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

Oakland 2 Bottom 1st Inning
Kansas City 0
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
NY Islanders 1 2nd Prd 10:52
Boston 1
NY Rangers 1 2nd Prd 8:40
Philadelphia 2
Ottawa 0 1st Prd 14:02
Winnipeg 0
Carolina 0 1st Prd 11:20
St. Louis 0
Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Dallas
Colorado 8:00 PM
Calgary
Los Angeles 9:30 PM
San Jose
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
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.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pm30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 am
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 Gophers do against Michigan?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close