The Gophers take on Syracuse in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27. The team arrived in Houston on Dec. 21 to start preparing for the game. We will add photos, video, audio, social media posts, links and blog entries to this page throughout the trip. Thanks for following along!
Photo Gallery (will update with additional photos each day)
Thursday, Dec. 26 - 6:30 p.m.
The last day before game day was a busy one for the Golden Gophers. They had meetings before going to a luncheon, which was luckily located in our hotel. Coach Kill and a few players spoke briefly during the lunch.
Then they came across the mall corridor to the Texas Bowl press conference.
From there, it was off to Reliant Stadium for a walkthrough. The end zones and midfield logo had fresh paint on them, so those were off limits during our session. The real grass field was looking sharp, and the roof was open. Currently, the plan is to have it open tomorrow night.
A handful of players, mostly seniors, then visited the DePelchin Children’s Center. Jerry and Rebecca Kill, Norwood Teague, Eric and Karen Kaler, Goldy and spirit squad members also attended. The Gophers signed autographs, took photos and played with the kids.
The coaching staff’s kids also contributed to the visit. They raised more than $100 during the week making bracelets for the travel party, and they donated it to DePelchin along with extra bracelets they made in the kids’ room at the hotel.
Most traveling Gopher fans have arrived in Houston by now. A big gathering is underway at the ‘Sota Social at the team hotel, with KFAN broadcasting live from the social.
Now there’s nothing left but the game itself! Thanks for following along with us this week. If you’re coming to the game, we’ll see you at Reliant. If not, tune in on ESPN or KFAN for the 5 p.m. kickoff. Here’s hoping we end our time “deep in the heart of Texas” with a victory.
Wednesday, Dec. 25 - 10:15 p.m.
Getting ready for a bowl game is like getting ready for any other game. That means keeping the regular practice schedule, even on holidays. But there were a few special things in store for the Gophers today.
While the team and coaches were on the field, people from St. Thomas High School and the Gophers' staff got a special post-practice snack ready. Athletics director Norwood Teague and deputy athletics director David Benedict helped grill burgers and Polish sausage. (Check the photo gallery for pictures of them in action -- they put in a good day's work!)
St. Thomas has a big trailer with several grills on it. (The actual photos in the gallery give a better description.) It's known as the Holy Smoker. The Holy Smoker got the job done, cranking out enough meat to feed everyone who was at practice.
That was our last full practice before the bowl, as there is just a walkthrough tomorrow. It was also our last practice at St. Thomas. We would like to thank athletics director Mike Netzel and everyone else from St. Thomas who helped us this week. They were phenomenal hosts.
The last pre-bowl practice also meant last practice for the seniors. There are more photos of seniors being carried in this Gopher Gridiron Facebook album.
Later on, the team had dinner together at the hotel. We hope everyone was able to enjoy some time with family and friends today! And we look forward to more Gophers, including the student trip that left today, joining us here in Houston.
Tuesday, Dec. 24 - 5:00 p.m.
Other than a high school coaches clinic at practice, things were pretty routine today with no special team events. But there is definitely a holiday spirit around the hotel and the Galleria, including some Christmas tunes playing in the area serving as the training room for the week.
There will be a team meal tomorrow with some special guest chefs. (More on this to come.) From all of us with Gopher football, we wish y'all (when in Texas...) a great holiday season!
Monday, Dec. 23 - 10:45 p.m.
Many of the Gophers went bowling on Sunday night at Lucky Strike. We talked with Chris Hawthorne about the outing, and about team chemistry this season.
On Monday, we had another practice at St. Thomas, with media availability at the end.
Soon after returning from practice, it was time to leave for the Rodeo Bowl held at George Ranch. The Gophers were on bleachers on one side of the semi-indoor arena, and the Orange was on the other. Both teams were animated and loud, and there was some entertaining back-and-forth cheering across the competition floor.
Syracuse ended up winning the event 6-1, denying the Gophers a second straight title, but Minnesota still had a lot of fun. The Rodeo Bowl started off with a touchdown dance competition. The Gophers made a bold decision to dance without music, and Tommy Olson led the offensive linemen with some impressive moves. (Watch the video below--you'll be glad you did.) But the judges picked the Orange.
Calf herding, mascot roping, a hay bale toss and calf “branding” (using chalk) were a few of the other events. The Gophers won the calf ribbon pull, in which the contestants had to catch a calf and grab a ribbon from its tail. That contest provided some laughs, as did the stick horse race. On the last lap of the relay, trying to catch up to Syracuse, running back Berkley Edwards was perhaps too excited to show his speed and ended up falling in the dirt with the stick horse.
A barbecue dinner, live music, s’mores and games capped off the evening.
Sunday, Dec. 22 - 5:45 p.m.
Former Gopher great Eric Decker happened to be staying down the street from us. The Broncos were in town to face the Texans. Coach Kill went to Reliant Stadium to do some interviews in the morning, and was able to talk with Decker briefly on the field. Decker ended up with two touchdowns and 131 yards in the game.
The team had position meetings at the hotel before loading up the buses for practice. Senior James Manuel was nice enough to help some of us down from the last bus to arrive. The team practiced at St. Thomas High School, which was a great host last year and continues to be a great host again. It was a little windy out, but a perfect day for football. A few local media members conducted interviews after practice.
With the Rodeo Bowl coming up tomorrow, we talked with a rookie and a veteran of the event to preview it. The Rodeo Bowl is a contest held at a ranch that pits the two Texas Bowl teams against each other in various activities. Minnesota won the Rodeo Bowl last year and is looking for a repeat victory.
Saturday, Dec. 21 - 9:15 p.m.
There was no sleeping in for the Golden Gophers this Saturday morning. The team had breakfast and then went through airport security and loaded the buses. By the afternoon, we were in Houston, Texas, checking into our hotel. After a long season working to get to a bowl game, the Gophers are finally in the last week of preparation for this postseason contest.
Our hotel is situated in the Galleria, which is similar to the Mall of America. It's huge and busy, and there is even an indoor ice rink on the first floor. There will be plenty to see during down time.
The player hospitality room is going to be a popular hangout spot for the guys during the week. They can go online, play video games or air hockey, grab a snack or just relax.
After a long day of travel, the only team function Saturday was a brief opening meeting. The Texas Bowl has already been a great host, and a few representatives of the bowl greeted us at the meeting. We are looking forward to a fun week and a good game. Practice starts tomorrow, and there will be much more to come on this blog once we get going!
Week Seven Roundup
Take a look at the top headlines going into week seven of play as the Gophers get ready to host Illinois for homecoming.
Elite Access: Party on the Plaza
Gopher Football head coach P.J. Fleck made an appearance at Homecoming 2017's "Party on the Plaza" Monday night!
Johnson Is Minnesota's Breakout Star
Tyler Johnson is putting up numbers that could rival some of the best sophomore receivers in Minnesota history.