The Gophers made history this season — just probably not the way they wanted to.
Minnesota will be playing in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 28 against Central Michigan in Detroit at Ford Field, becoming one of three teams this year to make a bowl game with a 5-7 record.
Minnesota qualified for the bowl game with a 5-7 record due to there not being enough six-win teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The remaining three spots were given to three 5-7 teams who held the best academic progress rate in the 2013-14 season.
“This group deserves the chance to have an opportunity to finish out the season on a win for everything we’ve been through,” said head coach Tracy Claeys. “The part of how well we’ve improved our academics. … For that to play a role speaks well also of our senior class.”
Minnesota’s season seemed to be over after a 31-21 loss to Wisconsin on Nov. 28. After it was discovered there would not be enough bowl-eligible teams to finish the season, the NCAA released their criteria last Monday for picking the 5-7 teams based on their APR.
Nebraska and San Jose State, which are 5-7 teams, also made it to bowl games.
This will be the fourth straight year the Gophers have made a bowl game. They have lost their last seven chances.
“Everybody recognizes that it has been a long time since we’ve won a bowl game,” redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner said. “It definitely gives us a pretty good chip on everybody’s shoulder.”
The bowl announcement came exactly a week after Claeys announced he would not renew the contracts of former offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt
Limegrover and former passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski.
Claeys said the coaches still on the team will have a meeting Monday morning to decide how the offensive-play-calling duties will be split up.
“We’ll be fine,” Claeys said. “It’s not fair to the kids we do something and change everything. … We’re going to stick with what we do and continue to improve and get better.”
The Gophers will be allowed to hold additional practices to prepare for the game, which sophomore tight end Brandon Lingen said will benefit the team’s younger players.
“Along with being extremely excited about going to a bowl game, we also get to get better as a team, which is another plus,” Lingen said.
The break in between games also will allow some players to get healthy, as Claeys said he expects defensive lineman Steven Richardson and four or five other injured
players to return in the game after sitting out toward the end of the season. Cornerback Jalen Myrick could possibly be back for the bowl game as well.
Central Michigan finished the season 7-5 and 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference.
Many of Minnesota’s coaches played against the Chippewas when the staff was at Northern Illinois.
“[Central Michigan plays] good football, and they all feel like they should be in the Big Ten,” Claeys said. “It still all comes down to respecting your opponent and controlling what we can control, and that is how we prepare in getting ready to play and be the best we can be.”