding 378.4
total ypg. The Golden Gophers are giving up 4.1 rushing yards per attempt and
12.8 passing yards per completion, and both figures are a bit on the high
side. Still, Minnesota has come up with a high total of 30 takeaways,
including 14 interceptions.
Several players have performed well for the Golden Gopher defense this season,
but none have been better than Willie VanDeSteeg. In 12 games, VanDeSteeg has
posted 18 TFLs, including 9.5 sacks. Traye Simmons has come up with four
interceptions, and he has broken up 13 passes. Coach Brewster will rely on
those players and others to step up to the challenge of facing an outstanding
"I could not be more proud of what our team has accomplished this season and I
am thrilled that all their hard work is being rewarded with an opportunity to
play in a tremendous event like the Insight Bowl," says the leader of the
The Gophers will play with pride in this bowl game and should be commended for
their turnaround, but let's not lose sight of the fact that the team lost its
last four games. Clearly, the edge should go to Kansas, which is coming off a
hard-fought win against a quality opponent.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas 34, Minnesota 17
12/28 03:44:48 ET