On the road: Kill tells fans U football on the road to renewal

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 20, 2011 - 7:00 AM

Coach Jerry Kill's Gopher Revival Tour began on Thursday with three visits west of the Twin Cities. His message to supporters became more polished with every stop.

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Gophers football coach Jerry Kill spent some time with Keith Krommenhoek of Hutchinson, a fellow cancer survivor, on Thursday.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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WILLMAR, Minn. -- When she's not sporting her gold-and-maroon football get-up, the Rev. Kathy Hartley wears pastor's robes at Peace Lutheran Church in New London. So she knows natural talent when she sees it.

"That guy," Hartley said, nodding toward the man being mobbed at the front of the room, "can preach." Amen.

New coach Jerry Kill took his Gopher Revival Tour on a 250-mile road trip Thursday, sharing his vision for the program with roughly 500 not-so-skeptical fans, donors and alumni in three Minnesota cities. Over sausage and eggs in Hutchinson, he vowed to instill discipline in the Gophers. Between bites of lunchtime barbecue in Willmar, he declared he has "married" Minnesota's football program, so strong is his commitment to a turnaround. And at a cocktail party in Mankato, he confessed that only 75 percent of his players "are headed in the right direction," and the other 25 percent "have my foot up their tail end."

Like a politician sharpening his stump speech with repetition, Kill's I-need-your-help pitch grew more polished and powerful at every stop, not that the university's victory-starved fans needed much encouragement to buy in. "Two or three got so emotional, they watered up a little bit" as they introduced themselves, Kill said. "That passion, that's just neat to see. Those are the people that make you determined to get this done."

Determined, perhaps, but cautious about promising anything beyond his own commitment to hard work. Perhaps mindful of his predecessor's over-vivid optimism, Kill is careful never to fuel unrealistic expectations too quickly, instead telling Willmar's lunch group that he fears "we've got a mess on our hands" when it comes to academic progress. And on the field, where his players represent the state of Minnesota? "Going through spring ball," he deadpanned in Hutchinson, "they didn't much represent you or me."

But Kill's sermon has the odd effect of making Gophers fans more optimistic every time he describes the enormity of his task.

"He's real. You can believe what he says," said Dave Larson, who owns a financial-services company in Hutchinson and played defensive tackle for the Gophers in the 1970s. Referring to former coach Tim Brewster's over-the-top promises, Larson said he appreciated "that this guy doesn't tell us we're going to the Rose Bowl every year, or have his players touch grass from [Pasadena]. He's being realistic. We know it takes time."

Praise for MarQueis Gray

Kill mostly stuck to evangelizing about his methods and his work ethic, saying he was encouraged that 47 players have chosen to forego their between-semester time off to remain on campus and work out. But he did offer one strong opinion about a player: Quarterback MarQueis Gray, the coach said, has impressed him with his transition from receiver to quarterback, a move that Kill admitted he once doubted could succeed.

"When we walked in the door here, we were told he couldn't do it," Kill told the Willmar crowd, though he clarified later that it wasn't Brewster's staff that offered that critique; it was more a reflection of Gray's inexperience at the position. "He flat surprised us during spring ball."

In fact, Kill said, he has daydreamed about how skilled the 20-year-old would be if he hadn't spent most of the past four seasons injured, ineligible or catching passes instead of throwing them. "If he had played quarterback all along," Kill said, "he'd be as good as [Ohio State's star quarterback] Terrelle Pryor. He just lacks experience."

That's about as much optimism as the coach would betray, however, preferring instead to emphasize his kinship as a Midwesterner, born and raised in rural Kansas, with his newly adopted state. "He really fits this place," alum Don McGrath said in Willmar. "All he lacks is some Scandinavian blood."

The work never ends

Even during his tour, which will include Red Wing, Rochester, Owatonna and Brainerd next month, Kill lived up to his own work-never-ends mantra. He brought a driver along so he could tackle his to-do list -- calling assistant coaches for recruiting updates, receiving briefings about various meetings at this week's Big Ten meetings, revising the program's player-policy manual -- between stops.

His next agenda item comes Friday, when spring grades are posted. There was reason for concern about 10 or 11 players, Kill said, "and we may lose a couple along the way. But I think there will be good news. We've got some kids who have done some good things."

And he's got a fan base that appears almost unconditionally eager to rally around its new straight-talker. You are the owners of this team, Kill told each gathering on Thursday. Making them proud is his No. 1 goal, though "I hope it happens in my lifetime."

Referring to both his players and their sing-the-Rouser supporters, Kill sounded like a preacher again when he stressed that "those who stay with us, you'll be rewarded. And the ones who exit through that door, you'll be sorry someday."

How welcome was that message for the Gophers' down-trodden fan base? "I'm ready to suit up!" exclaimed 74-year-old Janesville resident Dorothy Kiner.

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Minnesota 17 4th Qtr 12:40
Miami 21
Baltimore 7 3rd Qtr 7:40
Houston 19
Detroit 10 4th Qtr 10:27
Chicago 14
Cleveland 6 4th Qtr 11:22
Carolina 10
Atlanta 20 4th Qtr 9:38
New Orleans 7
Green Bay 13 4th Qtr 3:33
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 9 4th Qtr 10:19
Pittsburgh 17
New England 17 4th Qtr 7:53
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
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Toronto
Memphis 3:30 PM
Cleveland
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LA Lakers 5:00 PM
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Minnesota
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Dallas 5:00 PM
Edmonton
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Boston
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Chicago
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Winnipeg
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 69 FINAL
Army 72
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 65 FINAL
Cleveland State 69
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 72 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Holy Cross 35 2nd Half 8:13
Canisius 53
Southern Miss 40 2nd Half 6:28
Georgia State 56
Western Carolina 44 2nd Half 10:46
UNC-Asheville 55
Creighton 37 2nd Half 9:55
North Texas 51
Maryland 54 2nd Half 8:57
Oklahoma State 41
Cornell 45 2nd Half 11:21
Radford 53
Vermont 40 2nd Half 7:35
Saint Louis 43
Loyola-Maryland 40 2nd Half 7:50
Stony Brook 48
Reinhardt 53 2nd Half 11:39
Winthrop 64
Ark-Little Rock 44 2nd Half 5:29
Green Bay 57
TX-Pan American 51 2nd Half 9:44
Nebraska Omaha 62
Alabama State 57 2nd Half 13:06
Evansville 60
FIU 38 2nd Half 15:54
Hartford 48
Goshen 25 2nd Half
Valparaiso 38
Bryant 9 1st Half 8:28
Denver 4
Austin Peay 12 1st Half 7:46
Lipscomb 23
Tennessee St 5 1st Half 12:10
Middle Tennessee 24
South Dakota 19 1st Half 9:45
Montana 17
ULM 2:25 PM
Samford
Coker 2:30 PM
South Carolina
USC 3:00 PM
Boston College
Northern Ariz 3:00 PM
Hampton
SD Christian 3:00 PM
San Diego
UC Irvine 3:30 PM
Bradley
Troy 3:30 PM
Nicholls
Seton Hall 5:00 PM
Georgia
Appalachian St 5:30 PM
Alabama
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Kent State
San Jose St 6:00 PM
Washington St
Alcorn State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Sacramento St 9:00 PM
Seattle
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
SMU 43 FINAL
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
FIU 83 FINAL
Wofford 75
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Providence 67
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
Rhode Island 60 FINAL
Bryant 56
(3) Texas 62 2nd Half 4:05
(4) Texas A&M 61
South Florida 45 2nd Half 15:51
Penn State 43
Sam Houston St 36 2nd Half 0:33
TCU 62
Evansville 37 2nd Half 9:37
IUPUI 47
(14) Maryland 92 2nd Half 7:50
Coppin State 45
Mercer 50 2nd Half 10:59
Coll of Charleston 58
NC A&T 21 2nd Half 15:34
Chattanooga 40
Princeton 75 2nd Half 6:48
Monmouth 46
Eastern Illinois 61 2nd Half 4:55
Lehigh 64
Rider 52 2nd Half 9:29
Binghamton 44
SC State 40 2nd Half 7:02
Clemson 48
Fairfield 44 2nd Half 10:00
Iowa State 55
Richmond 61 2nd Half 6:24
Eastern Kentucky 42
Cleveland State 63 2nd Half 6:25
Morehead St 63
Kent State 49 2nd Half 10:44
Colgate 37
South Alabama 35 2nd Half 4:05
UAB 68
Saint Peters 29 2nd Half 5:47
Navy 64
Youngstown St 37 2nd Half 7:47
Pittsburgh 58
NJIT 33 2nd Half 13:34
Lafayette 45
Davidson 22 2nd Half 11:59
Charlotte 61
Indiana State 31 2nd Half
St Johns 24
Southern U 20 2nd Half
Florida 41
Wright State 16 2nd Half 20:00
Purdue 31
(19) Oklahoma St 15 1st Half 7:35
USC 19
Houston 17 1st Half 6:37
Texas Tech 14
Ark-Little Rock 17 1st Half 7:46
Tulsa 13
Dayton 14 1st Half 9:51
Vanderbilt 14
Northern Ariz 13 1st Half 8:20
New Mexico 13
UNC-Asheville 11 1st Half 10:52
USC Upstate 10
North Dakota 12 1st Half 11:40
South Dakota 17
Western Ill 14 1st Half 10:00
Marquette 19
Elon 12 1st Half 11:49
(6) North Carolina 22
Ball State 7 1st Half 11:38
Western Ky 22
(8) Kentucky 12 1st Half 9:15
(13) Duke 21
New Orleans 6 1st Half 9:03
Alabama 31
Chicago State 11 1st Half 9:54
Milwaukee 16
Bowling Green 18 1st Half 11:48
Bradley 7
Ill-Springfield 6 1st Half 15:57
SE Missouri St 6
Northern Ill 10 1st Half 7:40
Northern Iowa 12
(23) Iowa 18 1st Half 11:18
Drake 19
Central Michigan 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Western Carolina 2:30 PM
North Florida
Wyoming 3:00 PM
Colorado
Portland 3:00 PM
Boise State
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Grand Canyon
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Idaho State 3:00 PM
Seattle
(18) Michigan State 3:00 PM
(19) Syracuse
Northwestern 3:30 PM
Arizona State
TX-Arlington 3:30 PM
North Texas
Fresno State 4:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 4:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
UNLV 4:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
UCLA 4:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
(10) Louisville 4:00 PM
(24) California
Howard 5:00 PM
Virginia
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
(21) Miss State
Illinois-Chicago 8:30 PM
Old Dominion
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<
Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

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