Quarterback Conor Rhoda came to the Gophers football team as a walk-on out of Cretin-Derham Hall in 2013 and didn’t make his first start until last October against Maryland, the same squad he will face Sept. 30 as the Gophers’ full-time starter.
The Terrapins are 2-0 this season, after upsetting then-No. 23 Texas 51-41 on the road, then beating Towson 63-17 at home.
Rhoda, now a redshirt senior, said when he made that start against Maryland last season he was ready for it, even if it felt like a dream.
“I don’t really know how to describe it, it was very surreal,” Rhoda recalled. “I knew [starting quarterback] Mitch [Leidner], I knew there was a chance going into the start of that week that Mitch had gotten a little banged up with a concussion at the end of the Iowa game, I believe. But we didn’t really hear anything through the weekend.
“When Tuesday came it was pretty much just, this is what’s going on and you’re going to be the guy this week. I had to hit the ground running. It really was surreal. It brought the whole of my first four years pretty full circle there, just seeing that play out.”
Rhoda stepped up. Though the Gophers ground game did a lot of the work in that 31-10 victory, rushing for 229 yards, Rhoda completed seven of 15 passes for 82 yards and connected with running back Shannon Brooks on a 17-yard TD pass with 14 seconds left in the first half for a 14-0 lead.
Thoughts of leaving
That was Rhoda’s lone start last season, and he said with the upheaval around the Gophers in the offseason, there was a real chance he was going to leave the team.
“I guess I was going to just pursue other options based on the previous staff, what they wanted to do with quarterback and they weren’t going to renew my scholarship after I graduated in December,” he said. “So I wanted to explore for my fifth year just some other options. I looked into some things and got my film out to some people, kind of right during the dead period is when Coach [P.J.] Fleck got hired.
“I was in a two-week waiting process and then Coach got hired and called me about two days later. It was a pretty easy sales job for him to get me to want to come back here, giving me that opportunity. This is where I wanted to be and wanted to play for five years. I couldn’t be happier with the way it worked out.”
Rhoda completed 12 of 20 passes for 176 yards, one TD and one interception in the Gophers’ 17-7 opening victory against Buffalo. In beating Oregon State 48-14 on the road, he handled most of the snaps and finished 7-for-8 passing for 158 yards and a score. In last week’s 34-3 victory over Middle Tennessee, he was an efficient 11 of 18 for 122 yards.
What has been important for the Gophers’ run-oriented offense is that Rhoda has connected on some big plays.
He hit sophomore wideout Tyler Johnson for a 61-yard TD against Buffalo and a 67-yard score against Oregon State. Last week he hit tight end Nate Wozniak for a 50-yard catch and run down the sideline.
And next week, Rhoda probably will get another chance against Maryland, only this time he will be at home and it would be his fourth consecutive start, a world away from that emergency start last season.
A report by ESPN this week noted the Timberwolves were one of 14 NBA teams to report a net income loss for the 2016-2017 season. They took part in revenue sharing, which got them to a net profit or at least breaking even.
Nine NBA teams — the Bucks, Cavaliers, Hawks, Grizzlies, Magic, Nets, Pistons, Spurs and Wizards — operated at a total net loss after either receiving or dispersing money for revenue sharing, which is tricky to understand when it comes to successful organizations such as the Spurs.
The Spurs operated at an overall profit during the season, but they had to give money to teams that lost money, such as the Wolves. In doing so, the Spurs operated at a net loss.
The problem with the revenue sharing system is that small-market teams that have success make a small profit, but that profit means they have to give multimillion-dollar checks to teams that operate at a loss. Those millions of dollars can then send a profitable team into the negative.
It will be interesting to see how the Timberwolves navigate these issues as the team hopefully gets more and more competitive.
The big news this week is that Andrew Wiggins is expected to sign his five-year maximum extension worth around $148 million. Next season Karl-Anthony Towns will get the same deal, and Jimmy Butler will be up the following season.
As the payroll rises and the Wolves hopefully make money by drawing more fans, there’s a chance they’ll operate at a profit. But if that profit isn’t high enough, they could end up paying into revenue sharing and still operate at a net loss.
New track coming
Gophers director of men’s track and field and cross-country Steve Plasencia talked this week about the great news that the Gophers are going to break ground Oct. 20 on their new outdoor track behind the Bierman building.
That area was once used for intramural sports, but those fields will be moved to the former grain elevator site, which the U purchased for $1.5 million.
Plasencia said the new track will give them a great chance to host major track and field events.
“We’re looking forward to putting in bids for NCAA regional meets and age-group competitions around the country,” he said. “… We really look forward to bringing the Big Ten track meet back onto the University of Minnesota campus. It has been since 2003 since we have been able to host that.”
Ash, Kill on epilepsy
The New York Times reported this week about former Gophers coach Jerry Kill under the headline, “Refusing to Let the Seizures Defeat Him,” and he discussed his recent seizure that hospitalized him. Kill said it was much more manageable than previous seizures.
Rutgers coach Chris Ash said his mother and brother also had epilepsy. “It’s something I’ve seen my whole life,” he said. “I’m well aware of what [a seizure] looks like, what causes them, and what you need to do to help during one. So there was no panic.”
The article detailed Kill’s battle with the disease. Kill said the way his career ended with the Gophers was a big reasons he’s back coaching.
“I didn’t get to go out on my own terms,” Kill said. “It’s haunted me. The whole thing has. Are you going to let something take what you love away?”
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. on Monday and Friday and at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays. E-mail: email@example.com