Scoggins: Kill picks wrong time to make a big gamble

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 3, 2012 - 8:31 PM

The Gophers football team trailed Michigan 14-7 at home in the third quarter Saturday afternoon. The Gophers had an opportunity to trim that deficit with a 37-yard field-goal attempt on fourth-and-16 midway through the quarter.

Easy decision, right?

Jerry Kill gambled. And it backfired.

Kill signaled in a fake field goal designed to sneak a quick pass to quarterback Philip Nelson near the sideline. Michigan recognized it late and stopped Nelson after a 5-yard gain, well short of the first down.

Why take such a risk in that situation?

"We haven't beat Michigan in 35 years at home," Kill said afterward. "You've got to go make a play. We ran that same situation -- I don't know, 10 years ago -- and we scored and I was a hero. In this situation, it's 14-7, a field goal gets it to 14-10, but they're moving the ball and we know they're a pretty good football team. Nobody covered [Nelson] and we just threw it behind him. We're just trying to make something happen at that point."

Instead, that play symbolized a day of missed opportunities for the Gophers, a chance to beat an average Michigan team (by its lofty standards) that played without dynamic quarterback Denard Robinson.

Naturally, Michigan took the gift and scored on its ensuing possession to gain control of what eventually turned into a 35-13 victory at TCF Bank Stadium.

But forget the final score for a second. It doesn't tell the whole story. This wasn't the 58-0 drubbing the Gophers endured last season. This wasn't the typical one-sided snoozer that precedes the Wolverines packing up the Little Brown Jug for another year.

The Gophers competed hard and gave themselves a chance to win the game. They just blew their opportunity. Simple as that.

They squandered terrific field position in the first quarter. They failed to score touchdowns twice inside the 5-yard line. They had some head-scratching play calls at key moments. And they allowed a guy (Devin Gardner) who hadn't taken a snap at quarterback all season to throw for 234 yards and complete passes of 45, 47 and 47 yards.

"We didn't make plays when we had opportunities," Kill said.

The fake field goal call -- and the entire sequence of plays that led up to it -- highlighted their frustrating performance. The Gophers had the ball on first down at the 13. A run by Donnell Kirkwood lost 1 yard. On second down, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover called a trick play to K.J. Maye that lost 5 yards. Nelson threw incomplete on third down.

Rather than play it safe and get points, Kill made a risky call with the fake.

"We're going to try and win a football game," he said. "It doesn't matter what you do in life, if you [take] the conservative approach in everything we do, sometimes that doesn't work."

He's right, but that wasn't the time to gamble. Kill's willingness to be aggressive and take risks and show confidence in his players is commendable. It shows he has guts. But he needed to play the percentages in that situation. This wasn't fourth-and-2 or even fourth-and-7. They needed 16 yards.

That decision makes more sense in games where the Gophers feel severely overmatched and a go-for-broke mindset is their only real hope. That wasn't the case Saturday. The fact they were in the game and were competitive didn't feel like a fluke. They didn't need to trick their way into anything.

The game snowballed on the Gophers after that. They had more chances to make things interesting, but they failed to capitalize in those moments. And the Wolverines pounced on every opportunity, even without their star quarterback.

That's why the Gophers looked so deflated after the game. This wasn't like last season when the Wolverines jumped on them from the start and gave them no chance. They were embarrassed that day. They were frustrated on Saturday.

"Really the game was pretty simple," Kill said. "The University of Michigan made some plays to win the game, and we couldn't make a play in critical times. They made more plays than us."

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Minnesota Gophers football vs. Michigan. Michigan won 35-13. A fake fi...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets - LP: J. Familia 6 FINAL
Miami - WP: A. Ramos 9
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 7 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Boston - LP: B. Badenhop 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: G. Balfour 4
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 6 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4
Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: S. Maness 5
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Turner 4
Detroit - WP: D. Price 12 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 1
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Hammel 6
San Francisco - WP: J. Affeldt 4 FINAL
Colorado - LP: C. Friedrich 2
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Ross 3
San Francisco - LP: S. Romo 9 FINAL
Colorado - WP: L. Hawkins 10
Washington - WP: G. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Los Angeles - LP: R. Hernandez 4
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 3 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 4
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Indiana 84 FINAL
Chicago 86
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 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
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: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close