Although the Gophers put up their most points yet at TCF Bank Stadium, they still face questions at running back and receiver.
For a team that scored 51 points, the Gophers sure opened questions about their offense Thursday.
After watching his players use two special teams touchdowns and a defensive touchdown to pull away from UNLV, 51-23, coach Jerry Kill acknowledged Friday that the Gophers still have a long way to go.
But Kill also didn’t want offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover beating himself up after UNLV outgained the Gophers by nearly 100 yards, 419-320. The offense is trying to show progress after being held to 17 or fewer points in eight games last season.
“Coach Limegrover’s been in here today, [saying] ‘Boy, Coach,’ ” Kill said, from his office. “I said, ‘Hey, relax man. It’s the first ballgame.’ ”
The next one comes Sept. 7 at New Mexico State, and even with two extra days to prepare, the Gophers could be without two running backs.
Donnell Kirkwood, who led the team with 926 rushing yards last year, appeared to sprain his right ankle in the third quarter, when UNLV linebacker Tau Lotulelei rolled onto his leg. Kill said he didn’t have an update available, but it sounds like Kirkwood will be out until at least Week 3 against Western Illinois.
Kill had hoped freshman running back Berkley Edwards would return from his sprained ankle injury next week, but on Friday, the coach didn’t sound as optimistic. That means David Cobb (six carries, 69 yards against UNLV) and Rodrick Williams Jr. (four carries, 13 yards) could have to shoulder the load.
The Gophers have waited two years for Cobb to start reaching the potential he showed in rushing for nearly 3,000 yards at Ellison (Texas) High School. He broke off a 60-yard run in the fourth quarter against UNLV, using a nifty cut behind the line of scrimmage and a fast burst along the sideline.
“I don’t want Donnell to get hurt, but it’s good that David got some time and did well,” Kill said.
The Gophers are built to emphasize the running game, so these injuries could force them to rely on other strengths against a New Mexico State team that went 1-11 last season.
Quarterback Philip Nelson had some good moments and some bad moments against UNLV. He completed 10-of-22 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown and rushed 12 times for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
Nelson threw one interception, but that came early on a deep pass that Kill thought Derrick Engel should have caught.
“He’s got to go get that ball; that’s part of being a receiver,” Kill said.
Nelson targeted Engel several times, but the two didn’t connect for a completion. KJ Maye led the team with three catches for 30 yards.
Kill made it clear he’ll be counting on freshmen receivers Donovahn Jones, Drew Wolitarsky and Eric Carter because it’s all hands on deck at that position.
It sounds like Jones’ conversion from quarterback is speeding up fast.
“He’s going to get pushed more this week; there’s no question about that,” Kill said. “Right now, we need a receiver that’s physical and can go get a football. Not that we don’t have that. Derrick [Engel’s] very capable, he’s proven that. Isaac Fruechte [has, too]. We just need more.”
Kill also sounds determined to get tight end/H-back Maxx Williams more involved in the offense. A redshirt freshman, Williams made his first career reception count with a lunging grab of Nelson’s 10-yard touchdown pass late in the first half.
|Boston||8||Bottom 6th Inning|
|Toronto||0||Top 8th Inning|
|Oklahoma City||50||3rd Qtr|
|Calgary||3||3rd Prd 2:16|
|Minnesota||2||3rd Prd 3:11|
|NY Islanders||2||2nd Prd 4:20|
|Vancouver||0||1st Prd 10:06|
|Holy Cross||77||1st OT 1:01|
|Fla Gulf Coast||62|
|Texas State||64||2nd Half 0:22|
|SC State||49||2nd Half 7:22|
|Delaware State||93||2nd Half 1:51|
|Texas-Arlington||61||2nd Half 2:25|
|Norfolk State||65||2nd Half 6:32|
|NC A&T||50||2nd Half 5:45|
|Savannah State||28||2nd Half|
|Southern Miss||37||2nd Half 11:47|
|Marshall||38||2nd Half 11:07|
|Rice||63||2nd Half 6:56|
|South Alabama||47||2nd Half|
|Alabama State||18||1st Half 9:50|
|Alabama A&M||19||1st Half 5:00|
|Sam Houston St||9||1st Half 10:12|
|Georgia State||28||2nd Half 18:33|
|Central Arkansas||24||2nd Half|
|Portland State||23||2nd Half|
|Southern U||15||1st Half 10:58|
|Alcorn State||21||1st Half 5:00|
|Houston Baptist||29||2nd Half|
|Ark-Little Rock||20||1st Half 3:11|
|SE Louisiana||15||1st Half 11:45|
|California||14||1st Half 10:53|
|Memphis||22||1st Half 7:29|
|VA Commonwealth||9||1st Half 11:46|
|Miss Valley St||0|
|Sacramento St||19||1st Half 7:49|
|Northwestern St||16||1st Half 11:30|
|Stephen F Austin||21|
|North Texas||15||1st Half 7:42|
|Colorado||20||1st Half 7:42|
|Idaho||11||1st Half 10:48|
|Abilene Christian||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Eastern Wash||28||1st Half 5:44|
|Marist||8||1st Half 15:30|
|Eastern Ill||0||1st Half 18:31|
|Cal State Fullerton||9:00 PM|
|Long Beach State|
|UC Riverside||9:00 PM|
|(18) Texas A&M||57|
|East Tenn St||73|
|Sam Houston St||73||FINAL|
|Stephen F Austin||56|
|Miss Valley St||0|
|Georgia Tech||27||2nd Half|
|(15) North Carolina||37|
|Charlotte||47||2nd Half 11:51|
|Texas-El Paso||44||2nd Half 12:38|
|Wichita State||67||2nd Half 7:09|
|Loyola-Chicago||47||2nd Half 12:06|
|Bradley||40||2nd Half 9:48|
|Colorado||15||1st Half 11:28|
|San Francisco||26||1st Half 8:38|
|Idaho State||15||1st Half 8:38|
|Weber State||10||1st Half 9:20|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|Long Beach St||9:00 PM|
|UC Santa Barbara|
|UC Davis||9:00 PM|
|Northern Ariz||9:00 PM|
|Southern Utah||9:00 PM|