Gophers fall to Kansas in Insight Bowl
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Kansas Jayhawks had plenty of reasons to celebrate, and just as many to look forward to next season.
The Jayhawks hope their 42-21 victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl on Wednesday will be a springboard for 2009.
They're expected to have several key players back, including junior quarterback Todd Reesing, who riddled Minnesota for 313 yards passing and four touchdowns, and sophomore Dezmon Briscoe, who caught a game-record 14 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns on his way to game MVP honors.
"We've got a lot of guys coming back," said Reesing, now 20-6 as a starter. "We're going to have big expectations for next year. We're going to enjoy this one tonight and then come back in January and get after it for next year."
High expectations are the standard for Kansas' basketball team, which won the NCAA title last spring. But the football team is starting to raise the bar too.
KU has won three straight bowls for the first time, and the Insight Bowl marked its first back-to-back bowl appearances.
"We've always had high expectations, and next year will be no different," coach Mark Mangino said. "I think we have a chance to be a very good football team."
They already are.
Kansas (8-5) sliced up the Gophers (7-6) with a precise passing attack directed by Reesing. His favorite targets were Briscoe and Kerry Meier, who had 10 catches for 113 yards. Meier caught one touchdown pass and also threw for a score.
Reesing said KU's plan was simple.
"See, here's what happens: They call a play, and Briscoe gets open, and if I can throw it to him, then it works out," Reesing said. "And it seemed to work out a whole lot of times, and the same thing with Kerry. So we just kept doing it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?"
Reesing completed 27 of 35 passes, hitting on a school-record 14 straight in the first half. He threw for 313 yards and was intercepted once.
Reesing has one year left to add to his legacy as the most prolific passer in KU history.
"You know, Todd Reesing is a smart enough guy to know the only person he has to please are his teammates, and that's all he really cares about," Mangino said. "I will put it to you like this: It is tough playing against him."
Eric Decker caught eight passes for 149 yards and a touchdown for the Golden Gophers, who finished the season on a five-game losing streak and have lost their last three bowl games.
"Unfortunately, we got beat by a better football team today. That was the name of the story," said Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, whose team earned a bowl bid one year after a 1-11 season. "There's no consolation for us. We came here to win the football game."
Minnesota was hoping to erase memories of its last Insight trip, two years ago. The Gophers led Texas Tech 38-7 midway through the third quarter, only to watch the Red Raiders rally for a 44-41 overtime victory -- the biggest comeback in major college bowl history.
This time, Minnesota found itself down by a touchdown after 11 seconds on a sparkling 73-degree afternoon. On the game's first snap, Reesing rolled away from pressure and found Briscoe down the left sideline for a 60-yard scoring play.
The Golden Gophers responded quickly to the early deficit, taking a 14-7 lead on two short touchdown runs by sophomore Jon Hoese, who had never carried the ball in college.
KU tied it on a 4-yard pass from Reesing to Meier late in the first quarter. Reesing added two more touchdown passes -- a 6-yarder to Briscoe and a 4-yarder to Johnathan Wilson -- to give Kansas a 28-14 halftime lead.
Minnesota closed to 35-21 on a 6-yard pass from Adam Weber to Decker early in the fourth, but the Gophers' offense stalled after that. Weber was 19-of-34 for 176 yards and a touchdown.
Minnesota's loss dropped the Big Ten to 0-3 in bowls. The Big 12 improved to 2-1, with both victories coming against Big Ten schools.