To Kill's delight, Gophers football plays with spring in its step

Optimism and sunshine reigned at TCF Bank Stadium as two Gophers quarterbacks distinguished themselves.

view larger photos

  

 

The sun hasn’t shone on the Gophers spring football game in decades quite like it did Saturday, and to make it even more enjoyable for Coach Jerry Kill, his team delivered a performance to match.

With temperatures climbing into the 70s, an announced crowd of 8,400 turned out at TCF Bank Stadium and saw an entertaining exhibition.

It was filled with momentum shifts, as the team’s two 19-year-old quarterbacks — Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner — marched the opposing offenses up and down the field.

Nelson completed all 10 of his first-half passes, as his Maroon team, featuring the first-team offense, grabbed a 14-3 lead. Leidner answered with two touchdown passes to start the second half, putting the White team ahead 17-14.

“On our sideline we were like, ‘Hey, what the heck’s going on here?’ ” Nelson said. “We needed to move the ball and go out and score.”

So they did.

Nelson hit Derrick Engel with a 39-yard pass, and then found Engel again for a 5-yard touchdown, as the Maroon team finished off a 24-17 victory.

Afterward, Kill gathered his players and told them how proud the coaches were of their effort this spring.

“I thought we had good day overall on both sides of the ball,” Kill said. “And to see two young quarterbacks kind of develop in front of your eyes ...”

Nelson completed 13 of 17 passes for 179 yards and added 45 yards rushing. Leidner went 9-for-15 for 112 yards and added 42 yards on the ground.

“Neither one of those kids turned the ball over, which is huge,” quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski said. “There were no exchange issues. It felt like we were ready for the season.”

The Gophers open the regular season Aug. 29 against UNLV, and the spring game should give them a springboard for the offseason. Since all 14 practices leading up to Saturday were held indoors, everyone was just happy to see the sun.

Longtime fans sure didn’t take it for granted. After leaving the Metrodome, the Gophers held their 2009 spring game at St. Thomas and drew an announced crowd of 7,700. Temperatures were in the 50s that day, just as they were in the first three spring games at TCF Bank Stadium, when the turnouts were much smaller.

Saturday’s crowd saw Rodrick Williams break a tackle and rumble 30 yards on the game’s first drive, setting up the first of two 1-yard touchdown plunges by Donnell Kirkwood.

Leidner brought the White team back, repeatedly finding Jamel Harbison, who proved he’s back from last year’s knee injury by making five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Nelson and the Maroon team stumbled on its first two second-half drives, but he put them back in front with some pinpoint passing. The 39-yarder to Engel came on a post pattern, which set up Engel’s touchdown.

“He threw a back-shoulder ball; it was right on the money,” Engel said of Nelson’s TD pass. “All I had to do was put my hands on it and catch it, so props to him because he’s really, really improved.

  • related content

  • Chart: Gophers 2013 football schedule

    Saturday April 27, 2013

    Gophers 2013 scheduleAug. 29 vs. UNLVSept. 7 at New Mexico StateSept. 14 vs. Western IllinoisSept. 21 vs. San Jose StateSept. 28 vs. IowaOct. 5 at MichiganOct....

  • Gophers spring football replay

    Saturday April 27, 2013

    spring replayTHREE THINGS THE GOPHERS LEARNED1Philip Nelson is the starting quarterback. But Mitch Leidner is a fully capable backup who...

  • Phillip Nelson, quarterback for the Maroon team, completed all 10 of his first-half passes and led the 24-17 victory over the White team.

  • Gophers coach Jerry Kill took in the action Saturday as running back Rodrick Williams waited to get back on the field.

  • Phillip Nelson, above, rallied the Maroon team to a 24-17 victory with two second-half touchdown passes. Mitch Leidner threw two TD passes to give the White team a 17-14 lead. Nelson passed for 135 yards, Leidner for 96.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Minnesota 94 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Houston 93 FINAL
Boston 87
Portland 99 FINAL
Atlanta 105
Sacramento 90 FINAL
Cleveland 101
Toronto 127 FINAL
Brooklyn 122
Dallas 93 FINAL
Miami 72
LA Clippers 103 FINAL
New Orleans 108
Golden State 100 FINAL
Utah 110
Chicago 93 FINAL
Phoenix 99
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL(SO)
Carolina 2
Nashville 0 FINAL
Colorado 3
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Vancouver 5
Chicago 4 FINAL
Anaheim 1
Harvard 75 FINAL
Princeton 72
Quinnipiac 57 FINAL
Canisius 63
Brown 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Siena 79 FINAL
Manhattan 87
Marist 65 FINAL
Niagara 61
Dartmouth 51 FINAL
Penn 58
Oregon 68 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Yale 63 FINAL
Columbia 59
Monmouth 60 FINAL
Fairfield 59
IUPUI 59 FINAL
Western Ill 63
Oregon State 34 FINAL
Arizona 57
Kent State 55 FINAL
Buffalo 80
Canisius 75 FINAL
Monmouth 58
Butler 67 FINAL
Providence 59
Cornell 65 FINAL
Brown 52
Columbia 47 FINAL
Yale 55
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
Drexel 64
Penn 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 39
Elon 60 FINAL
James Madison 89
(19) Princeton 96 FINAL
Harvard 46
(9) Florida State 82 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Siena 62
Richmond 54 FINAL
Rhode Island 50
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Southern Ill 64
Georgetown 52 FINAL
DePaul 93
Villanova 75 FINAL
Marquette 59
Wichita State 70 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
Xavier 65 FINAL
Creighton 74
Bradley 58 FINAL
Illinois State 55
Missouri State 89 FINAL
Drake 94
Arizona 48 FINAL
Utah 62
(11) Arizona State 68 FINAL
Colorado 60

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How should Timberwolves fans greet Kevin Love on Saturday?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close