After leading the Gophers with 926 rushing yards as a sophomore in 2012, Donnell Kirkwood sprained an ankle in last year’s opener and managed just 120 yards the past season.
Now a senior, Kirkwood showed he’s back to full health Saturday in the team’s most extensive scrimmage so far this spring, rattling off runs of 7, 8, 37, 9, 19 and 10 yards.
The defense held the offense without a point on its first seven drives. But the Gophers started running their two-minute offense, leading to several big plays by Kirkwood and others.
Rodrick Williams had two touchdown runs, Berkley Edwards one, from 49 yards out. Mitch Leidner had a 29-yard touchdown run and threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to KJ Maye.
David Cobb, who rushed for 1,202 yards last year, carried six times for 40 yards.
With Kirkwood healthy, this team should have plenty of running back depth. “He could have laid down and not competed and been grumpy and all those things,” coach Jerry Kill said. “But he’s always been a positive guy. He wants to win and he’s hungry.”
The Gophers are gearing up for their annual Spring Game on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
“I have a great support system here — the coaches, the players — I love all these guys like they’re my blood brothers,” Kirkwood said. “My mom told me everything happens for a reason. Maybe the reason [for the ankle injury] could have been it was time for Cobb to play.”
U 3rd in gym regional
The Gophers women’s gymnastics team placed third on Saturday in the NCAA regional it hosted at the Sports Pavilion.
Oklahoma and Illinois finished first and second to advance to the national meet April 18-20 in Birmingham, Ala. The Gophers, competed in that meet a year ago for the first time since 2002, but their score of 196.350 was not enough to qualify this time.
Lindsay Mable and Hanna Nordquist of the Gophers tied for first on balance beam (9.900). Cierra Tomson tied for fourth on the uneven parallel bars (9.975), and Kayla Slechta tied for fifth on the vault (9.900) and floor exercise (9.875).
• The Rochester Knighthawks beat the Minnesota Swarm 12-9 Saturday behind Johnny Powless’ five goals. Callum Crawford had a hat trick for the Swarm (3-12), who fell behind 7-2 against the Knighthawks (11-4).
• Michigan defeated the Gophers 8-1 in Big Ten baseball in Ann Arbor, Mich. Mike Handel was 2-for-4 with a solo homer in the eighth for Minnesota (16-10, 4-4 conference).
• Junior guard Rachel Banham and redshirt freshman center Amanda Zahui B. were both honorable mention selections on the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s Division I All-America team.
• Senior guard Steph Paluch of South Dakota State was named to the Women’s NIT all-tournament team. She averaged 15.2 points in the tournament.
• Maggie Nichols of Little Canada won the bronze medal in the all-around competition Saturday at the Tokyo World Cup gymnastics meet in Tokyo, Japan. Nichols, a member of the U.S. senior national team, had a score of 56.432.
• Zach Siegmeier of the Gophers won the pole vault (16-9¼) at the Stanford Invitational. Trevor Yedoni was fourth in the long jump (23-1¼) and Goaner Deng sixth in the 800 (1:49.49).