Jerry Kill still hasn’t watched game film from last year’s loss at Michigan.
The Gophers coach missed that trip after suffering a seizure, marking the only time in 31 years of coaching he’s ever missed a full game.
With Tracy Claeys filling in as interim coach and Mitch Leidner making his first career Big Ten start, the Gophers lost 42-13. They actually trailed 14-7 at halftime and finished with 16 first downs to Michigan’s 17.
Kill heard all about it. He just never went back and watched.
“For personal reasons, it didn’t do me any good to go look at it; I already felt bad enough,” Kill said Sunday. “Certainly, I will now because we’re in preparation for a game [on Saturday at Michigan]. But I felt like I cost our team an opportunity to win.”
Kill, 53, continues to look much healthier this season. He has epilepsy, so a seizure could strike at any time, but he’s controlling the things he can control — sleep, diet, exercise, etc.
Meanwhile, his team has withstood more injuries than any team he can remember coaching. With Leidner and tight end Maxx Williams out Saturday, Kill and his staff were in survival mode, making sure they didn’t lose to San Jose State.
The Spartans stayed within 10 points until late in the game, leaving the Gophers with no time to experiment. San Jose State couldn’t stop tailback David Cobb and quarterback Chris Streveler from running the ball, so that’s what Minnesota did — on 52 of 65 offensive plays.
The Gophers won 24-7, but the game will be remembered for their passing numbers: Seven attempts and one completion for 7 yards.
“I’ve got everybody worried,” Kill said. “We win a game, we’re 3-1, rush for [380 yards], and everybody’s worried about how much we threw it. I think Nebraska threw it 12 times yesterday.”
Tommy Armstrong Jr., actually threw 13 passes, completing nine for 113 yards and two touchdowns in Nebraska’s 41-31 victory over Miami (Fla.).
Kill also noted that the Gophers had 29 passing attempts at TCU — and wound up losing 30-7.
“Will we need to throw it better when we get into the Big Ten? Yeah, better and more often,” Kill said. “And we may line up against Michigan and throw it 27 times and tear it up. If we get Maxx back [from his calf injury], we just may go crazy.”
Kill sounds more optimistic about Williams and defensive end Alex Keith returning for Michigan than Leidner, who had trouble turning last week because of his turf toe injury. The Gophers have a bye week after Michigan before facing Northwestern on Oct. 11.
“We need an off week — badly,” Kill said. “I wish we were off this week and playing next week, but we’ve got to find a way.”
Michigan (2-2) is hurting, too. The Wolverines failed to score an offensive touchdown in Saturday’s 26-10 loss to Utah, just as they did in their 31-0 loss to Notre Dame.
Michigan didn’t even enter the red zone against Utah. Devin Gardner got benched after throwing two more interceptions. His replacement, Shane Morris, threw an interception and lost a fumble on his first two drives.
But lost in the Wolverines struggles, their defense has been solid. Utah entered Saturday averaging 57.5 points per game yet scored one offensive touchdown at Michigan. The Wolverines lead the Big Ten in total defense, with opponents averaging just 260.1 yards per game. Still, this is a big opportunity for the Gophers, who are 1-22 in their past 23 games against Michigan.
“We’ve got to be able to continue what we’re doing, running the ball,” Kill said. “We need to be able to throw the ball efficiently and do a good job. We’ve done a great job in practice, but we’ll need to do it in a game. There’s no question about it.”
Joe Christensen firstname.lastname@example.org