The Minnesota Golden Gophers traveled to Houston yesterday evening in preparation for the Dec. 28 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. The Gophers will face Texas Tech in their first bowl game since 2009, but before that happens Minnesota will practice five times at a local high school and will participate in numerous bowl activities.
Upon arrival, the Gophers received a police escort from the Harris County Sheriff's Department and were greeted at their team hotel with a red carpet welcome which included a Texas drumline.
"It is fantastic," said coach Jerry Kill. "This is what you work for. Our kids are excited and it is a privilege for us to be here in Houston."
The Gophers quickly found the team hospitality room at the hotel, which features 15 large TVs with multiple gaming systems and numerous other games and activities. Coach Kill then led a short team meeting, which ended around 10 p.m.
Today, coach Kill will serve as an honorary captain at the Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans game and will participate in the official coin toss.
"The Vikings are a great organization and I know a lot of people there," said Kill. "Coach Frazier and the job he has done is tremendous. I know a few people on the other side of the ball as well, so it is a great privilege for me to do that and me a part of it."
After the coin toss Kill will then depart Reliant Stadium and lead his charges through its first practice in Houston.
"We will get started and have a short practice," said Kill, who paced Minnesota through 10 efficient practices at the team complex during the last couple of weeks. "Then we will gradually cut back as we go and make sure we have fresh legs and have our shoulders and are ready to play on Friday."
Before the Gophers and Red Raiders battle on the field, they will participate in numerous bowl events, which includes the Rodeo Bowl on Dec. 26. The winner of the Rodeo Bowl has also gone on to win every Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. For coach Kill, he is looking forward to seeing his young team in a non-football environment as well.
"I have always said that is the greatest thing about going to a bowl game, all the experiences and all the relationships you are going to build here in Houston," said Kill. "I know our kids are excited about the events. We are looking forward to being in Houston and having a lot of fun."
So there is a lot of fun and football to be had in the next couple of days, but Kill said his message to the team about this week has been clear.
"I am excited for our seniors," said Kill. "They have gone through a lot and I am so happy for them. And our underclassmen, we are a very young team. I told them that we need to come down to Houston and play hard and represent the state of Minnesota and college football the way it is supposed to be."