Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson, left, and wide receiver Derrick Engel, right, celebrate Engel's touchdown during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Nebraska in Minneapolis, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill said Wednesday that he is confident quarterback Philip Nelson (hip pointer) and wide receiver Derrick Engel (sprained ankle) will both play in Saturday’s game against Penn State.
That’s good news for the Gophers, because Nelson and Engel connected on four passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s victory at Indiana.
Engel had been considered questionable earlier in the week, but after being a limited participant in Tuesday’s practice, he surprised Kill with how much he was able to do Wednesday.
“He’ll be ready to go [Saturday]; I believe that,” Kill said.
Nelson took a pain injection during the fourth quarter against Indiana and returned in time to throw the winning touchdown pass to Maxx Williams.
“He’s running around pretty well,” Kill said of Nelson. “It’s like anything, when you play a hard game, you’re a little bit stiff and banged up. And as the week goes, you get better.”
Reining in Robinson
With Derrick Wells battling a nagging shoulder injury, sophomore Eric Murray has been the Gophers’ top cover cornerback this season. The next challenge will be slowing Penn State’s Allen Robinson, who leads the Big Ten in receptions (66) and receiving yards (1,043).
Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said Wells has practiced at full speed the past two days, so he will be available to help with Robinson.
“You can’t double him every snap,” Claeys said. “But I think we can try to always have a zone player that knows where he’s at, and tries to give the guy help, rather than one on one.”
Claeys pointed to Michigan game, when the Gophers contained the Big Ten’s second-leading receiver, holding Jeremy Gallon to two catches for 39 yards, only to see tight end Devin Funchess reel in seven catches and 151 yards.
“So we’ll have to pay attention to [Robinson], but at the same time, we can’t let somebody else go off and have a career day.”
• Sophomore running back Rodrick Williams (turf toe) returned to practice this week but is questionable for the Penn State game.
• Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jamel Harbison, who did not travel to Indiana, will not play again this week, Kill said, declining to elaborate.
• The Gophers sold 6,200 tickets for Saturday’s game over the past week and were 2,500 tickets from a sellout, Gophers executive associate athletic director David Benedict tweeted (@DavidBenedict8).
• USA Today released its annual NCAA football coaches’ salary database, showing that Kill’s $1.2 million base salary is the lowest in the Big Ten and 67th biggest in the nation. Alabama’s Nick Saban is college football’s highest-paid coach at $5,395,892, and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer tops the Big Ten at $4,608,000.
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