Gophers to put in freshman Nelson at QB

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 20, 2012 - 5:57 AM

The freshman from Mankato will start at Wisconsin, ahead of gimpy MarQueis Gray and erratic Max Shortell.

hide

Philip Nelson’s learning curve will take a big bounce Saturday when he starts at quarterback at Wisconsin.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Philip Nelson held Paul Bunyan's Axe in his hands three years ago, during a recruiting visit to Wisconsin. On Saturday, the Gophers freshman quarterback apparently will have a chance to take it home with him.

Nelson will make his collegiate debut in Camp Randall Stadium as the Gophers' starting quarterback Saturday against the Badgers, barring a last-minute change of plans by Minnesota's coaches, a source close to the football program told the Star Tribune.

Nelson, who spent the week taking most of the snaps with the first-team offense, will replace Max Shortell, who has been inconsistent in three starts. MarQueis Gray, the source said, remains hobbled by a sprained left ankle and will play only at receiver, if at all.

Coach Jerry Kill has said for months that the Gophers preferred to keep Nelson on the sideline this season and let him learn the offense during a redshirt year.

But a two-game losing streak and the Gophers offense's inability to score consistently apparently have changed Kill's plans.

"I was questioned why we [recruited] so many quarterbacks. I said, well, we take them because you've got to have depth at that position. You never know what happens," Kill said late last month, when Nelson inherited the backup position because of Gray's injury. "Most people know you can't win championships without a great quarterback. There's a lot of pressure at that position, and it takes special people to handle it. ... [Nelson] is mentally tough. That's what we like about him."

It's the second consecutive season in which the Gophers have thrust a true freshman into the heat of Big Ten play in a huge, raucous stadium. Last year, Shortell made his first start at Michigan Stadium while Gray was out with a toe injury, a game the Gophers lost to the Wolverines 58-0.

"I wouldn't be afraid to put him out there if we needed him," offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said two weeks ago. "We've thrown an awful lot at him, and he's handled it very well."

Nelson, a 19-year-old from Mankato West, has been touted as the quarterback of the future since he committed to the Gophers early in 2011, then led his prep team to an 11-1 record and a section championship, and won Mr. Football honors for himself.

Coincidentally, Nelson spent much of his childhood in Madison, where his father, Pat, once played for the Badgers, and he was recruited by Wisconsin -- and held the Axe in the Badgers locker room at Camp Randall Stadium -- before choosing Minnesota.

Shortell has completed 57 percent of his passes in relief of Gray this season, with six touchdowns and four interceptions. But the Gophers, who have lost eight consecutive games to Wisconsin, have not scored more than 17 points since Sept. 15, and Kill has made it clear he is willing to use freshmen in order to try to get the season back on track, rather than preserve their redshirt seasons.

Last week, running back Rodrick Williams and tight end Lincoln Plsek, both true freshmen, made their Gophers debuts.

Nelson will operate an injury-riddled Gophers offense, however. Left tackle Ed Olson, recovering from an ankle injury, did not make the trip to Madison, and his brother Tommy, the Gophers' starter at left guard, is not expected to play. Three receivers are also recovering from injuries.

  • GOPHERS AT WISCONSIN • 11 a.m. today • Camp Randall Stadium • TV: ESPNU (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Detroit 69 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Portland 94 FINAL
Cleveland 99
Sacramento 102 FINAL
Toronto 119
Boston 98 FINAL
Minnesota 110
Dallas 94 FINAL
Houston 99
Denver 93 FINAL
New Orleans 85
Brooklyn 102 FINAL
Atlanta 113
Oklahoma City 92 FINAL
New York 100
Charlotte 86 FINAL
San Antonio 95
LA Clippers 94 FINAL
Utah 89
Washington 98 FINAL
Phoenix 106
Toronto 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Temple 86 FINAL
UCF 62
Winthrop 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 68
Lafayette 59 FINAL
Colgate 54
Northeastern 60 FINAL
Drexel 65
Wake Forest 76 FINAL
Florida State 82
Rhode Island 64 FINAL
Fordham 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
James Madison 88
South Carolina 58 FINAL
LSU 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Maine 58
Seton Hall 80 FINAL
Marquette 70
Binghamton 68 FINAL
UMBC 56
American Univ 54 FINAL
Navy 64
Elon 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 82
Wright State 76 FINAL
Oakland 84
Minnesota 58 FINAL
Penn State 63
Duquesne 55 FINAL
Richmond 86
SMU 63 FINAL
South Florida 52
Hartford 66 FINAL
Stony Brook 72
Albany 47 FINAL
Vermont 44
Hofstra 79 FINAL
William & Mary 100
UNC-Asheville 74 FINAL
Longwood 64
Radford 84 FINAL
Char Southern 77
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 77
Texas Tech 36 FINAL
Oklahoma 81
Oregon State 55 FINAL
Arizona State 73
Morehead State 82 FINAL
Austin Peay 69
Drake 69 FINAL
Bradley 57
Lehigh 62 FINAL
Bucknell 68
Rice 48 FINAL
Houston 59
Missouri State 57 FINAL
Illinois State 67
Loyola-Chicago 47 FINAL
Wichita State 58
Nebraska Omaha 64 FINAL
South Dakota St 86
Northern Iowa 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
Louisville 81 FINAL
Boston College 72
St Johns 74 FINAL
Creighton 77
East Carolina 58 FINAL
Memphis 70
Georgia Tech 70 FINAL
Miami-Florida 50
Miss State 73 FINAL
Ole Miss 79
Clemson 68 FINAL
NC State 57
Indiana 67 FINAL
Purdue 83
Kansas 64 FINAL
TCU 61
Oregon 56 FINAL
Arizona 90
Air Force 66 FINAL
San Jose St 52
Stanford 84 FINAL
Washington 74
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 71 FINAL
Binghamton 55
Akron 60 FINAL
Ohio U 72
Ball State 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 55
Memphis 56 FINAL
Cincinnati 44
East Carolina 32 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87
Murray State 59 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 75
Kent State 63 FINAL
Central Michigan 65
UT Martin 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 58
Eastern Michigan 56 FINAL
Western Mich 83
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Lehigh 76
Indiana 57 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Colgate 56 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Fordham 66 FINAL
Davidson 45
Duquesne 76 FINAL
St Bonaventure 64
George Mason 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 70
Detroit 59 FINAL
Youngstown St 58
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 58 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Oklahoma St 54 FINAL
Kansas State 52
West Virginia 57 FINAL
Texas Tech 73
Denver 56 FINAL
South Dakota 82
Northwestern St 46 FINAL
Central Arkansas 63
Austin Peay 67 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 87
Kansas 61 FINAL
Iowa State 56
Bowling Green 50 FINAL
Northern Ill 67
Penn State 64 FINAL
Minnesota 75
San Jose St 80 FINAL
Air Force 83
Boise State 82 FINAL
Colorado State 83
Utah State 51 FINAL
Wyoming 86
San Diego State 50 FINAL
Fresno State 57
Nevada 52 FINAL
UNLV 75
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close