Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He previously covered the Minnesota Vikings for four years, starting in 2008. In addition, he covered college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.

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Posts about Gophers sports

Two different memories of Gophers-Badgers rivalry

Posted by: Chip Scoggins Updated: October 19, 2012 - 7:04 PM
MADISON -- I've arrived in Madison for Saturday’s Gophers-Badgers game. Rivalry games are one of my favorite things about college football. I love the history of long-standing rivalries and the passion and animosity between fan bases.
 
I caught up with two former Gophers players -- kicker Rhys Lloyd and punter Justin Kucek -- who experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows in this series.
 
In 2003, Lloyd made a game-winning field goal as time expired to give the Gophers a 37-34 victory. Two years later, Kucek had his punt blocked and recovered by Wisconsin in the end zone with 30 seconds remaining as the Gophers blew a late lead in a 38-34 loss.
 
I asked both players how often they reflect on their one defining play in this rivalry.
 
“It’s not something I sit around and think about it a lot,” Lloyd said. “I always get phone calls or texts around the time of the game each year because they show me racing across the field.”
 
Lloyd recalled the scene before his kick as Wisconsin called a timeout to make him think about it.
 
“One of their players, I can’t even remember who, was talking some smack to me,” Lloyd said. “I was giving him the hand signal like keep talking because I kind of liked to talk some trash too. One of my teammates pulled me away and I went to the sideline.”
 
As far as the kick, Lloyd said he didn’t really feel much pressure. The score was tied so even if he missed, the Gophers still had overtime. And the kick set up nicely for him -- 35-yarder, left hash.
 
“It wasn’t a difficult kick in that sense,” he said.
 
Lloyd’s reaction became a highlight in itself. He led the Gophers mad dash across the field to grab Paul Bunyan’s Axe. He jumped over the Badgers bench in the process.
 
“I just started running around doing a little soccer celebration and then I see our entire bench running across the field,” he said. “I figured I would run with them instead of getting flattened by them.”
 
Lloyd said Gophers fans love to talk about that kick whenever he runs into them and joked that more than a few have bought him a drink because of it.
 
“Let’s just say that kick has been very good for me,” he said, laughing.
 
Kucek experienced the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. With the Gophers clinging to a 34-31 lead with 38 seconds left in 2005, he lined up for a punt, standing near his own 5. The snap was on target, but Kucek dropped it.
 
He picked up the ball and tried to punt it while running to his right. But Wisconsin’s Jonathan Casillas blocked it, and Ben Strickland recovered it in the end zone to finish off a wild comeback.
 
“I do think about it from time to time,” Kucek said. “But when I think about it, I’m not happy that it happened, but I was fortunate to have something like that happen in my life where I can apply it to what I do today.”
 
Today, Kucek lives in Florida and enjoys a successful business career as Wal-Mart Director of Operations for Bridgford Foods.
 
I always admired Kucek for how he handled that situation as a redshirt freshman. He handled it with class and eventually became an all-Big Ten performer a few years later.
 
It was tough for him immediately afterward though. He said he received between 500-700 nasty messages and emails. His parents also received phone calls at their home.
 
Kucek came into the postgame interview with tears in his eyes that day but he answered every question.
 
“It didn’t feel good going in there, but I knew if I went in and owned up to what happened that it would help me in the long run,” he said.
 
Kucek said that experience helped him grow as a person and learn how to deal with adversity.
 
“You realize that life is not always going to be perfect for you,” he said. “If it is, God bless you. There’s always tribulations that go on in your life. You have to learn from it and grow from it. I don’t think I would be where I am today if I hadn’t dropped that punt. In football and also my career. It helped me look at things from a different angle, just be positive in everything.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Gophers football coaches seek, share information

Posted by: Chip Scoggins Updated: July 31, 2012 - 11:42 AM
The Gophers football team will hold its kickoff press conference on Thursday, followed by its first practice of fall camp on Saturday.
 
As part of preparation for the 2012 season, coach Jerry Kill and his staff visited with several schools around the country this offseason to gain some insight into how other programs operate in certain areas.
 
This is nothing new, of course. College coaches traditionally visit other programs during the spring to talk shop and see if they can glean anything that can be incorporated into their own program.
 
A steady stream of coaches used to visit former Gophers coach Glen Mason each offseason to see how his staff taught their zone blocking and running schemes.
 
“I think in any profession that you’re involved in, if you want to be the best at what you do, you better figure out how to be the best,” Kill said. “We try and study the best programs in the country every year, or some program that’s very similar to us or fits what we’re trying to do. Every year we’re going to visit a couple of college teams, a professional team. I’m going to reach out to a couple of different head coaches.”
 
As Phil Miller wrote this winter, several Gophers offensive coaches visited Baylor to see how that program used Robert Griffin III last season, looking for any wrinkle or idea that might work for MarQueis Gray and the offense as a whole. Quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski and wide receivers coach Pat Poore made that trip.
 
The defensive staff visited TCU and Mississippi State. The Gophers director of recruiting and director of player personnel visited Oklahoma State. In addition, Kill invited former Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick to spend a few days at the Gophers complex.
 
“At Colorado State, he won a whole lot of football games with not all the resources and did a great job,” Kill said. “I got a chance to spend time with him. He’s a very defensive minded football coach.”
 
A number of programs also visited the Gophers complex, including Toledo, Northern Illinois and Mississippi State.
 
“It’s like going to clinics,” Kill said. “You may listen for three hours and get one idea that may help your program, but it’s worth it at the end of the day.”
 
Kill has coached long enough that he has his own system, his own philosophy on how to run a program. He’s not going to rewrite his manual after visiting a particular school or coach. But he likes to see how his peers handle certain situations or larger program issues.
 
“You are who you are,” he said. “It’s like anything, you look at something that maybe can fit in to what you do. You don’t want to get a bunch of hodgepodge things that don’t fit into your [system].
 
“One of my questions when I visit with head coaches is, ‘Tell me about your academics, tell me how many people you have in academics, how many tutors do you have? What are you doing with your strength program? What are you doing in recruiting? Social networking, how do you utilize that to help you? How are you dealing with player discipline?’ Those are a lot of things you ask.”
 
      

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