The Gophers pass offense ranks second-to-last in the Big Ten, averaging 113 yards per game, but offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover won’t be out to pad Philip Nelson’s passing numbers Saturday against Western Illinois.
“There’s still a ton of things we need to improve on offensively that it doesn’t matter who we’re playing against,” Limegrover said. “There’s not going to be any specific agenda.”
Nelson leads Big Ten quarterbacks in rushing with 27 carries for 205 yards. As a team, the Gophers rushed for 342 yards in last week’s 44-21 victory at New Mexico State.
“When [opponents] start taking away the run, then you’re going to need to be a little better passing, but I feel like it’s working well together,” Limegrover said. “Everybody freaks out if your quarterback throws for 250 [yards] but you only rush for 85 yards, and then it’s the reverse … and the sky is falling.
“It’s one of those things where I feel like we’re progressing.”
Lauer gaining steam
On this week’s depth chart, the Gophers list the starting left tackle as Marek Lenkiewicz or Ben Lauer. Lenkiewicz started the first two games, and senior backup Ed Olson is out because of an ankle injury.
A redshirt freshman from Wayzata High School, Lauer played his first few collegiate snaps late in last Saturday’s victory over New Mexico State.
“He’s a guy that keeps coming along, so I look for him to continue to push for some playing time as we go here,” Gophers coach Jerry Kill said.
Another redshirt freshman tackle, Jonah Pirsig, played the same number of snaps as Lauer at New Mexico State, but the Gophers are being careful with Pirsig coming back from surgery to repair a dislocated kneecap. Pirsig had that same procedure in high school.
“It’s different than a running back,” Kill said. “He’s [308 pounds], so it takes a little time to get the strength back in those legs.”
Claeys speaks his mind
Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys isn’t quick with a tongue-lashing, but he got after his players at halftime of the New Mexico State game. The Aggies managed one first down on their first five drives, and then scored a touchdown to trim Minnesota’s lead to 13-7. It was 27-7 at halftime.
“We came out and played a lot better at the beginning of the ballgame than we did [against UNLV],” Claeys said.
“We got a lead and relaxed, and that’s what happens. Again, we need to be greedy and try to dominate, and not just, ‘Hey, we’re going to win,’ and be satisfied.”
• Running backs Donnell Kirkwood and Berkley Edwards are both expected to miss Saturday’s game as they recover from sprained ankles. Backup linebacker Nick Rallis is out because of mono.
• With cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun headed for season-ending knee surgery Friday, the coaching staff has debated pulling a potential redshirt from cornerback Jalen Myric.
Like current starting cornerback Eric Murray did last season, Myric would see action primarily on special teams.
• After Derrick Wells missed the opener because of a hamstring injury, the Gophers limited his playing time a bit last week to ease him back. But Wells had another good week of practice and should be full-go on Saturday.
• Gregory Howell, a consensus three-star running back from Coral Gables, Fla., will be at Saturday’s game as part of an official visit.