Gophers send Outback Bowl ‘thank you’ cards for Jan. 1 bowl invite

Members of the Gopher football team filled out and personally signed "thank you" cards sent to the Outback Bowl for the Jan. 1 bowl invitation. (Outback Bowl)

In a way that only Minnesota knows how to do it, the Gopher football program showed the Outback Bowl some love on Monday for being the last piece to its historic season.

P.J. Fleck and the Gophers sent the Outback Bowl “thank you” notes for being invited to the Jan. 1 game in Tampa, Fla., against the Auburn Tigers. Players and members of the program filled out and signed cards, personally thanking those affiliated with the bowl game for the invitation.

How’s that for “Minnesota Nice?”

It will be Minnesota’s first New Year’s Day bowl game since 2015, when the squad led by Jerry Kill lost to Missouri in the Citrus Bowl.

It’s the second time the Gophers have earned a bowl appearance in Fleck’s three seasons, and first time they’ve gone to a New Year’s Day bowl game. The Gophers (10-2) finished the regular season ranked No. 18 in the College Football Playoff rankings. They were as high as No. 8 in the country after beating Penn State 31-26.

Their only two losses came at Iowa, and the regular season finale against Wisconsin with ESPN’s College GameDay in town. A win over the Badgers most likely would’ve sent the Gophers to their first Rose Bowl since 1962.

They’ll face an Auburn (9-3) program whose losses were to Florida, LSU and Georgia. The Tigers beat Alabama in their regular season finale, 48-45.

The Gophers won 10 regular season games for the first time in 115 years. They also won seven Big Ten games for the first time in the program’s history.