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Gophers QB Philip Nelson, who was forced from the game because of a possible concussion, paid the price when he took on Michigan State’s Marcus Rush (44) and Darqueze Dennard in the open field.

MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com,

Gophers notes: Leidner finishes after Nelson suffers possible concussion

  • Article by: joe christensen
  • Star Tribune
  • November 30, 2013 - 8:18 PM

– Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson suffered a possible concussion in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 14-3 loss at Michigan State.

After releasing an incomplete pass to Isaac Fruechte, Nelson took a hard hit from Spartans defensive end Marcus Rush, who was flagged for roughing the passer.

Mitch Leidner finished the game at quarterback for the Gophers. Nelson went through a concussion test on the sideline and handed over his helmet.

“I’m not going to give any updates on [Nelson’s injury],” Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. “I got in the locker room, I said, ‘How you doing?’ [Nelson] said, ‘OK, Coach.’ But I don’t know.”

With the regular season finished, the Gophers have at least four weeks to heal up before the bowl game.

“We have three or four guys banged up, but that’s part of football and hopefully we’ll get them all healed up,” Kill said. “I haven’t talked to the trainer or anything like that.”

Quarterback shuffle

Leidner hadn’t played since the Nov. 2 win at Indiana, but the Gophers gave him a series in the first half against Michigan State before re-inserting Nelson.

Kill said they did that to “give [Nelson] a little break. We knew we were going to be in a physical game, and he was taking some shots … We brought Mitch back [when Nelson got injured], and he did some good things.”

Nelson completed six of 18 passes for 77 yards and his first two interceptions since Sept. 28. Leidner completed three of seven passes for 48 yards. Nelson took one sack and Leidner took three.

“Give credit to them; they did a good job getting pressure on us, but at the same time, the offensive line played great all day,” Leidner said. “On some of those, both Phil and I have to avoid [sacks] and make throws.”

Vereen injures shoulder

Gophers cornerback Brock Vereen injured his left shoulder in the first quarter and didn’t return.

Derrick Wells, who has battled a shoulder injury of his own this season, wound up replacing Vereen and making an interception to keep Michigan State from scoring right before halftime.

It was Wells’ first interception of the season, and he might have returned it for a touchdown if Spartans receiver Tony Lippett hadn’t made the tackle.

“It boosted my confidence just to be back out there making plays,” said Wells, who also made three tackles.

Wells said his shoulder injury is “around 90 or 95” percent healed. He said both he and Vereen should be back to full strength for the bowl game.

Injury doesn’t limit Cobb

David Cobb suffered a deep cut on his right knee in the second quarter but quickly returned to the game and still managed to finish with 101 yards on 27 carries.

“We controlled the line of scrimmage,” Cobb said, lamenting the team’s inability to turn three red zone opportunities into more points.

It was the sixth time this year Cobb has passed the 100-yard mark, and he now has 1,111 rushing yards for the season, the most for a Minnesota player since Amir Pinnix rushed for 1,272 in 2006.

Etc.

• Defensive end Theiren Cockran sacked Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, forcing a fumble that Ra’Shede Hageman recovered. Cockran leads the Gophers with 7½ sacks and four forced fumbles, but he limped off the field after suffering an apparent leg injury on Michigan State’s final drive.

• Tight end Drew Goodger limped off the field with a leg injury during the second half.

• Vereen’s injury also led the Gophers to use true freshman Jalen Myric at cornerback. He has played mostly on special teams this season.

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