When it comes to distributing carries to their tailbacks, Gophers coaches often talk about playing the hot hand. And it seems to change every week.
First, it was going to be Donnell Kirkwood, who led the team with 926 rushing yards last year. But he sprained an ankle in the season opener, so it became Rodrick Williams, who rushed for 148 yards in Week 2.
Now, David Cobb appears to be the guy.
Cobb carried 25 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s 43-24 victory over San Jose State. Williams rushed 15 times for 60 yards. Kirkwood returned from his injury but was limited to special teams duty.
“We’ll get Donnell going next week,” coach Jerry Kill said. “We were able to get through this game without using him a whole lot, broke him in on special teams. We want him to be 100 percent.”
Cobb had 13 carries for 82 yards last week against Western Illinois, compared to 10 carries for 56 yards for Williams. For the season, Cobb is averaging 6.4 yards per carry, and Williams is at 5.9.
“I’ve been real proud of David,” Kill said. “I think game-by-game, he gets better.”
Philip Nelson did not play after straining his right hamstring in last week’s game against Western Illinois. Kill said Nelson’s hamstring was at about 80 percent.
Nelson was active during pregame warm-ups and seemed to have no problem on his hand-offs and throws. But he has yet to be able to run full speed.
“We weren’t going to take any chances there certainly with [the] Big Ten schedule coming up,” Kill said.
Even though Mitch Leidner has played well the past two weeks, the Gophers aren’t ready to declare him the starter over Nelson.
“Phil’s our starting quarterback, and he’s injured,” Kill said. “If he’s 100 percent, it gives us the flexibility to do a little bit of what we did at Northern Illinois [with quarterbacks Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch].
“We’re in about as good of a situation as you can be in at that position. So that’s all a plus, certainly in what we do. When you call a play, you can’t go, ‘Well, I hope Mitch or Philip doesn’t run the ball here.’
“You want to be aggressive. Running the [read] option, you can’t be tentative.”
Tough day for Hawthorne
Gophers kicker Chris Hawthorne was 4-for-5 on field goal attempts and 14-for-15 on extra-point attempts through three games, but Saturday was a struggle.
He made a 22-yard field goal but missed a 51-yarder and missed two of his six extra-point attempts. Hawthorne had another near-miss on an extra point that was a line drive, just inside the upright.
Kill said he needed to look at film before he could know whether the breakdowns came on the kick, the hold or the snap.
“The bottom line is that can’t happen,” Kill said. “And I’ll address it with our staff and our players.”
• Gophers fullback Mike Henry sustained an unspecified injury early in the game, and Kill was pleased with the performance by his backup, Gabe Mezzenga, a redshirt junior from Totino-Grace High School.
• True freshman receiver Donovahn Jones did not play for the second consecutive week. It hasn’t been injury related, but Kill said, Jones “still has learning to do