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Minnesota, Washington State Face Off In 39th Annual Holiday Bowl

Minnesota wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky (82) makes a catch while being defended by Nebraska safety Kieron Williams, top, during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Lincoln, Neb, Nov. 12, 2016.
Associated Press
Minnesota wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky (82) makes a catch while being defended by Nebraska safety Kieron Williams, top, during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Lincoln, Neb, Nov. 12, 2016.

Minnesota and Washington State will meet Tuesday in the 39th annual Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in a matchup of 8-4 teams.

For the first time, fans can visit a "Fan Zone" before the game. It will include a craft beer garden, food trucks, a sports lounge and live music. It will be open from noon-4 p.m. in Section G-1 of the stadium's parking lot.

Pregame pageantry includes performances by the participating universities marching bands and the Leap Frogs, the U.S. Navy's parachute team, descending onto the field. A football field-sized American flag will be unfurled during the playing of the national anthem.

The marching bands will perform again at halftime, when there will also be a large fireworks show, according to Gina Beckman, the public relations manager of the San Diego Bowl Game Association, which operates the Holiday Bowl.

The Metropolitan Transit System will increase Green Line trolley service between 12th and Imperial, via the Convention Center area, beginning at 11:45 a.m., with trolleys running every 7 1/2 minutes, said Rob Schupp of the MTS.

Related: San Diego Trolley Service Increased For Holiday Bowl

A crowd of 45,000-50,000 is expected, Beckman told City News Service.

The Holiday Bowl gets the second choice among Pac-12 Conference teams following the New Year's Six games, behind the Alamo Bowl, which selected Colorado.

The Cougars finished second in the Pac-12's six-team North Division, losing its final two regular season games to Colorado, the South Division champion, and Washington, the North Division and conference champion.

The Holiday Bowl's contract with the 14-team Big Ten Conference guarantees it a "top-tier team," said Mark Neville, the executive director of San Diego Bowl Game Association.

The Golden Gophers finished fourth in the Big Ten Conference's seven- team West Division, losing two of its last three regular-season games, to Nebraska and division champion Wisconsin.

"We worked in cooperation with the Big Ten to secure Minnesota for the game," Beckman said.

Minnesota will be making its first Holiday Bowl appearance and first bowl game appearance in California since the 1962 Rose Bowl Game when it defeated UCLA, 21-3.

The Golden Gophers will be playing in California for the first time since Sept. 3, 2011 when they lost to USC, 19-17.

Washington State will be making its third appearance in the Holiday Bowl and first since 2003 when it defeated Texas, 28-20. The Cougars lost to Brigham Young, 38-36, in the 1981 game, in a game it trailed 31-7 early in the second half.

There are 12 Washington State players from the San Diego area, including right guard Eduardo Middleton from Oceanside and cornerback Darrien Molton from San Diego, both starters.

Minnesota has two Californians on its roster, senior Drew Wolitarsky from Santa Clarita and freshman Adam Mayer from Walnut Creek, both receivers.

The teams have one common opponent, Oregon State. The Cougars defeated the Beavers, 35-31, on Oct. 29, while the Golden Gophers were 30-23 winners to open the season on Sept. 1.

This will be the first meeting between the teams since 1988. Washington State lead the series, 3-2.

Minnesota will wear white jerseys with gold helmets and pants. The Cougars will wear crimson jerseys with gray helmets and pants.

The game was nearly derailed by a player boycott.

Golden Gophers players announced a boycott of all football activities Dec. 15 in an effort to reinstate 10 suspended teammates.

The players ended the boycott Dec. 17 following "many hours of discussion within our team" and a meeting with university President Eric Kaler when "it became clear that our original request of having the 10 suspensions overturned was not going to happen," Wolitarsky said.

Kaler and Director of Athletics Mark Coyle agreed Dec. 16 night to give all 10 players "a fair hearing, which includes a diverse review panel" and a "showing of support for our team and the character shown by the great majority of our players," Wolitarsky said.

The agreement also included the pledge by the team's senior group "that we as a team will use our status as public figures to bring more exposure to the issue of sexual harassment and violence against women," Wolitarsky said.

More details of those plans will be announced later, Wolitarsky said.

Kaler said he was "very pleased that the football team has realized the opportunity to represent the University of Minnesota. They've come out strongly in support of the victims of sexual violence and I have promised a very fair hearing to the students involved."

The suspensions came in response to a sexual assault investigation that did not result in criminal charges, but did lead to an investigation by the school's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office.

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