Phil Miller's Gophers Insider: Growing pains old hat to U coach Kill

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2011 - 8:47 PM

The coach knows from experience how tough it can be — and he's intent on taking care of his young players.


Gophers coach Jerry Kill walked off the field following his team's latest loss, 45-17 at Purdue on Saturday.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

He and his staff have weathered this hurricane before. Jerry Kill knows from experience that a top-to-bottom rebuilding effort is popular in the hypothetical and rewarding in the past tense, but it feels like a pliers-and-blowtorch manicure in the here and now.

"It's frustrating for those kids in there. They go to practice, they work hard to try and get better -- you don't think they're frustrated?" Kill said after the Gophers concluded the first half of the 2011 season with a 1-5 record that actually understates the condition of Minnesota's football program. "I feel bad for them, I really do. I want them to do well. I want so bad to see them make a play right now and have something good happen."

But that's not how football works in the Big Ten, where today's success is secured by your actions four or five years earlier. "When you've got some young players, that's going to happen," Kill said of his team's 69-3 first-half deficit in its first two Big Ten games. "Our biggest job right now is to take care of those kids. Keep them working, keep them positive."

And keep getting experience. The Gophers used 59 different players in Saturday's 45-17 loss to Purdue, 32 of them freshmen or sophomores. Purdue used fewer underclassmen than the Gophers' 18-strong freshman class; Minnesota gave starting assignments to seven freshmen, the Boilermakers only one.

"That's the way life is, and you just try to find out how people react to difficult times," Kill said. "The ones who go off [the wrong way], they'll struggle their whole life. That's people in general -- how you deal with adversity, that's really important. We'll find out who stays in there."

Other than their willingness to compete -- and only the coaches can gauge that with any certainty -- the Gophers didn't have many positives at Purdue, a place where they hoped the talent gap would be less pronounced. Marcus Jones, the Gophers' most promising player so far this season, returned a kickoff for a touchdown. And the pass rush at least annoyed Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush. Some Gophers felt that had they not sabotaged themselves with three first-quarter turnovers, they would have had a chance to win by the end.

"We made some improvements. I think the D-line got after it today," linebacker Mike Rallis said. "We always want to put pressure on the quarterback. The other stuff will come -- we need to try to keep doing that."

With a schedule that includes Nebraska, Michigan State and Wisconsin over the next five weeks -- combined record: 14-2 -- those discoveries are likely to be made under the worst conditions possible. Which raises an important question for the second half of the season: Should winning another game even be a priority?

In some ways, Jerry Kill's first season as a coach in Minneapolis resembles that of Kurt Rambis. The former Timberwolves coach endured an excruciating 15-67 debut season as coach but said afterward that he didn't regard that as his first season. "I consider next year our first year," Rambis said at the time. "Last season was just a step we had to go through to reset the organization so we could start over."

Rebuilding the Gophers looks equally challenging, and Kill will keep the future in mind as he deals with the present. That could mean even more minutes, even more opportunities, for the underclassmen at the expense of veterans as Kill works toward a more competitive future. True freshman Cedric Thompson, for instance, received his first action of the season at Purdue, after Kill weighed preserving his redshirt status against the chance to start developing him through actual game reps.

The distant future is this week's emphasis, by the way -- Kill and several assistants already have departed on midseason recruiting trips, leaving the bye-week practices to his coordinators.

"We'll be all over the place. It's a big week for us, recruitingwise," Kill said. "Right now, that's where our focus has to be."

And when he returns?

"My job is to keep working and stay positive, keep trying to get the kids who want to get better," he said. "There's a lot of them in that room who want to get better. ... The ones that go the positive way, they'll get rewarded sometime."

Phil Miller •

  • related content

  • Gophers replay

    Sunday October 9, 2011

    The recap: A series of early mistakes removed any chance the Gophers had of being competitive. Three turnovers, bad penalties, poor punts and ineffective tackling doomed Minnesota to a 31-0...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


NY Mets - LP: J. Familia 6 FINAL
Miami - WP: A. Ramos 9
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 7 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Boston - LP: B. Badenhop 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: G. Balfour 4
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 6 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4
Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: S. Maness 5
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Turner 4
Detroit - WP: D. Price 12 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 1
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Hammel 6
San Francisco - WP: J. Affeldt 4 FINAL
Colorado - LP: C. Friedrich 2
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Ross 3
San Francisco - LP: S. Romo 9 FINAL
Colorado - WP: L. Hawkins 10
Washington - WP: G. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Los Angeles - LP: R. Hernandez 4
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 3 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 4
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Indiana 84 FINAL
Chicago 86
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA




question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question