Minnesota and Missouri Ready For Game Day As Bowl Week Winds Down
When Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill took the podium for the last time before the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, it was 60 degrees warmer in Orlando than back home in Minneapolis. Kill was asked if whether or not being in Orlando was a big draw for his fans.
“We had people swimming out there when it was raining yesterday, so that’ll tell you something,” Kill laughed.
Tomorrow the Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) will be doing something they haven’t done since 1962; they will be playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game when they face off against the Missouri Tigers (10-3, 7-1 SEC) at 1:00 p.m. on ABC.
“This is what it’s all about,” Kill said. “So I don’t think there’s any question, you know, from a traditional standpoint and certainly what you think of New Year’s Day, there’s no question it’s a different feel. Again, being here is a great thing.”
Kill will be going against his friend Gary Pinkel who is looking for his third straight bowl victory at Missouri. Pinkel and his Tigers have been in Orlando since Dec. 22 and he says that the long trip here will benefit his team.
“I wanted to go a little bit earlier just because there’s so many great things to do and I wanted our players to have a great experience here,” Pinkel said. “There’s also some belief that if can you get down a little bit earlier, it kind of gets old at the end and you could focus up a little bit better.”
The end, regardless of the win or loss, will be bitter sweet for Missouri as their defensive coordinator Dave Steckel will become the head coach at Missouri State after the game.
“We’re obviously dedicating this game to him, which is no surprise,” Pinkel said. “Coach Steckel’s been with me for 19 years, as a coach five years, 14 years here in Columbia at the University of Missouri. I’m so happy for him because he wants that opportunity and he’s going to take it. And he’ll do a great job there. But, certainly, we’ll miss him. But our players certainly love him also. We’ve got a real tight family atmosphere. But they all recognize, too, that that’s one of his dreams, and so hopefully we can play well.”