By: Jordan Kruger | KFAN.com
9/28- The 4-0 Minnesota Golden Gophers finally start Big Ten play this weekend, against the Iowa Hawkeyes. (3-1) This weekend marks the first real test for the Gophers. The Hawkeyes are arguably one of the bottom feeders in recent years in the Big Ten. This match-up will be a very good measuring stick for where the Gophers sit among Big Ten teams.
The Iowa Hawkeyes are coming off of two big wins. Two weeks ago the Hawkeyes defeated Iowa State, and last week Iowa handled Western Michigan. Iowa has been a sneaky team in the Big Ten in recent years, coming up with a major upset. Two year ago they upset Michigan and last year it was Michigan St.
This game is going to be a ground battle, and a great ground test for the Minnesota defense. The Hawkeyes have a great offensive line, accompanied by a good tailback in Mark Weisman. Weisman was a break out walk on last year, and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry this year.
The Gophers will start Mitch Leidner again, with Philip Nelson still being hurt. Leidner had good success last weekend against SDSU, both through the air and on the ground. Leidner has been a great fill-in for the Gophers at QB, having a passer rating of 133.9. Leidner has had great success because of his ability to use his feet, and I look for him to do just that against Iowa.
This game is going to be a battle, and I look for a great finish. This will tell a lot about the Gophers and what we can expect from them the rest of the season. I predict a 21-17 Gopher victory on Saturday afternoon. The Gophers will have to use Leidner’s ability to scramble, and extend plays to have good success against the Hawkeyes defense. I also expect David Cobb to get a significant amount of carries and to have a couple of touchdowns also to balance things out.
By: Kate Butler | KFAN.com
After an emotional win against Western Illinois last weekend, the Gophers knew what they had to do to come out on top today against San Jose State. As David Cobb said in a post-game interview, “We needed to come out of the gate fast…and I think we did a good job of that.” The Gophers seemed much more comfortable on the field right out of the gate today, as they marched their way to a 42-24 victory. This win over the Spartans puts Minnesota at 4-0 on the season.
Mitch Leidner started his first college game with a bang, as well as the first touchdown of the game. Just under five minutes left in the first quarter, Leidner put the Gophers on the board with a 10-yard TD run, and an extra point from Hawthorne.
The second quarter was a bit more back-and-forth, starting with a 30-yard field goal from Austin Lopez just 0:34 into the quarter. Just about eight minutes later we heard from Leidner again with a 1-yard TD run. The kick from Hawthorne was no good, putting the Gophers put 13-3. This was answered shortly after by a 76-yard TD pass from David Fales to Chandler Jones, plus the extra point from Lopez.
Just over three minutes to play in the half and David Cobb goes in for another 1-yard touchdown run, with the extra point from Hawthorne. Fales would throw a beautiful 32-yard pass to Jones for another San Jose TD with 1:08 to play, and the extra point from Lopez closed the half at 20-17.
Three minutes into the second half, Leidner put up another 1-yard TD, with the kick from Hawthorne being blocked, the Gophers were up 26-17. A 22-yard field goal from Hawthorne would close out the third quarter at 29-17.
Mitch Leidner was at it again to start the final quarter of play, with another 1-yard touchdown, coupled with Hawthorne’s extra point. Shortly after, Cobb ran 1-yard for another MN touchdown, putting the Gophers at 43-17 after a successful kick from Hawthorne. San Jose wasn’t done just yet, as Fales threw a 28-yard pass to Jones, and Lopez put up the extra point to end the game 43-24 Gophers.
-“We’re all in it together, sometimes there’s tough times and sometimes there’s good.”- Head Coach Jerry Kill on his illness and today’s game.
-“If you worry about things you can’t control, then that’s what gets you in trouble.”- Head Coach Jerry Kill
-“The offensive line did a great job and Mitch did a great job so they really made it kind of easy for us.”- David Cobb
-“My mindset going into next week is just the same as it’s always been: just prepare and work hard.”- Mitch Leidner
-“We didn’t expect him to get those 3-step drops…It was a surprise at first. After the first two series we started to adjust to it.”- De’Vondre Campbell on realizing how fast Foles was.
-Leidner debuted his first full-game start today and became the first Gopher QB to rush for four touchdowns.
-Leidner is now the 8th player in U of M history to score four TDs in one game.
-Mitch also is now the 6th Gopher to rush for four touchdowns in one game.
By: Kate Butler | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - The Gophers had to overcome some tough losses in today’s game against Western Illinois, but they came out on top with a 29-12 win. Starting QB Philip Nelson left the game early on with a hamstring injury, while Jerry Kill’s seizure at the end of the first half rendered the team without a head coach. “Coach Kill has told us and he has trained us well to keep moving on,” David Cobb said of the team’s perseverance
Going into this game, Western Illinois had yet to trail on the board. With just five seconds remaining in an otherwise slow first quarter, Mason Howington scored on a 1-yard pass from QB Trenton Norvell. Their attempt at a two-point conversion was unsuccessful and the second quarter opened with the Gophers behind 6-0.
Mitch Leidner proved he had no problem stepping in for Philip Nelson in the second quarter, as he connected a touchdown pass to Rodrick Williams with just under five minutes left in the half. The extra point by Chris Hawthorne put the Gophers up by one point going into the second half.
It wasn’t until WIU scored another touchdown on an 11-yard pass from Norvell to Lance Lenoir that Minnesota really started to fight back. The extra point from Nathan Knuffman was no good, after a beautiful block from Ra’Shede Hageman. “I just stick to the script. There’s really no recipe to blocking a kick,” Hageman said of his efforts.
Maxx Williams noted being down 12-7 as the moment the team started to get it together. “Finally our offense started clicking and that’s when we realized ‘alright, we have to go,” said Williams, “I think the turning point [for the offense] was when they scored their second touchdown.”
Minnesota answered this touchdown with two back-to-back touchdowns of their own from David Cobb. The first of the pair came with just over one minute left to play in the 3rd quarter with a flawless two-point conversion from Leidner to Logan Hutton. Cobb’s next TD was just minutes into the final quarter of play on a 3-yard run with the extra point from Hawthorne. The final touchdown of the game came as a 37-yard run from Rodrick Williams with 8:52 left to play. The Gophers closed the game 29-12 and are now 3-0 on the season.
The Gophers will take on San Jose State next Saturday at The Bank, tune in to KFAN 100.3 for all your MN Gopher coverage.
-QB Philip Nelson left the game favoring what appeared to be his right knee and turned out to be a hamstring injury.
-Marcus Jones was treated for an ankle injury but went back into the game shortly after.
-Head Coach Jerry Kill suffered a seizure at the end of the first quarter, Jay Sawvel stepped in as acting head coach and Kill is said to be resting comfortably.
-“There wouldn’t be any of us sitting here today if it weren’t for Jerry Kill, and that’s the hard part about [his absence].” – Defensive Coordinator Tracy Claeys on Kill having to leave the game.
-“We just have to come out of the gate hard. I think sometimes it takes us some time to get everybody on the same page.” – David Cobb on what they need to do for next time
-“I just kept screaming ‘WAKE UP!’ We’re out there playing hard but we need to go back to the fundamentals…just get ourselves together and go play our game.” –Rodrick Williams on being down 12-7.
-“Football is ups and downs and you’ve just got to stay tough.” – Ra’Shede Hageman on today’s game.
Jordan Kruger | KFAN.com
Today the Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-0) take on the Western Illinois Leathernecks (2-0). The Gophers are coming off of a big win at New Mexico State. The Gophers dominated the run game, rushing for 342 yards. The run game has been the key to the Gopher success this year.
Philip Nelson rushed for 122 yards on 15 carries last week. Nelson once again is taking too many hits; the Gophers will need to get the running backs more involved to protect Nelson’s health. Western Illinois’ defense has held opposing team to a combined 15 points, but the Gophers should control the game on both sides of the ball. I look for Nelson to stay under 23 passing attempts if the Gophers will be successful.
The Gophers are going to have to worry about ball security against the Leathernecks. In two games the Leathernecks have created 10 turnovers. This puts Western Illinois plus 10 in turnover ratio on the year.
The Western Illinois Leathernecks play a very similar style of ball to the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Leathernecks are a run first team, attempting to set up the play action pass. This style of play should suit the Gophers well, having a great secondary to complement the defensive line. The Western Illinois offense could struggle against this Gophers’ secondary, even though they have not had a turnover all year.
This game will be another good opportunity for the Gophers to work on different aspects of their offense in preparation for Iowa. This offense should give the Gophers a good look on what to expect in terms of offensive scheme come week 5.
B1G Game of the Week: UPSET ALERT Ohio St. @ Cal
The Ohio State Buckeyes are playing the California Golden Bears tomorrow. The Buckeyes are playing a very good Cal team with an injured Braxton Miller. Miller will be a game time decision for OSU, so it will be interesting to see how he performs or how his back up will do stepping in.
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - For the second straight season Jerry Kill and the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team head into week three with a 2-0 record. Last Saturday's 44-21 win against New Mexico State came in a similar unorthodox fashion as week one against UNLV but at the end of the day, a win is a win and the Gophers have two.
The injuries are starting to pile up and the wear and tear of a tough season is taking it's toll on this young Gophers squad. Jerry Kill met the local media Tuesday afternoon for his weekly press conference, below are some notes straight from the coach's mouth.
Boddy-Calhoun to miss the rest of season...
The injury looked grim Saturday afternoon and the test results earlier this week weren't much better. Kill announced today that Briean Boddy-Calhoun will miss the rest of the year with a torn ACL/MCL and partially torn PCL.
"Briean is a critical injury because he's probably playing at the highest level of any of these defensive backs," Kill said. "He's a great kid and it's hard to see something like that happen."
Erik Murray and Derek Wells are expected to fill in during Boddy-Calhoun's absence.
Quarterback option taking it's toll on Gophers...
While the read option continues to fill in as the soup du jour in the NFL, it's strong hold on college football remains ever present. Tuesday, Kill discussed the toll that the read-option offense has been taking on his team including a stinger delivered to starting quarterback Philip Nelson last Saturday
We're an option team, [physicality] is part of it," Kill said. "You've got to protect yourself and you've got to be smart. It's no different with Kaepernick and the 49ers or anybody else who's doing read option football...When you're the backup quarterback [in a read option offense], you better be prepared."
Kirkwood's status remains up in the air against Western Illinois...
Starting running back Donnell Kirkwood missed out on the Gophers week two game with an ankle injury and his status for week three remains up in the air.
"I'll know more today at practice," Kill explained. "The trainers have said that Donnell has done well with his rehab. It's something that you figured he would. Donnell's a good kid and a positive kid...We'll be smart with how we're going to handle that and we're in a position to be smart because those two [Rodrick Williams & Phillip Nelson] played well."
Against New Mexico State, the Gophers ran for 342 yards without Kirkwood. Rodrick Williams tacked on 148 while quarterback Philip Nelson added 134 yards.
Defense still rounding into form...
While much of the focus remains on the Gophers offense, when the Big Ten schedule kicks off early next month the attention will have to shift towards a defense that has yet to prove itself against two mediocre offenses. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys had a lot to say to his struggling defense last week.
"He was very verbal at halftime," Kill shared. "I know coach Claeys doesn't get upset very often, or most people don't see him upset very often. But at halftime, he was very upset with the defense from what happened on the last drive with mental mistakes."
Confidence on special teams is riding high...
With two weeks in the bucket the Gophers special team's unit has been behind two returns for touchdowns. Marcus Jones was the specialist carrying the ball on both (a 98 yard kick return against UNLV and a 65 yard punt return vs New Mexico State). That said, the special teams unit is riding pretty high off of two solid performances.
"I hope they feel pretty good," Kill exclaimed. "We've covered the ball well, we've punted the ball well, we've kicked field goals and extra points well. We had that big return before the half with Marcus. I think their attitude is pretty good."
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN