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.

Etc.

• 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 rivals.com 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.

  • GAME NOTES

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - LP: M. Latos 4 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 5
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 9 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Greene 4
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 4 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 8 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Penny 6
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 0
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 2
Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 7
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: B. Peacock 8
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Webb 6 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: L. Oliveros 3
Texas - LP: M. Kirkman 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 2
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Locke 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 6
San Francisco - WP: G. Kontos 12 FINAL
Colorado - LP: M. Belisle 7
Seattle - WP: J. Paxton 6 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 5
Washington - LP: D. Fister 1 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 4
Arizona - LP: B. Ziegler 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: K. Quackenbush 2
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
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
Detroit
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Arizona
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) 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
(19) 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
(18) 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
(23) 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
Washington
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) 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
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) 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
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) 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
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) 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
(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(8) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) 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
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 13 FINAL
Calgary 28
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
Minnesota 78 FINAL
Phoenix 96
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