Gophers to face West Virginia in Guaranteed Rate Bowl Dec. 28

Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan (2) (at top) celebrates his touchdown run with teammates in the 4th quarter during a college football game between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Northwestern Wildcats on October 30, 2021, at R ((Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images))

The University of Minnesota football team will face West Virginia in Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Dec. 28 in Phoenix, Ariz.

Fans intending to watch the game on TV will need to plan for a late night. The Gophers and Mountaineers will kick off at 9:15 p.m. local time on ESPN. Minnesota finished the regular season 8-4 after a 23-13 win over rival Wisconsin. West Virginia finished its season 6-6, including wins over Texas and Kansas to end the regular season.

"We couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be prouder of our team for earning the right to come out to Phoenix and the Arizona area. We’re very excited. This is a great match-up, we’re very honored to be there, we’re excited to be there. 70-degrees plus, count us in any time. Coming from Minnesota during the winter, we’re very excited. Might even show up this week and start the training now," Fleck told reporters via Zoom Sunday night.

It’ll be the Gophers’ third appearance in a bowl game in five seasons under PJ Fleck. The Gophers are 2-0 in bowl games with Fleck, most recently beating Auburn in the Outback Bowl to finish the 2019 season 11-2.


PJ Fleck confirmed during a conference call Sunday night for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl that he’s making a change at offensive coordinator. He has parted ways with Mike Sanford Jr. after two seasons.

The Gophers had one of the better rushing offenses in the Big Ten, but had an inconsistent passing game. Only service academies Army, Navy and Air Force, which are all known for the triple option, threw fewer passes than the Gophers. According to reports that surfaced late last week, Fleck is bringing back former offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, who was instrumental in Minnesota’s offensive success during the Gophers’ 11-2 season in 2019.

In a twist of irony, Ciarrocca was an offensive analyst at West Virginia this season.

"I just felt like we needed a change on offense. Mike is a tremendous person and a wonderful football coach. I just felt like it needed a new direction in the leadership of that position, and we’re working our way towards making a hire here very shortly," Fleck said.

Fleck said they’ve made a decision on who will be calling offensive plays for the bowl game, which will be kept internal.