Kirkwood's injury further depletes Gophers' RB corps

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2013 - 1:18 AM
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UNLV defensive lineman Sonny Sanitoa tackled Gophers running back Donnell Kirkwood for a 4-yard loss in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. Tackle Marek Lenkiewicz (74) could only watch helplessly.

Photo: RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER • reneejones@startribune.com,

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The Gophers suffered one key injury in Thursday night’s season opener. Junior running back Donnell Kirkwood twisted his right ankle.

Kirkwood, who led Minnesota with 926 rushing yards last season, was carted off the field for X-rays in the third quarter and returned to the sidelines in a boot.

The team didn’t specify his injury after the game, but coach Jerry Kill called it a “turned ankle.”

The injury continued to cut into the team’s depth at running back. True freshman Berkley Edwards, who was expected to play against UNLV, sprained his right ankle at practice last week.

Kill said that he thinks Edwards could be ready to return to practice next week.

Rodrick Williams didn’t make an appearance until after Kirkwood left the game and finished with 11 carries for 34 yards. David Cobb spelled Kirkwood early in the game and broke a 60-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Kill said compared to the secondary, the team isn’t as deep at running back and acknowledged that he’s concerned.

 

Also out or injured

• Junior cornerback Derrick Wells, who had shoulder and hamstring injuries during training camp, was on the field but wasn’t suited up.

• Junior tight end Drew Goodger suffered an unspecified injury during the game.

After further review

If fans noticed more replays being shown Thursday, it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Big Ten lifted all of its replay restrictions this week, allowing teams to show as many replays of each play as they want.

Before, teams could show just one replay of each play at no less than 75 percent full speed.

Teams even have the discretion to run controversial decisions by the referees, over and over again, with Commissioner Jim Delany determined to enhance the fan experience.

Tadd Wilson, who controls which replays are shown at TCF Bank Stadium as the Gophers video/scoreboard operations manager, said, “It was definitely an exciting e-mail to get, saying this was in effect.”

Wilson said he has eight camera angles at his disposal, and “If we have all eight, we’ll show all eight.”

Previously, “If it was controversial, we’d hold off,” he said.

Wilson said he’d still be careful not to draw attention to a call that went the Gophers’ way, especially right after a play, when the officials could still review it.

“As long as we know it’s not going to hurt the Gophers, we’ll show it,” he said.

Starter decisions

Jon Christenson got the start at center and Marek Lenkiewicz at left tackle, leaving the Olson brothers — Tommy and Ed — on the second unit.

Peter Mortell emerged from a four-man battle as the starting punter, and averaged 36 yards on his two first-half punts.

Chris Hawthorne handled the kicking duties and sent his first two kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks, but missed a first-half extra point.

Etc.

Hendrick Ekpe, a freshman defensive end, made his presence felt immediately with a pair of tackles. Freshmen wide receivers Donovahn Jones and Drew Wolitarsky made appearances, though neither caught a pass.

• Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jamel Harbison didn’t suit up, and Kill hinted he’d been late for a team meeting, saying players need to be accountable.

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