For Kill and the Gophers, a bowl game of any flavor will do

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 24, 2012 - 6:59 AM

With his team in a three-loss rut, the coach is using a postseason game as motivation. Beating Purdue would put that goal within reach.

Before the season began, Jerry Kill refused to consider Little Caesars Pizza, downplayed Buffalo Wild Wings, didn't dare to dream of Outback steak.

But wow, is the Gophers coach hungry now.

"Our goal is to try to get [his graduating seniors] to a bowl game," Kill said Tuesday, making it clear that any of those pizzas, wings or steaks -- the title sponsors of three games in the Big Ten's bowl lineup -- would be fine with him, not to mention bowls named for Meineke Car Care, taxslayer.com, or the Heart of Dallas. "That's what we need to do."

Here's one more thing the Gophers need to do: Beat Purdue on Saturday. With five games remaining in the season, Minnesota needs two more victories to become eligible for its first bowl berth since 2009, and by coincidence, there are two winless teams (in Big Ten play) remaining on the Gophers schedule. The Boilermakers, a disappointing 3-4 after being touted as a Leaders Division dark horse this season, are one, and Illinois, which will play host to the Gophers on Nov. 10, is the other.

Those two games appear the most winnable for the Gophers by far, and Kill, who warily declined in August to posit a bowl game as his chief goal for his second season at Minnesota, is using that fact to motivate his team this week.

"We've got to find a way to rally the wagons here a little bit," Kill said. "We need to reward the seniors who have gone through so much."

They've certainly been through this before: The Gophers are on a three-game losing streak and at the bottom of the Legends Division again. Their progress has stalled since Big Ten play began, and while they have found reason for optimism in each successive loss, they might need a reminder, Kill said, of what's left to play for in 2012.

And there is plenty, he said.

"We're moving the program forward," Kill said. "Everything we accomplish in these [next five games] will help us keep that momentum next year, so we don't go back to square one. You don't get many opportunities to play a game, so shame on you if you don't take advantage of the ones you've got."

That's why the switch to freshman Philip Nelson at quarterback turned out to be a surprisingly easy call. Kill and his coaches tried to preserve Nelson's redshirt season, but now that he has been forced into the lineup, getting him experience in all kinds of situations might be the most important thing the Gophers do for the rest of the season.

"Our job is to make sure we keep teaching them. We have to be really good teachers right now," Kill said. "... Every snap that Philip takes gives him a little better understanding of what it takes to be successful."

Nelson got a crash course in that understanding on Saturday, completing 13 of 24 passes, two of them for touchdowns -- but two that were intercepted, too. He was nervous, he said, but his focus on the game made those jitters disappear after the first series. And he's far more ready than he was only a few months ago.

"I just remember last spring, everything was moving so fast, it was a blur," the 19-year-old starting quarterback said. "Being here in the spring helped a lot to clear up the picture. I feel a lot more confident out there."

Growing confidence in a few other young players, and identifying who might grow into next year's contributors, is another big goal for October and November. The Gophers don't have many seniors, but some are in critical roles, such as cornerbacks Troy Stoudermire and Michael Carter, linebackers Mike Rallis and Keanon Cooper, and defensive end D.L. Wilhite; finding successors is something that can begin now.

"I tell [the underclassmen] all the time, 'Some of y'all got to separate out a little bit,' " Kill said. "... We're trying to win now. But what we do now can help us win down the road."

Injury report

• Left tackle Ed Olson won't practice this week nor play on Saturday, Kill said, because of a leg injury he sustained against Northwestern, but his brother Tommy, the Gophers' left guard, is improving to the point where he could play if necessary.

• Receivers Devin Crawford-Tufts and Isaac Fruechte, who missed Saturday's game because of concussions, have been cleared to return this week. ... Safety Derrick Wells had his lacerated knee restitched, and might be able to practice later in the week. ... Receiver MarQueis Gray did not practice Tuesday because of his sprained left knee and ankle, but he is likely to be available against Purdue. ... And defensive tackle Roland Johnson has recovered from a leg injury and should play.

  • GOPHERS VS. PURDUE 2:30 p.m. Saturday • TCF Bank Stadium • TV: Big Ten Network (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 5 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: D. O`Day 3
Milwaukee - LP: J. Broxton 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Holdzkom 4
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda 5
Washington - WP: D. Fister 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: T. Koehler 2
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 3
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Cleveland - LP: K. Crockett 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: J. Burton 5
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 10 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 10 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 5
Arizona - LP: C. Anderson 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. Lyles 15
Cincinnati - LP: D. Holmberg 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Lackey 2
Philadelphia - LP: D. Buchanan 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 3
Texas - WP: L. Bonilla 12 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 3
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 5
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 5
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent 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.
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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close