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Bowl invitation music to Gophers' ears

U of M pleased with invitation to Music City Bowl

By Dave Campbell

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota accepted an invitation Tuesday to play in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30, the Golden Gophers' third postseason appearance in four years.

It's only their eighth bowl game, marking the first time any senior class has made three trips to the postseason.

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"It's something to be proud about," said cornerback Mike Lehan. "We're definitely on the way up."

The Gophers (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) will play a team from the Southeastern Conference, either Arkansas or Auburn, pending the Razorbacks' outcome in the SEC championship game against Georgia on Saturday.

The game, which gets the sixth pick of bowl-eligible teams from both the Big Ten and SEC, will be played at Adelphi Coliseum -- home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans -- for the fourth straight year. The Music City Bowl, sponsored by Gaylord Hotels, began in 1998, but this is the first of its four-year partnership with the Big Ten. The payout to the schools is $750,000.

"We're very excited about Minnesota," said executive director Scott Ramsey. "We're still a young bowl. We think (inviting a Big Ten team) is a formula for this bowl to grow for the long term."

Though they're on a four-game losing streak and have a better overall record than two Big Ten teams -- Wisconsin and Purdue, who were picked by better bowls -- the Gophers are glad to be playing anywhere. Especially after a season that began with the shooting death of defensive lineman Brandon Hall.

"We couldn't have been more excited with the way the season turned out," coach Glen Mason said. "We got off to a very fast start and ran into the teeth of our schedule and that's the way it worked out. But we're very proud of the fact we're once again going to a bowl game. A lot of teams can't say that."

Mason, in his sixth year at Minnesota, is 33-37. The Gophers, 2-5 all-time in bowl games, went to the Sun Bowl in 1999 (24-20 loss to Oregon) and the Micronpc.com Bowl in 2000 (38-30 loss to North Carolina State).

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