Gophers coach Jerry Kill has a history of turning around football programs that dates to his time at Webb City High School in the southwest corner of Missouri.
Most of those teams are still thriving, long after he’s left. It’s not just Northern Illinois, which improved to 10-0 with Wednesday’s win over Ball State.
Here’s a closer look at Kill’s path and how each program fared before he arrived, during his tenure, and after he left:
Webb City (Mo.) High School
Before: The Cardinals went 6-5 and 6-4 in the two seasons before Kill arrived.
During (1988-89): Kill went 11-1 and 14-0, leading the team to its first state championship in 1989.
After: Webb City has added nine state titles since Kill left and is riding a 51-game winning streak heading into Friday’s Class 4A quarterfinal.
Stating the obvious
Saginaw Valley (Mich.) State
Before: The Cardinals went 4-7 in 1993.
During (1994-98): Kill went 38-14 in five seasons, including 9-2 each of his final two years.
After: The Cardinals went 4-6 in 1999, their first season under Randy Awry, and 72-31 overall in his nine seasons. This year, SVSU is 9-1 and ranks 15th in Division II, a division led by Minnesota-State Mankato.
One that got away
Emporia (Kan.) State
Before: The Hornets went 9-2 in 1998.
During (1999-2000): Kill went 5-6 and 6-5 in his two seasons after moving closer to his family’s Kansas home while his father was dying of pancreatic cancer.
After: The Hornets went 35-32 over the next six seasons under then-coach Dave Wiemers. They went 10-2 last year and are 9-1 this season, ranking 16th in Division II, right behind Saginaw Valley State.
Before: The Salukis went 14-30 under Jan Quarless from 1997 to 2000.
During (2001-07): Kill went 1-10 his first year and 10-2 his third year. His teams went 50-14 over his final five seasons, reaching the Division I-AA playoffs each time.
After: Dale Lennon led the Salukis to conference titles in 2008 and 2009, but the team has leveled off and currently sits at 5-5.
Before: The Huskies went 2-10 in 2007 under then-coach Joe Novak.
During (2008-10): Kill’s teams went 6-7, 7-6 and 11-3.
After: The Huskies went 11-3 and 12-2 under Dave Doeren, reaching the Orange Bowl last season before he jumped to North Carolina State. Rod Carey, a Wayzata High graduate, has taken over for Doeren, and the Huskies currently rank 20th in the nation.
Kill has had defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, tight ends coach Rob Reeves and strength and conditioning coach Eric Klein with him since Saginaw Valley State.
Kill said he has told each administration to take care of his assistant coaches financially and upgrade the practice facilities. He’s proud of the facilities upgrades at Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois, which both came after he left.
Kill’s staff has made academics a priority and pushed players to get bigger and stronger in the weight room. The Gophers went 3-9 and 6-7 under Kill their first two years and currently sit 8-2 heading into next week’s showdown with Wisconsin.
“Coach Claeys said it, and I’ve said it, ‘We know we can still get a lot better,’ ” Kill said. “That’s what we did at Northern and Southern. We built a heck of a foundation, a heck of a base, and then you can continue to win.””
Big Ten short takes
• Michigan’s running game is going backward, literally. The Wolverines rushed for minus-48 yards in their loss to Michigan State two weeks ago, and minus-21 yards in last week’s loss to Nebraska.
Michigan boasts one of the nation’s best offensive linemen in left tackle Taylor Lewan, but the interior line has been suspect all season. Michigan will try to rebound on Saturday at Northwestern.
• Northwestern’s stunning collapse this season includes one ray of hope for next year. The Wildcats are confident senior running back Venric Mark will get a medical redshirt after missing the first four games because of a hamstring injury and then breaking his ankle on Oct. 12 against Wisconsin.
Mark rushed for 1,366 yards last year but had just 97 yards this year.
• The Gophers strengthened next year’s nonconference schedule when they added TCU, but the Horned Frogs are a mere 3-6 this year. Minnesota still will have the toughest two interdivision games of any team in the Big Ten West, drawing Ohio State and Michigan. But the Gophers also will get a three-game stretch in October against Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois — three teams that are a combined 0-15 this year in the Big Ten.
Big Ten power poll
1. Ohio State (9-0, 5-0): The Buckeyes rank fifth nationally in scoring offense and eighth in scoring defense.
2. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1): Team stayed focused after Arizona State loss, but bad officiating call hovers over everything.
3. Michigan State (8-1, 5-0): Spartans don’t play Ohio State or Wisconsin this year, making path to division title easier.
4. Gophers (8-2, 4-2): Rank sixth in Big Ten in scoring offense (30.7 points per game) and scoring defense (23.4)
5. Nebraska (7-2, 4-1): The Cornhuskers haven’t folded, even if a foot injury likely ended the Taylor Martinez era.
6. Iowa (6-4, 3-3): The Hawkeyes’ three Big Ten losses were to the top three teams in this power poll.
7. Michigan (6-3, 2-3): Brady Hoke looked beaten down after back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Nebraska.
8. Penn State (5-4, 2-3): The Nittany Lions need another spark and should find one Saturday when Purdue visits.
9. Indiana (4-5, 2-3): The Hoosiers will miss running back Tevin Coleman (ankle injury) at Wisconsin on Saturday.
10. Northwestern (4-5, 0-5): It’s surprising to think that the Wildcats haven’t won since defeating Maine on Sept. 21.
11. Illinois (3-6, 0-5): Indiana loss left fans restless about coach Tim Beckman again, and here comes Ohio State.
12. Purdue (1-8, 0-5): Schedule gets easier (Penn State, Illinois, then Indiana) and Boilermakers need it.