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 Ellisvile, 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

Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 7
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: M. Melancon 0
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 3
Cleveland - WP: T. House 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 3
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 3
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 5 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 8
San Diego 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
D.C. 3 FINAL
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
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 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
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: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close