Kill deserves to get a chance from skeptical U fan base

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 6, 2010 - 1:01 AM

Jerry Kill is not the glamorous coach many Gophers fans had hoped for, but he's been very good over his career.

Before taking over the football program at Northern Illinois in 2008, Jerry Kill posted a record of 55-32 in seven years at Southern Illinois. During his three years at NIU, he is 23-16 and 18-6 in what has been a real good football conference.

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Dennis Franchione, the former football coach at Texas Christian, Alabama and Texas A&M, told the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh in a column published Dec. 3 that the Gophers should take a look at hiring Northern Illinois' Jerry Kill.

"Any AD like Minnesota or Colorado would be foolish not to look at the body of work Jerry's put together,'' said Franchione, who coached Kill when he was a linebacker at Southwestern College in Kansas.

Well, Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi must have agreed, because Kill is the new coach at Minnesota.

Northern Illinois is 10-3 after losing to Miami (Ohio) 26-21 when the RedHawks scored with 33 seconds left to take the Mid-American Conference title game in Detroit. The Huskies are set to play Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl.

Before taking over at Northern Illinois in 2008, Kill posted a record of 55-32 in seven years at Southern Illinois. During his three years at NIU, he is 23-16 and 18-6 in what has been a real good football conference. He was 6-7 in 2008, 7-6 in 2009 and 10-3 in 2010, including a 34-23 victory over the Gophers on Sept. 25. The Huskies went 8-0 in the MAC.

Kill was 2-3 against Big Ten opponents in his three years at Northern Illinois; all the games were on the road, and all were close. He lost to the Gophers 31-27 in 2008; lost to Wisconsin 28-20 but won at Purdue 28-21 in 2009; and lost to Illinois 28-22 this season in addition to the victory at TCF Bank Stadium.

No doubt Kill is walking into a real tough position. True Gophers fans should give him a chance to succeed. But I am sure the vast majority of fans expected a more glamorous coach from a bigger and more successfu program.

Like I had previously reported, Maturi and Dave Mona, who assisted in the Gophers' search, had a very tough time locating candidates interested in the job. Some coaches told me off the record they had turned the job down because they thought better jobs were available. Nothing against Kill, but I don't believe they had a great field to pick from.

Minnesota has a new president in Eric Kaler, replacing outgoing Robert Bruininks. Maturi's contract runs out in 2012. A new coach would be dealing with possibly a couple of unknowns as his bosses.

To be honest, I thought that Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst would have been a perfect selection for this program. But after hiring Tim Brewster, Maturi wanted Brewster's successor to have head coaching experience, which Chryst doesn't have.

One thing in favor of Kill is that the MAC has advanced a lot of coaches to the Big Ten who have been very successful, including Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes and Ara Parseghian.

The Gophers open the 2011 season at Southern California and have to play Nebraska next year among some other tough Big Ten foes.

Unless Kill is a miracle man, the going will be tough for a couple of years, and fans are going to have to be patient and give the man a chance to build the program. It will be interesting to see how the ticket-buyers react to the Kill appointment.

Makeshift lineup

Sure, Buffalo was a 2-9 team entering Sunday, but in its previous six games, the Bills suffered four three-point losses to playoff-contending teams.

And three of their losses came in overtime, including a 19-16 loss to the Steelers last week only because receiver Stevie Johnson dropped a sure touchdown pass in the end zone.

So when the Vikings game-day roster was released and didn't include players such as Chris Cook, Ray Edwards, Fred Evans, Percy Harvin, Steve Hutchinson and Greg Lewis, you might have concluded the team would be in trouble with so many key players out because of injuries.

Few people expected this crippled Vikings team to take a 31-7 lead the first half on its way to a 38-14 victory. The replacements on offense and defense completely dominated the Bills.

The starting Vikings offensive line included right guard Ryan Cook, starting for the second time in a row in place of Anthony Herrera, who was lost for the season because of a knee injury suffered Nov. 21. It also included left guard Chris DeGeare, a rookie who played in place of Hutchinson, an All-Pro, and with center John Sullivan still not 100 percent healthy.

This inexperienced line gave up only one sack while helping the team rush for 210 yards. It provided great protection for Tarvaris Jackson, who after replacing injured Brett Favre in the first quarter completed 15 of 22 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns to Sidney Rice.

The Vikings had three healthy receivers who played the entire game: Rice, Greg Camarillo and Bernard Berrian. Joe Webb also played some in his first NFL action but left because of a hamstring injury.

The defense, with Jared Allen on fire and Brian Robison filling in nicely for Edwards, had perhaps its best performance of the year, as it limited the Bills to 41 net yards in the first half. The Bills finished 158 yards passing and 84 yards rushing, most of it coming after the game was decided.

Frazier impressed

The offensive line practiced all week with DeGeare at Hutchinson's left guard spot.

"You have to take your hat off to Chris DeGeare, stepping up in Steve Hutchinson's place, you know, just that 'next man up' mentality of our offensive line. They did a great job of dominating the line of scrimmage," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.

"I wasn't concerned because I saw how our guys practiced. I knew they practiced well, I knew they believe in one another, and we talked all week long about supporting each other as a group. ... I just felt like the guys that were going to play were going to play well."

As for the performance of the defense, Frazier said: "I told our team afterwards, 'Now that's the defensive front that we're used to seeing when we come to Mall of America Field,' and just a great job by our defense coming up with the turnovers, rushing the quarterback. That's the defense that we've been accustomed to seeing."

Frazier sang the praises of Jared Allen, saying: "That's the Jared Allen we'd like to see every week. ... You probably saw how they began to chip him, bringing a tight end into the game to block him, because they couldn't single-block him. I mean, he's a great pass rusher. And when our fans get into it like they were into it in this ballgame, nobody can block Jared Allen, because the timing of the offense is off. Our fans did a great job."

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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