Gophers Insider: Kill accentuates the positive after U's bowl loss

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2012 - 2:19 AM

A late collapse cost the Gophers a bowl victory, but their coach found solace in looking forward.

hide

Rodrick Williams, who scored a touchdown on Friday night, is one of the many Gophers offensive players returning next season.

Photo: Dave Einsel, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

HOUSTON - Say it fast enough, and "Jerry Kill" can sound like "Jekyll." But watch him on the sideline, and the Gophers coach is all Mr. Hyde.

Yet for all the raging and raving the Gophers coach did at the Meineke Car Care Bowl officiating crew Friday night, for as agonizing and pitiless the finish was when Minnesota's lead slipped away, Kill was phlegmatic in discussing the season-ending, 34-31 loss afterward. The impression was clear: Kill badly wanted to win -- but he considered the Gophers winners already.

"You have to understand, after looking at the number of bowl games we have been to at Minnesota, I know where we were when I took the job," Kill said moments after the Gophers were victimized by a last-minute Texas Tech rally. "Where we were a year ago and where we are now, there is no comparison. Coming here and having the opportunity to win, the way we played, there is no question that we are moving forward. ... Even though we didn't win, the game will certainly help us."

Kill's stoic view is that the loss was unfortunate, but merely a missed opportunity to pass another milestone. The real work of building a team that routinely wins postseason games goes on.

Longtime Gophers fans might not be so sure; they have seen collapses like this before. They have watched their team lose five consecutive bowl games now, the past four to Big 12 opponents, and their team has lost more games than it has won in six of the past seven years. A certain it's-always-something hopelessness, reinforced by the Red Raiders' 10-points-in-70-seconds comeback Friday, set in long ago.

But Kill has reasons for optimism, and they go beyond the rejuvenation of the Gophers offense and the gradual improvement of their defense. Healthy and well-prepared, the Gophers played arguably their best game of the year against capable opposition -- and the coming overhaul of their two-deep offers more hope.

Quarterback will be the focus once more, and the Gophers should benefit from the end to the three-man carousel that injuries forced upon them this year. After a valuable, if ultimately painful, night facing a veteran Texas Tech defense, Philip Nelson will return as the prohibitive favorite to run the offense.

"If we ever get in that situation again, we should be able to execute better," said the 19-year-old freshman, who threw a pair of touchdown passes, breaking his three-game streak without one, and ran for 26 yards. Nelson's confidence appeared to grow, and while he overthrew a few receivers and got unlucky on a bad bounce off Derrick Engel's hands that turned into the game-deciding interception, it was an encouraging night. Especially since he sounded intent on rewriting the finish.

"This game is going to put a huge chip on our shoulder," Nelson said. "Guys are already talking about getting into the weight room, getting better for next year."

Nelson will be challenged by Mitch Leidner, another freshman who quarterbacked the scout team this year, and incoming recruit Chris Streveler, a run-pass threat in the mold of some of Kill's great QBs at Northern Illinois. It's a frighteningly young corps, but offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said talent will matter more than experience.

"We've proved that if a freshman comes in and he's the best one, that man will play," Limegrover said. "[Leidner and Nelson] will have gone through two springs, two preseasons and a bowl season by the time we get to next year's opener. I'm excited. We're in good hands moving forward."

They would like to find a few more pass-catching hands, a glaring deficiency this year, though the return to health of Jamel Harbison and Marcus Jones should help. They will try to add a speed back to go with the power running game that Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams showed off in Houston. And the entire offensive line will return intact, and deeper than ever; no players will be lost to graduation, former Ohio State center Brian Bobek will be eligible, and redshirt freshmen Jonah Pirsig and Isaac Hayes will compete for playing time, too.

"It takes a few years to build a line," Limegrover said, "but once you do, it makes everything work better."

Defensively, the Gophers lose much more to graduation, including both starting cornerbacks, a pair of starting linebackers and their best pass-rushing lineman. But Minnesota showed its greater depth in the secondary against the Red Raiders, holding them scoreless for most of the second half. Defensive backs such as Briean Boddy, Jeremy Baltazar and Antonio Johnson appear ready to step in for Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire, and the Gophers already have received a commitment for next year from a highly rated junior-college middle linebacker, Damien Wilson of Ellisville, Miss.

"It's always tough to lose a class of seniors, and these guys are special because we asked them to get us pointed in the right direction," Kill said. "Whatever success we have ahead of us, they'll be a part of it. Now it's up to the young guys to keep it going that way."

Phil Miller • phil.miller@startribune.com

  • MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL LATE FRIDAY: TEXAS TECH 34, GOPHERS 31

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 7 1st Qtr 10:47
New England 0
Cleveland 0 1st Qtr 9:58
Baltimore 0
Dallas 3 1st Qtr 10:09
Washington 0
Indianapolis 0 1st Qtr 9:02
Tennessee 0
Jacksonville 0 1st Qtr 11:35
Houston 0
San Diego 0 1st Qtr 7:08
Kansas City 0
NY Jets 0 1st Qtr 9:04
Miami 0
Chicago 0 1st Qtr 9:58
Minnesota 0
Philadelphia 7 1st Qtr 11:00
NY Giants 7
New Orleans 0 1st Qtr 10:34
Tampa Bay 0
Carolina 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Detroit 3:30 PM
Cleveland
Houston 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Oklahoma City 6:30 PM
Dallas
New York 8:00 PM
Portland
Toronto 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
Toronto 4:00 PM
Florida
Vancouver 7:00 PM
Anaheim
Tulane 34 2nd Half 15:27
St Johns 56
Central Conn St 7 1st Half 15:57
Connecticut 9
Iona 12 1st Half 16:18
Drexel 7
Concordia (MI) 3 1st Half 15:40
Eastern Mich 9
Harvard 1:00 PM
Arizona State
Longwood 1:00 PM
Ball State
Sacred Heart 1:00 PM
Brown
Colgate 1:00 PM
Columbia
MD-Eastern Shore 1:00 PM
Duquesne
UNC Greensboro 1:00 PM
East Carolina
Marist 1:00 PM
Elon
NJIT 1:00 PM
Lafayette
Cincinnati Christian 1:00 PM
Liberty
Morgan State 1:00 PM
Marquette
Campbell 1:00 PM
Samford
Bucknell 1:00 PM
Siena
Long Beach State 1:00 PM
Syracuse
Coppin State 1:05 PM
Evansville
UMKC 1:05 PM
Indiana State
Hofstra 1:30 PM
Long Island
Coast Guard 2:00 PM
Army
Thomas (GA) 2:00 PM
High Point
Texas Southern 2:00 PM
Kansas State
Rutgers 2:00 PM
Monmouth
NC Wesleyan 2:00 PM
NC A&T
South Dakota St 2:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Central Penn College 2:00 PM
Radford
Bowling Green 2:00 PM
South Florida
Harris-Stowe 2:00 PM
SE Missouri St
Robert Morris-IL 2:00 PM
SIU Edwardsville
Northland College 2:00 PM
North Dakota St
Milwaukee 2:00 PM
South Dakota
Northwestern St 2:30 PM
Arkansas
Saint Peters 3:00 PM
Cornell
St Katherine 3:00 PM
Fresno State
Haskell 3:00 PM
Oral Roberts
Wake Forest 3:00 PM
Richmond
Fla Gulf Coast 3:00 PM
Xavier
SD Christian 3:05 PM
Northern Ariz
Judson 3:30 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Ill-Chicago 4:00 PM
Bradley
Loyola-Maryland 4:00 PM
Fairfield
Miss Valley St 4:00 PM
Houston
Lehigh 4:00 PM
UMBC
Delaware State 4:00 PM
Temple
Belmont 5:00 PM
Butler
Howard 5:00 PM
Fordham
NW Christian 5:00 PM
Nevada
UC Davis 5:00 PM
Washington St
Abilene Christian 5:00 PM
Grand Canyon
UCLA 5:30 PM
Alabama
Stony Brook 7:00 PM
Washington
Buffalo 7:00 PM
Wisconsin
CS-Bakersfield 9:00 PM
California
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Drexel 45 2nd Half 14:05
Miami-Ohio 28
Holy Cross 40 2nd Half 14:00
Norfolk State 44
East Carolina 26 2nd Half 20:00
South Florida 29
(10) Oregon State 11 1st Half 14:00
(8) Tennessee 12
Providence 9 1st Half 17:03
Boston College 2
Florida A&M 9 1st Half 13:49
Miami-Florida 7
Oakland 9 1st Half 15:25
Central Michigan 5
Chattanooga 7 1st Half 16:31
SIU-Edwardsville 9
Fairfield 2 1st Half 15:38
La Salle 5
St Francis-PA 1:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Milwaukee 1:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Gardner-Webb 1:00 PM
Longwood
New Hampshire 1:00 PM
Manhattan
Bucknell 1:00 PM
Binghamton
Northeastern 1:00 PM
Albany
George Mason 1:00 PM
Towson
Richmond 1:00 PM
William & Mary
Tulane 1:00 PM
Cincinnati
North Florida 1:00 PM
Florida
(14) Georgia 1:00 PM
Seton Hall
Tennessee St 1:00 PM
(12) Kentucky
American Univ 1:00 PM
Wake Forest
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Boston U
Quinnipiac 1:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Lafayette 1:00 PM
Saint Peters
Northwestern 1:00 PM
(20) Michigan State
Duquesne 1:00 PM
Lehigh
George Washington 1:00 PM
Loyola-Maryland
(17) Rutgers 1:00 PM
Indiana
(24) Green Bay 1:00 PM
Dayton
Western Mich 1:30 PM
Stony Brook
Davidson 1:30 PM
Virginia
UNC Greensboro 2:00 PM
LSU
Denver 2:00 PM
North Texas
VA Commonwealth 2:00 PM
Coppin State
Huston-Tillotson 2:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Lamar 2:00 PM
Rice
Miss Valley St 2:00 PM
Alabama
Saint Louis 2:00 PM
Eastern Illinois
Middle Tennessee 2:00 PM
Tenn Tech
Penn State 2:00 PM
(23) Iowa
Purdue 2:00 PM
Illinois
DePaul 2:05 PM
Illinois State
Sam Houston St 2:05 PM
Wichita State
South Dakota 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(4) Notre Dame 3:00 PM
UCLA
Coll of Charleston 3:00 PM
SC State
Alcorn State 3:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Dartmouth 3:00 PM
Niagara
Colgate 3:00 PM
Siena
Michigan 3:00 PM
Wisconsin
Fla Gulf Coast 3:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Yale 3:30 PM
(25) Arizona State
UC Santa Barbara 4:00 PM
(16) Stanford
Long Island 4:00 PM
Long Beach St
Jackson State 4:00 PM
Louisiana
Eureka 4:30 PM
Western Ill
Cornell 5:00 PM
(22) Syracuse
Temple 7:30 PM
Memphis
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

<
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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What's your favorite Gophers football uniform colors?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close