Hartman: Gophers likely to start football season with a win streak

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 29, 2013 - 9:40 AM

Tonight’s foe has lost 22 road games in a row, and the Gophers probably will go 5-0 before October.

The University of Minnesota Athletic Department is admitting 6,000 freshman for free to Thursday night’s Gophers football matchup with UNLV and has sold 3,000 tickets to other students, and there are a bunch of other cheap ticket options for the home opener.

But I believe the game with the Rebels isn’t going to tell you much about how good the men of Jerry Kill’s squad are or what its prospects are for having a winning season.

The Gophers will face a team that has lost 22 road games in a row, and I look for Minnesota to dictate the score.

There isn’t a single player on the Rebels roster who has won a road game at UNLV.

Coach Bobby Hauck, who has presided over 20 of those 22 road losses, told the Las Vegas Sun this week, “We need to flip that switch at some point. Whether it’s this Thursday or not we’ll see.”

In fact, unless the Gophers lose to San Jose State, which is led by a great quarterback in David Fales, who had a 72.5 completion percentage last year for a team that was 11-2, I expect the Gophers to be 5-0 when they go to Michigan on Oct. 5.

There is lot of optimism at the Bierman Building among Kill and his staff.

“All I can say is we’ve had a great camp,” Kill said. “The kids have been focused in camp, they’ve worked hard, they’ve done what we’ve asked them to do.

“We’re a stronger football team and seem to have more speed. It has been fun to work with them; they’ve very coachable.

“To this point and time it has been a lot of fun and the kids have done a great job. Our expectations are like everybody else’s, and we want to be better than we were a year ago. I think we are, but you have to prove that. You can’t talk about it, you have to go out and do it.”

Kill added that the team is stronger than it has been in the past and said the one position that might be a concern is center, where injuries have caused some worries.

“We’ve had to do some things at center because of the loss of Zach Mottla and Brian Bobek is not cleared to play yet,” Kill said. “Jon Christenson has done a good job. We moved Tommy Olson over, who has done a good job. We do have a little bit of depth there. I don’t think you ever have enough. They’re all still learning.

“The only senior [on the offensive line] we have up there right now is Eddie Olson, and Eddie is coming off major surgery. So there’s still a learning curve there.”

Offensively a year ago, the team did pretty well. But the big problem was an improved but still deficient defense.

“The defense improved from the first year to the second year, and we expect them to improve from the second year to the third year,” Kill said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that. We made a huge improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 with the kids we recruited. It may take a little bit, but our coaches feel that we’re a lot farther along learningwise than we were a year ago.”

Yes, if quarterback Philip Nelson has a good year, I look for the Gophers to embarrass those media members who picked them to finish last in their division.

Jackson to join Wolves

Bobby Jackson, a great basketball player for the Gophers and for several teams in the NBA, is going to join the Timberwolves coaching staff as an assistant, according to President Flip Saunders. Jackson has a lot of familiarity with Rick Adelman, having played five seasons under him with the Sacramento Kings.

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