Gophers get a surprise from Kill, and a win at Northwestern

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 20, 2013 - 12:05 AM

The Gophers, seeking an extra edge after a halftime tie, got it when Jerry Kill surprised them with a pep talk.

 – The game started at 11 a.m., which means Jerry and Rebecca Kill must have left their Minneapolis home before 4 a.m. to make the seven-hour drive to Northwestern.

Gophers acting head coach Tracy Claeys said he didn’t know Kill, who is on indefinite leave to treat his epilepsy, was coming Saturday until an hour before the game.

Players didn’t know he was coming until halftime, when he walked into the middle of the Gophers locker room and gave a quick speech.

“That gave us the little edge we needed,” Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson said.

Tied at halftime after an ugly 30 minutes for both teams, the Gophers went on to reward Kill with the biggest victory in his three-year tenure at Minnesota, defeating Northwestern 20-17 before an announced crowd of 36,587 at Ryan Field.

Claeys said there is still no timetable for Kill’s return to work, but this was viewed as a sign he is making good progress.

“I was asked if he would watch the game [on television] if he wasn’t there; I couldn’t answer it,” Claeys said. “So that’s your answer: He jumps in a car and gets his wife to drive him. But it also shows you, those kids mean a lot to him, they really do.”

Kill watched the game from a press box coaching booth, though team officials said he wasn’t giving instructions. He left without commenting to reporters. Team officials said he didn’t want his appearance to overshadow what his players did on the field.

The Gophers (5-2, 1-2 Big Ten) came in as 12½-point underdogs but moved one victory from becoming bowl-eligible.

Three weeks ago, Northwestern was ranked No. 17 and held a fourth-quarter lead against No. 4 Ohio State. But with quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark both out because of ankle injuries Saturday, the Wildcats (4-3, 0-3) didn’t look like the same team.

The Gophers held Northwestern to 94 yards rushing and intercepted Trevor Siemian twice, while breaking their own two-game losing streak.

“I don’t know how to compare it to other wins,” Gophers receiver Derrick Engel said.

“Illinois last year was big because that got us to a bowl game. If you can go on the road in the Big Ten and beat a team like Northwestern that was ranked [17th] just two weeks ago, that’s big for our confidence.”

Mitch Leidner got the start at quarterback for the Gophers, but after four first-quarter punts they turned to Nelson. The sophomore immediately guided them on a 72-yard drive, capped with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Engel.

But the Gophers missed a chance to take a lead heading into halftime, when Chris Hawthorne missed a 44-yard field goal as time expired.

The second half brought more frustration, as the Gophers had a 30-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass from Nelson to Isaac Fruechte wiped out because of a questionable pass interference call on Drew Wolitarsky.

But moments later, Gophers linebacker James Manuel intercepted Siemian and ran 24 yards for an easy touchdown, giving the Gophers a 14-7 lead.

“I said, ‘Make sure I catch it,’  ” Manuel said.

“Then I looked behind me to make sure there was nobody else there, and I had the green light to go.”

Hawthorne atoned for his earlier miss with two fourth-quarter field goals. Northwestern made the Gophers sweat by converting three fourth downs on a 75-yard touchdown drive that trimmed the lead to 20-17 with 2:07 remaining.

Northwestern tried an onside kick, but it didn’t go the requisite 10 yards. The Gophers sealed the victory with two first downs, including a 7-yard scramble by Nelson on third-and-6 from the Wildcats 28-yard line.

“They told me to stay in bounds and keep the clock running,” Nelson said. “And I thought a chance to get the first down, so it was just a sprint to the pylon.”

And soon it was a sprint around the field for the Gophers, who slapped hands with the fans who showed up wearing maroon and gold.

Kill spoke to the team again after the game, then hopped back in the car for the ride home.

“He told all of us he was proud of us, and that’s the best compliment you can get,” Claeys said. “He’s got a lot of hours a lot of time invested in this, and the other thing that makes this so special, we needed to win a game for the people of Minnesota.

“They’ve been patient with us, and we understand everybody wants to win right now. I’m awfully proud that the kids battled and represented the university in the way it should be represented.”





 

  • related content

  • Video: Gophers acting head coach Tracy Claeys is victorious

    Saturday October 19, 2013

    Coach talk with Tracy Claeys after Saturday's victory.

  • Video: James Manuel talks postgame

    Saturday October 19, 2013

    James Manuel, who had a pick-six in Saturday's victory, talks after the big win.

  • BOXSCORE: Gophers 20, Northwestern 17

    Saturday October 19, 2013

  • Hartman: Claeys' faith in Gophers players is rewarded with victory

    Sunday October 20, 2013

    Tracy Claeys was one person convinced that the Gophers would upset the Wildcats, who had to play without two of their offensive stars in quarterback Kain Colter and running back...

  • Souhan: Gophers defensive standouts have plenty to discuss after picks

    Sunday October 20, 2013

    James Manuel and Ra’Shede Hageman are roommates, and each caught an interception at Northwestern on Saturday.

  • Gophers-Northwestern game recap

    Saturday October 19, 2013

    Offensive mvpPhilip Nelson, GophersThe sophomore quarterback replaced Mitch Leidner and completed eight of 11 passes for 112 yards with a...

  • Gophers likely to keep rotating Leidner, Nelson

    Saturday October 19, 2013

    In beating Northwestern, neither Mitch Leidner nor Philip Nelson was much better.

  • Gophers notes: Claeys does his job from downstairs

    Saturday October 19, 2013

    EVANSTON, ILL. – It had been several years since Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys coached a game from the sideline.But...

  • Minnesota Gophers vs. Northwestern Wildcats football. Minnesota won 20-17. Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson (9) accepted congratulations from Minnesota fans at the end of the game. . (MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE(mlevison@startribune.com)

  • Linebacker James Manuel headed for the end zone and a go-ahead Gophers TD after his interception in the third quarter. Safety Brock Vereen (21) followed him.

  • Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson looked to throw during the first half Saturday against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Arrieta 2 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: D. Axelrod 7
NY Yankees - LP: S. Kelley 2 FINAL
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 3
Colorado - LP: J. Lyles 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: Y. Petit 4
Tampa Bay - LP: K. Yates 4 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: A. Miller 5
Atlanta - WP: M. Minor 6 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 1
Cleveland - WP: C. Carrasco 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: J. Danks 2
Minnesota - WP: A. Swarzak 11 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: B. Chen 5
Texas - LP: R. Mendez 2 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 4
Oakland - LP: R. Cook 3 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: F. Salas 4
Atlanta 24 FINAL
Jacksonville 14
Detroit 23 FINAL
Buffalo 0
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 35
Kansas City 14 FINAL
Green Bay 34
NY Jets 7 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
St. Louis 13 FINAL
Miami 14
Carolina 10 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
New England 13 FINAL
NY Giants 16
Washington 24 FINAL
Tampa Bay 10
Baltimore 22 FINAL
New Orleans 13
Chicago 13 FINAL
Cleveland 33
Denver 27 FINAL
Dallas 3
Minnesota 19 FINAL
Tennessee 3
San Francisco 40 FINAL
Houston 13
Arizona 9 FINAL
San Diego 12
Seattle 31 FINAL
Oakland 41
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 4th Qtr 3:43
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close