PHOENIX — Good evening from Chase Field, where the Gophers and West Virginia meet in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl at 9:15 (Central) tonight on ESPN.
A season with a lot of twists and turns for the Gophers (8-4) concludes with their first game against West Virginia (6-6) in program history. It's a matchup of teams that won their final two regular-season games, and it is the only Big Ten vs. Big 12 game of bowl season. The Gophers will be the first of 10 Big Ten teams to play in a bowl game this season.
With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and their associated protocols causing five bowls so far to be canceled, the Gophers and West Virginia had reported no cases as of Sunday afternoon. When the teams begin their pregame warmups, we'll find out if there are any absences.
UPDATE: All starters on offense and defense for the Gophers participated in pregame warmups.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck concludes his fifth season in Minnesota, and he'll be leading an outgoing group that has helped produce a 29-16 record over the past four seasons. On Sunday during media day, Fleck reflected on the players who'll finish their Gophers careers Tuesday.
"This team has been through an awful lot. There are guys who were here before I even got here. We're talking close to almost six years ago – five full years,'' he said. "Guys who chose to stay, and then there are guys who bought the vision. They bought what we said we were going to do, not only going to bowl games and winning bowl games but competing for Big Ten West championships.
"... These guys all have individual stories. That's what you're going to miss the most is these young people as people, not just student-athletes, but people,'' Fleck added. "They're all better people because they went to the University of Minnesota. We all feel that way; we hope they do, too. They're going to be better husbands, fathers, members of their community, people of philanthropy. Go change the world and do something really special.
"That's what's going to be really hard. You're going to miss seeing the faces. Once you see a face, it quickly goes through your head the story of how they got here, what they've overcome. It's a very special, special team.''