By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
Minnesota improved by two wins in 2013, its best regular season in a decade.
The Gophers reward? A return to the same bowl they lost in a year ago.
Minnesota will play in the Texas Bowl for the second straight time when it faces Syracuse on Dec. 27.
The Gophers (8-4) have their most wins since 2003 but wound up in Houston yet again. Minnesota blew a 10-point lead in the final 1:10 and lost to Texas Tech 34-31 in last year’s Texas Bowl.
Still, Minnesota is excited to be playing in December after many believed it would struggle to even reach bowl eligibility.
“We enjoyed our experience last year and wish we could have come away with a victory,” Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said. “I know our players, especially the 12 from Texas, welcome the opportunity to represent the University of Minnesota in a state that has great football tradition
Syracuse (6-6) finished 4-4 in its first season in the ACC and rallied past Boston College in the regular-season finale to earn bowl eligibility.
This will be the first postseason game in Texas for the Orange since they beat the Longhorns in the 1960 Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
“I couldn’t be happier for our senior class to have the opportunity to go to Texas and play a Big Ten school. One of the things I have enjoyed the most about this season is our seniors. They are tough kids who never give in,” Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said.
Minnesota is 3-1 against Syracuse, including a 17-10 win in 2012. But the Orange have won their last two postseason games, both at Yankee Stadium in the Pinstripe Bowl.