Phil Miller's Gophers Insider: Jerry Kill should stay upbeat

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 22, 2012 - 7:33 AM

The coach is reinforcing what's going right and keeping players from getting too down on themselves.

hide

Gophers coach Jerry Kill

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

There was no mistaking Sunday how much last week took out of Jerry Kill, how beaten-down he was during one of the most difficult weeks of his coaching career -- one that began with a hospital stay, became consumed by a tsunami of public criticism over future scheduling, and closed with a 25-point loss to Wisconsin. The day after his team fell to 0-3 in the Big Ten, Kill was relentlessly, doggedly ... upbeat?

That he was, and for good reason. Five games remain in the Gophers' season, and allowing his players, or even himself, to wallow in defeat would only make matters worse, Kill said. So weekend film sessions would focus on mistakes, sure, but also reinforce all that is going right.

"There are some good things going on here," Kill said. "You've just got to really look hard at it right now."

That message is difficult to sell to the public when you're 0-3 in the Big Ten, Kill said, but it's critical that his players understand it.

"There is so much negativity around. When you go into a program that hasn't won for a lot of years, there's instant negativity, and more so now because of all the social media and stuff," Kill said. "That can get to the kids. They don't need to hear it when they come in Sunday with the coaches, because they're so pounded down by then."

Kill took a pummeling himself last week, on and off the field, but said that's nothing he hasn't been through at his other coaching stops. The important thing is to keep the players from buying into those opinions.

"I know what losing does to you, the frustration. You take that and put it on a 19-year-old kid -- I worry about that. I worry about the kids and their mindset," Kill said. "You don't want them saying, 'Well, I'm not any good.' No, no, no, no, no. ... We're all we've got at the end of the day. We'll go to work, and it'll be all right."

That message was reinforced, Kill said, when Wisconsin's Hall of Fame former coach and current athletic director, Barry Alvarez, waited for him by the team bus after the game. Wisconsin's two decades of success are Alvarez's legacy, but they began with three consecutive losing seasons, of which he reminded Kill.

"There are people who understand we're going the right way," Kill said, "but it's always reassuring to hear from people who have been there before."

There were plenty of reasons for optimism in Saturday's loss, Kill said, most notably the debut of freshman quarterback Philip Nelson, who the coach made clear will be the starter for the foreseeable future. Nelson's first series was a dud -- two running plays that moved the ball only 2 yards, and a fumbled snap that cost 11 yards and forced a punt. Yet as Nelson came off the field, Kill was struck by his demeanor: annoyed, but unbowed.

"It didn't bother him. ... He's a pretty intense kid. Very confident. Believes in what he's doing," Kill said of the 19-year-old freshman. "He was very composed the whole game."

He avoided sacks by stepping out of trouble and eluded tacklers when he ran with the ball. He made a few freshman errors, but he didn't act like a terrified teenager because of them.

"He throws an interception, he's [upset], but he gets over there and talks to the receiver," Kill said. "It isn't like he's apologizing -- he wants to know what he needs to do to get it fixed."

Now the coach is looking for similar answers about his entire team, with an urgency about finishing this season strong. The Gophers are 4-3 on the season, still two victories away from qualifying from their first bowl game since 2009. An extra game, any game, is important, he said, and not just as a symbol of progress.

"We've got to find a way to rally the wagons here a little bit. We need to reward the seniors who have gone through so much," Kill said. "These kids have survived a lot of changes. They're coming to work every day. They're doing everything they can. We can't let them get down on themselves."

Phil Miller • phil.miller@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Marshall 52 FINAL
Northern Ill 23
Navy 17 FINAL
San Diego St 16
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
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 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

<
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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What's your favorite Gophers football uniform colors?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close