TEMPE, Ariz. - As night fell in the desert, the haunting Rock Chalk Chant filled Sun Devil Stadium.
It was the perfect way for Kansas to celebrate a decisive 42-21 victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl on Wednesday.
“Our program is a work in progress, and every day it seems to get better and better,” KU coach Mark Mangino said as he accepted the game trophy.
Indeed, the Jayhawks (8-5) have won three straight bowl games, a first for a school renowned for its hoops prowess. The Insight Bowl also marked Kansas’ first back-to-back bowl appearances.
Kansas sliced up the Golden Gophers (7-6) with a precision passing attack directed by quarterback Todd Reesing, who threw for four scores.
Reesing’s favorite target was Dezmon Briscoe, who caught a game-record 14 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns on his way to game MVP honors.
Kerry Meier also had 10 catches for 113 yards, and he caught one touchdown pass and threw another one.
Reesing said KU’s plan was simple.
“See, here’s what happens: they call a play, and Briscoe gets open, and if I can throw it to him, then it works out,” Reesing said. “And it seemed to work out a whole lot of times, and the same thing with Kerry. So we just kept doing it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Reesing completed 27 of 35 passes, hitting on a school-record 14 straight passes in the first half. He threw for 313 yards and was intercepted once.
Reesing, a junior from Austin, Texas, has one year left to add to his legacy as the most prolific passer in KU history. He improved to 20-6 as a starter.
“Todd’s a great quarterback,” Briscoe said. “He eludes pressure and just finds the open guy. It’s a pleasure to have him.”
Eric Decker caught eight passes for 149 yards and a touchdown for the Golden Gophers (7-6), who finished the season on a five-game losing streak and have lost their last three bowl games.
“Unfortunately, we got beat by a better football team today. that was the name of the story,” Minnesota coach Tim Brewster said. “There’s no consolation for us. We came here to win the football game.”
But the Gophers can take consolation in earning a bowl invitation one year after a 1-11 season. They started this season 7-1 and cracked The Associated Press Top 25 before a last-second Homecoming loss to Northwestern sent them into a tailspin.
“This year was kind of a good year for us,” Decker said. “We started out strong. We’ve got to learn how to finish.”
Minnesota came to Tempe hoping to erase memories of its last Insight trip, two years ago. The Gophers led Texas Tech 38-7 midway through the third quarter, only to watch the Red Raiders rally for a 44-41 overtime victory — the biggest comeback in major-college bowl history.
This time, Minnesota found itself down by a touchdown after 11 seconds on a sparkling 73-degree afternoon. On the game’s first snap, Reesing rolled away from pressure and found Briscoe down the left sideline for a 60-yard scoring play.
“I don’t know if that’s the way we scripted it, but that’s the way it worked out,” Reesing said.
The Golden Gophers responded quickly to the early deficit. On their first offensive snap, receiver David Pittman hit Decker for a 75-yard pass to the KU 12, and three plays later Jon Hoese bulled over from a yard out to tie it at 7.
It was the first collegiate carry for Hoese, a sophomore. Nine minutes later, he scored again, on a 2-yard run, to give Minnesota a 14-7 lead.
Mangino said the Gophers surprised KU with some formations they hadn’t used during the season. But KU adjusted quickly and throttled Minnesota for most of the last three quarters, even stuffing them on fourth-and-goal at the 1 in the third quarter.
“Our defensive coaches got them settled down after the first quarter and made the adjustments that were needed at the time,” Mangino said.
KU tied it at 14 on a 4-yard pass from Reesing to Meier late in the first quarter. Reesing added two more touchdown passes — a 6-yarder to Briscoe and a 4-yarder to Johnathan Wilson — to give Kansas a commanding 28-14 halftime lead.
Minnesota cut it to 35-21 on a 6-yard pass from Adam Weber to Decker early in the fourth quarter, but the Gophers’ offense stalled after that. Weber was 19-of-34 for 176 yards and a touchdown.
Minnesota’s loss dropped the Big Ten to 0-3 in bowls, while the Big 12 improved to 2-1, with both victories coming against Big Ten schools.
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