Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill had another epileptic seizure at halftime of Saturday's 29-12 victory over Western Illinois and was taken off the field on a stretcher.
Kill, who suffers from epilepsy, collapsed on the sideline as the players were leaving the field and was tended to by the team's medical staff while the marching band performed its halftime show. Kill was later taken to a local hospital for precautionary reasons.
After the game, Gophers spokesman Chris Werle read a statement on Kill's condition: “Coach Kill suffered a seizure at the end of the first half of today's game against western Illinois. He was attended to by medical personnel on the field and was then driven to a local hospital to ensure proper medication levels. He is resting comfortably. Coach Kill’s staff, which is one of the most tenured in the nation … and his team know the situation and are well-prepared to handle something like this if it arises. Coach Kill’s condition has been documented by the media in town and nationally. Fans are aware that he has epilepsy and that situations like this can happen. With that being said, we don’t feel the need to take any further questions on the matter.”
By 4:15 p.m., he was back at home, according to Gophers officials.
Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague was not made available for comment, but he is expected to address Kill's health later this week.
It was the third time in three years as Minnesota's coach that Kill has missed part of a game after suffering a seizure. He had one in the locker room at halftime against Michigan State in last year's regular season finale and missed the second half. He also had one on the sidelines in the last minute of a loss to New Mexico State in 2011.
The Gophers coaching staff, which plans for these episodes, again had defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys serve as acting head coach from the booth, with defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel representing the team on the sideline.
I just went around to each group and said, hey, do your job. We’ve been trained well. Don’t care about what the score is, go out and play hard, do your job and all things will work out the way they’re supposed to be," Claeys said. "I know everybody tries to spin it, it’s going to have an effect, I’m telling you, we know how to coach football. The kids know how to play. They’ve been trained very well."
Kill, who turned 52 last month, spent the offseason working with a new epileptologist and felt confident coming into the season.
“It’s not something I’m going to solve in a month,” he told the Star Tribune this summer. "The worst thing that’s ever happened to me is the Michigan State situation. You can’t be the head football coach and miss half of a game. I mean, I’m not stupid, I realize that.
“If I was doing those things, the university wouldn’t have to fire me. I’d walk away if I didn’t think I could do it. But that won’t happen because you’re talking to a guy that wasn’t supposed to be here anyway.”
Matt Hodson, a spokesman for the University of Minnesota, said President Eric Kaler was not available for comment Saturday.
However, Hodson said: “Coach Kill does have the full support of President Kaler and the university. The president was at the game today, he enjoyed another Gopher victory, he’s excited about the direction the program is going and he looks forward to having coach back at work.”
Said Claeys on Saturday: "You never truly know. That’s the frustrating thing about these things, you never truly know. I can tell you he’s done everything he’s been asked to do, who he’s working with, he’s in great shape physically, so he’s going to be [ticked] there’s no question because he’s done what he’s supposed to do. But the positive is, every time it happens, you learn more, and the situation will get better. His recovery time now is so much better than it’s ever been because of all this stuff he’s done."
On Saturday, the Gophers (3-0) also lost starting quarterback Philip Nelson to a right hamstring injury. Nelson limped off the field after a 13-yard rush early in the second quarter.
On Minnesota's next possession, backup quarterback Mitch Leidner led a 71-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by a 33-yard pass to tight end Maxx Williams on Leidner's first college completion. Leidner also carried the ball seven times for 34 yards on the drive, which was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Rodrick Williams.
The Gophers led just 7-6 at halftime and trailed 12-7 early in the third quarter after a Western Illinois touchdown. But Minnesota pulled away, getting two touchdown runs from David Cobb and a second touchdown run from Rodrick Williams.
Western Illinois fell to 2-1.
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