With final exams mostly over and their trip to Houston looming, the Gophers turn their attention to the Texas Tech Red Raiders today.
Minnesota holds its seventh bowl practice Wednesday afternoon, but it will be different from the first six, coach Jerry Kill said. The Gophers, whose season finale comes Dec. 28 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Reliant Stadium, have spent December reviewing fundamentals, getting their academics in order, and giving the redshirts and underclassmen a head start on this spring's drills.
"It's been good. I've been excited about watching the young guys," Kill said. He's been impressed enough, he said, "that you'd like to take the redshirts off three or four of them, but you can't."
With recruiting entering an NCAA-enforced holiday break, most of Kill's assistant coaches are back on campus. With final exams winding down, most of his players are ready to focus on football. So the Gophers will practice today, tomorrow and Friday, before heading to Houston on Saturday.
And the generalities of the first half-dozen practices will give way to a new focus at this week's practices. In pre-practice meetings today, Kill and his staff will unveil the Gophers' game plan, then put it into motion on the practice field these next three days.
"We're going to try to get the game plan stuff in (place) here," Kill said, "so when we go down to the bowl site, we're not padded up. We can get their shoulders back, shorten up the practices."
Once they arrive in Houston, there are plenty of other activities to hold the players' interest, so Kill wants his team familiar with their game strategies ahead of time. The Gophers will hold daily practices in Houston at St. Thomas High School, roughly seven miles from Reliant Stadium, while Texas Tech works out at Rice University. (The Texans' practice facility, used by bowl teams last year, is unavailable this year because the Texans will be using it until late afternoon, and the University of Houston's stadium is undergoing extensive renovations.)