KU will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the 2008 Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Tempe, Ariz. — After nearly a month to prepare for his team’s Insight Bowl matchup with Kansas University on Wednesday — after endless hours of game-planning and poring over film — Minnesota coach Tim Brewster has reached the following conclusion about the Jayhawks.
“I don’t think we can stop Kansas,” said Brewster, in his second season as the team’s coach. “What we’ve got to try to do is limit the number of explosive plays, runs over 12 (yards), passes over 18. We’ve got to limit the number of explosives they get.”
While the Gophers got a taste of the spread offense — and the subsequent “explosives” it seems to regularly produce — in games against Illinois and Ohio State this season, they’ll likely see a considerable upgrade in Kansas, which enters the game ranked eighth in the nation in passing offense and in the top 30 in both total offense and scoring.
In a Big Ten Conference in which offenses have largely maintained run-heavy philosophies, a matchup with Kansas’ high-powered system presents a unique challenge.
And on Monday, after undergoing their final pre-bowl practice, Minnesota’s players didn’t hesitate to acknowledge as much.
“(The Big 12) throws the ball better than anybody in the country,” said Gophers defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg, who led the Gophers with 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks this season. “That’s something we don’t face a lot (in the Big Ten).”
Brewster called Jayhawks quarterback Todd Reesing as good as any the Gophers have gone up against this season (“maybe better,” he said), and the facts and figures seem to reflect that statement.
In his second season as a starter, Reesing managed to finish the season in the top 10 nationally in completions per game, passing yards per game, total passing yards and total offense, while leading Kansas to back-to-back bowls for the first time in school history.
Of course, KU coach Mark Mangino was quick to point out that nothing the team has accomplished in 2008 will have any bearing on Wednesday’s game.
“I'm not going to go by what we did all year,” said Mangino. “We have to do it again. We have to play well on offense. We have to play good, sound defensive football and great special teams. Everybody gets all of this time to prepare for bowl games, and anything can happen. You just have to be disciplined in your preparation and stay with the things that have been good for you all year.”
At the same time, oddsmakers have tapped Kansas as a nine-point favorite entering the game, and the Gophers seem to have taken a liking to the underdog tag that’s been bestowed upon them heading into Wednesday’s game — a tag Kansas has regularly enjoyed, as well.
On Wednesday, they’ll try to translate that into an eighth victory.
“We’ve had 14 outstanding practices in preparation for this football game,” Brewster said. “I thought, again, our attention to detail was excellent. ... It’s very important to our football team that we finish this season the right way.”