Gophers running game powers way to 222 yards

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 29, 2012 - 2:13 AM

Gophers running back Donnell Kirkwood celebrated his second-quarter touchdown Friday night.

Photo: Kevin M. Cox, Mct

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

HOUSTON - The quarterbacks get the attention, especially when there are two of them.

But it was the tailbacks, not quarterbacks, who carried the Gophers offense for much of the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Friday, and helped Minnesota come close to a victory over Texas Tech.

"We were able to do what we needed to do to win the game," coach Jerry Kill said. "We tried to keep possessions and keep the ball and keep them off the field. We did just about everything we could do to win this game."

The Gophers rushed for 222 yards against the Red Raiders, their third-highest total of the season, eclipsed only by their output against New Hampshire and Illinois, far worse defenses. Donnell Kirkwood gained 77 yards on 19 carries, while Rodrick Williams added 60 yards on 12 carries; each of them also scored a touchdown.

"They have big, strong running backs, and they were a handful," Red Raiders interim coach Chris Thomsen said.

Thanks to those backs -- plus MarQueis Gray's 59 rushing yards on 11 carries, including three third-down conversions -- the Gophers held the ball for 36 minutes, 18 seconds, a huge advantage over Texas Tech's 23:42.

Recruiting boost

Playing an extra game, and receiving bowl gifts that included a 30-inch flat-screen TV, were among the benefits that the Gophers players received for participating in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. But the football program itself hopes to reap a few more benefits five weeks from now.

That's when high school seniors can sign letters of intent with Division I programs, a process that Kill said has received a boost from Minnesota's presence in Reliant Stadium.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for us to make an impact" in recruiting, Kill said, especially since the Gophers recruit Texas so heavily. A dozen current players are Texas natives, and the Gophers have received verbal commitments from at least two more this year.

In addition to preparing the current team, Gophers coaches have spent the month emphasizing to recruits how much progress the program has made, and how much fun the players are having at a bowl game.

"We've got some great players from the state of Texas," Kill said. "So it gives us the opportunity to be in a state where it's richly loaded with great coaching, great high school coaching, and great players. It helps us in a lot of ways."

New faces in charge

Bowl games are supposed to be a reward for a successful season, but many coaches get their reward before the game ever occurs, in the form of new jobs at higher salaries. (Well, a lot of them get bowl-game bonuses, too; Kill was paid an extra $25,000 for leading the Gophers into the Meineke Car Care Bowl.)

The December coaching merry-go-round, however, means an increasing number of bowl teams are led by interim coaches. Last year, two bowls (UCLA-Illinois and Houston-Penn State) featured temporary coaches on both sidelines.

Texas Tech lived that situation Friday, for the second time in three bowl appearances, because of Tommy Tuberville's decision to accept the coaching job at Cincinnati. That left the task of leading the Red Raiders to Thomsen, the offensive line coach, who juggled game preparations with job-hunting last week. Thomsen, completing his first and only season in Lubbock, reportedly found work on the staff of new California coach Sonny Dykes, according to the Houston Chronicle.

NCAA record finally his

It took to the final game of his college career, but Gophers senior Troy Stoudermire broke the NCAA record for kickoff return yardage in a career when he took the opening kick of the game 26 yards.

Stoudermire finished with 111 yards in kickoff returns, giving him 3,615 for his career. That surpassed the mark of Houston's Tyron Carrier, who finished his career last season with 3,517 yards.


• Seven personal fouls were called in the game, four on the Red Raiders and three on the Gophers. Back-to-back penalties on Gophers offensive lineman Zac Epping in a second-quarter drive resulted in a third-and-49 situation, and forced the Gophers' first punt. "We told the kids to play hard and keep their composure," Kill said. "We talked about it at halftime and I think we moved forward from it."

• The announced attendance was 50,386, though the crowd seemed several thousand people smaller than that. Gophers fans were outnumbered roughly 5-to-1.

• Officials, headed by referee Tom McCabe, were provided by the Mid-American Conference.

• With temperatures dipping below 50 degrees by game time, the retractable roof on Reliant Stadium was kept closed.

• The Meineke Car Care Bowl (or Houston Bowl as it was previously named) has an unusually illustrious roster of MVPs. Ray Rice, a tailback now starring for the Baltimore Ravens, won the honor with Rutgers in 2006, and current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was MVP with TCU in 2007. The last two MVPs were Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure, now with the Lions, and Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, now with the Dolphins.

• According to Gopher Illustrated, a website that closely follows Minnesota recruiting, the team this week received a commitment from a 6-5, 250-pound Under Armour All-America player this week from Pace, Fla. His position? He's a place-kicker. Really.


  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 108 FINAL
Sacramento 107
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Golden State 114
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 6
Edmonton 3 FINAL
San Jose 4
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
UAB 70
Ohio 69 FINAL
Evansville 81
CS-Dominguez 50 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 72
Walla Walla 39 FINAL
Idaho 86
DePaul 59 FINAL
Oregon State 90
Nevada 65 FINAL
Pacific 69
Portland State 40 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Bakersfield 56 FINAL
Utah State 57
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Santa Clara 88 FINAL
Oregon 92
(19) Oklahoma St 55 FINAL
Weber State 49
Washington 69 FINAL
San Diego State 48
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
New Mexico 84
(10) Louisville 65 FINAL
Grand Canyon 51
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


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




question of the day

Poll: How much do you like the Gophers going to the Citrus Bowl?

Weekly Question