HOUSTON - If Troy Stoudermire can gain 1 yard for each family member in the Reliant Stadium crowd, he'll be in the NCAA record book for sure.
The senior cornerback needs 14 yards to break the NCAA record for most career kick-return yards, and at least 40 relatives and friends will be in the crowd to watch him do it in Friday's Meineke Car Care Bowl against Texas Tech. "Thirteen to tie, and 14 to break it -- people have been throwing that in my face since the bowl break started," Stoudermire said. "Are you going to get it? [I say], it's just 13 yards."
Still, there's no guarantee that Stoudermire surpasses the 3,517 yards that Houston's Tyron Carrier gained. That's because Red Raiders kicker Kramer Fyfe has a strong leg, and the Reliant Stadium dome makes the sophomore kicker much more likely to reach the end zone for a touchback.
"Their kicker does a heck of a job. It may be hard to return one because of where we're playing," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. "If [Stoudermire] got that opportunity and it happened, it would be a great accomplishment, but what he's done already has been an accomplishment."
Still, it would be nice to give his family, most of whom haven't seen him play since his days at Skyline High School in Dallas, something to remember. He'll be trying to remember everything about his last collegiate game.
"It's been a long journey," he said. "Today at practice, I was joking around, [saying] 'I'm going to miss you.' And it started hitting me -- after Friday, I'm not going to be around this team anymore. I'm staying in Houston after the game to start training for the NFL combine. My next journey is about to start. So this game is a little bittersweet."Etc.
• Minnesota fans bought 3,163 tickets through the university, the Gophers announced. That's far short of the 12,000 the school had to buy as part of its bowl contract -- the Big Ten covers the cost of the unsold seats -- but it's more than they sold to any of their previous three bowl appearances, all of which were to the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.
• The Gophers won a preliminary competition with the Red Raiders, looking more like Texans than their bowl opponents at the "Rodeo Bowl" on Wednesday. Teams were awarded points in calf herding, mascot lassoing and chalk branding, as well as one less cowboy-like activity: end-zone dancing.
• After four practices on a high school field, the Gophers will get their first look at Reliant Stadium on Thursday. An afternoon walk-through inside the enormous structure -- which dwarfs the Astrodome sitting a parking lot away -- will give them a feel for the first active NFL stadium they have played in since moving out of the Metrodome.
• Players dressed up for a Christmas dinner together Tuesday, and each got to open bowl gifts -- watches, backpacks, belt buckles -- to mark the occasion. Each Gopher already received a 30-inch flat-screen TV.