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

Atlanta 12:05 PM
Detroit
Philadelphia 12:05 PM
Houston
St. Louis 12:05 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12:05 PM
Tampa Bay
NY Yankees 12:05 PM
Pittsburgh
Chicago Cubs 2:05 PM
San Francisco
Los Angeles 2:05 PM
Chicago WSox
San Diego 2:05 PM
Seattle
Cleveland 2:05 PM
Cincinnati
Milwaukee 2:05 PM
LA Angels
Oakland 2:05 PM
Chicago Cubs
Texas 2:05 PM
Kansas City
Colorado 2:10 PM
Arizona
NY Mets 4:05 PM
Washington
Boston 6:05 PM
Minnesota
Toronto 6:05 PM
Baltimore
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 9:30 PM
Portland
Calgary 6:00 PM
Boston
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
Florida
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Nashville
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Arizona
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 3:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Niagara 4:00 PM
Siena
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Navy 6:00 PM
Colgate
Temple 6:00 PM
East Carolina
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Lafayette
American Univ 6:00 PM
Lehigh
Wisconsin 6:00 PM
Minnesota
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Saint Peters
Arkansas 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Morehead State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
North Florida
Southern Ill 6:05 PM
Missouri State
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 6:30 PM
FIU
Texas-Arlington 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
ULM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Lamar
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Nicholls
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
TX A&M-CC
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Arizona
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Belmont
Memphis 8:00 PM
Connecticut
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Davidson
Ark-Pine Bluff 8:00 PM
Miss Valley St
Marist 8:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Washington
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Drake
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 34 2nd Half 14:50
Canisius 31
Wake Forest 10:00 AM
(22) Syracuse
Saint Louis 10:30 AM
VA Commonwealth
Saint Peters 10:30 AM
Rider
UNC-Asheville 11:00 AM
Liberty
UNC Greensboro 11:00 AM
(17) Chattanooga
Michigan State 11:30 AM
Michigan
Arkansas 12:00 PM
Ole Miss
Manhattan 12:30 PM
Niagara
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Richmond
Virginia 1:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Campbell 1:00 PM
Winthrop
Jacksonville St 1:00 PM
Belmont
Morgan State 1:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Furman 1:15 PM
Samford
Oregon 1:30 PM
Washington St
Indiana 1:55 PM
(23) Rutgers
Pepperdine 2:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Auburn 2:25 PM
(18) Texas A&M
Morehead St 3:00 PM
Tennessee St
George Mason 3:30 PM
Saint Josephs
Western Carolina 3:30 PM
East Tenn St
Arizona 4:00 PM
UCLA
Texas State 4:00 PM
Appalachian St
TX-Arlington 4:00 PM
Georgia Southern
SC State 4:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 4:30 PM
Coppin State
Portland 4:30 PM
Santa Clara
Norfolk State 4:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 4:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 5:00 PM
Florida A&M
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Central Arkansas 5:00 PM
Nicholls
Houston Baptist 5:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
Radford
Georgia 5:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 5:00 PM
Marshall
Ark-Little Rock 5:00 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 5:05 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 5:15 PM
ULM
Sam Houston St 5:30 PM
Lamar
SE Louisiana 5:30 PM
New Orleans
Northwestern St 5:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Alabama A&M 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Grambling
Ark-Pine Bluff 5:30 PM
Miss Valley St
Southern U 5:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Wofford 5:45 PM
Mercer
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word
La Salle 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Illinois 6:00 PM
Nebraska
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Rice
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
Oakland
Missouri State 6:05 PM
Indiana State
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
UAB
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Evansville
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Drake
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
USC
San Francisco 8:00 PM
Pacific
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Idaho
Purdue 8:25 PM
Minnesota
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
Washington
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA
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: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close