Mizzou Football will face off against Big Ten opponent Minnesota in the 2015 Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, on New Year’s Day.
“As a program, we couldn’t be more excited to take in this game and to be a part of this wonderful event that is going to take place in the state of Florida,” said executive associate athletics director Bryan Maggard.
For Head Coach Gary Pinkel, the trip to Orlando holds sentimental value. Pinkel, a former tight end for the Kent State Golden Flashes, competed in the 1972 Tangerine Bowl against the Tampa Spartans.
“We’re very honored,” said Pinkel. “They had a choice of a lot of different schools that they could’ve taken inside the SEC and they chose the University of Missouri. You always want to go to a great bowl game and one that’s very well respected. Certainly this one is.”
The rich history that Mizzou Football has with the Citrus Bowl is of value to the players as well, including junior offensive lineman Evan Boehm.
“Being a part of the Citrus Bowl is a special thing, especially hearing Coach Pinkel talking about it and how he once played in it,” said Boehm. “There’s a lot of tradition behind it; it’s a big bowl. Going down to Florida is going to be a lot of fun.”
Mizzou Football will make its second appearance in Orlando on January 1,, 34 years after defeating Southern Miss in the 1981 Tangerine Bowl. The Tigers are headed to their 10th bowl game in 14 years under Head Coach Gary Pinkel, earning five bowl wins along way, including a 41-31 victory in last year’s Cotton Bowl that made Pinkel the winningest coach in Mizzou Football history.
“This is absolutely a testament to [Coach Pinkel] and his staff for the wonderful job they’ve done here,” Maggard said.
No. 16 Mizzou and no. 25 Minnesota have met eight times, and the Tigers hold a 4-3-1 record against the Golden Gophers. The 2015 Citrus Bowl will be the first matchup between the two teams since 1970.
“I know [Minnesota Head Coach] Jerry [Kill] really well,” Pinkel said. “He has done a great job. He’s very well respected. They’re a very disciplined and well-coached football team. We’ll get their best shot and hopefully they can get ours.”
Pinkel’s preparation plan for the bowl games will involve strengthening the skills of some of the younger players, but he will largely stick to the schedule and techniques that have been successful for the team all season.
“As we organize our practices we have our first three to four practices as pretty heavy on working with our young players,” he said. “We make sure our veteran guys get healthy. We have a system in place and a format. I got great kids that want to win and be successful.”
Several Mizzou players, including sophomore tight end Sean Culkin, plan to take advantage of the Citrus Bowl location.
“My parents will come up for Christmas and friends will come up for the game,” Culkin said. “I know quite a few people in the Orlando area, [and I] have quite a few friends who go to UCF, so I’m sure I’ll see a lot of friends and family. It’s a great opportunity.”
In light of the Citrus Bowl announcement, Pinkel took a moment to look back on the season as a whole, which saw his Mizzou Football family claim the SEC East title for the second year in a row.
“I reflect back a little bit and we finished No. 5 in the nation year ago, lost a lot of players, and people didn’t think we had a very good football team [going into 2014,]” Pinkel said. “Before you know it, as we go through the grind of the schedule in 2014, we win the SEC East Championship and then play the no. 1 team in the nation in the SEC championship game. Certainly there are things we have to do to improve our program, but I’m so very proud of my players, coaches, and this football program. This is a great opportunity. I’m real excited for our players and we’ll certainly be playing this game for the University of Missouri and the SEC.”
The game will kick off at 12 p.m CT on Thursday, January 1, 2015, and will be nationally televised by ESPN on ABC. For ticket information, please log on to ticketmaster.com. There will be 8,000 seats allotted for each team, but Maggard said the teams will have access to more if needed. Groups of 20 or more may call the Florida Citrus Sports offices at (407) 423-2476.