Game at New Mexico State still has purpose for Gophers football

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 7, 2013 - 8:20 AM

The Gophers dropped North Carolina to play at New Mexico State, a woeful program that they couldn’t beat in 2011.

 

– Jerry Kill could have just played the cards he was dealt. When he first became Minnesota’s coach, the Gophers were booked this Saturday to play at North Carolina, but he worked hard to remove the Tar Heels from the schedule.

In one of his first decisions as Gophers athletic director, Norwood Teague agreed to pay North Carolina $800,000 to cancel games this season and next season, a choice that generated widespread criticism.

Kill has his reasons. He believes rebuilding programs must create momentum in nonconference play, gaining confidence and experience while making it easier to become bowl-eligible. He compares it to the way Bill Snyder has managed the schedule at Kansas State.

For the Gophers, this has led them to Las Cruces, N.M., a desert landscape that bears little resemblance to Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Gophers replaced North Carolina on this year’s schedule with New Mexico State, a program that has posted a .210 winning percentage since 2005, including a 1-11 mark last year.

Marcus Jones, one of the Gophers’ standouts in last week’s 51-23 victory over UNLV, admits he was disappointed when the North Carolina series was canceled. Granted, he is from Wake Forest, N.C., so it spoiled plans for a homecoming. Jones said he asked Kill about the decision during the offseason.

“He explained it to me, and at the end of the day, it should benefit us,” Jones said. “But what we don’t want to do is make a change like that and then shoot ourselves in the foot and allow them to upset us.”

Added quarterback Philip Nelson: “That’s a decision that is ultimately up to Coach Kill. And as players, it comes down to trust.”

Had the Gophers stuck with North Carolina, an ACC team that finished 8-4 last year, the game almost surely would have drawn national television coverage, as one of the Big Ten’s most appetizing games this week, behind Michigan-Notre Dame.

Instead, the Gophers won’t be televised live on basic cable packages in Minnesota. The game will air on tape delay at 10 a.m. Sunday on Fox Sports North.

With the Big Ten imploring teams to bolster future nonconference schedules, the Gophers reversed course this past May, scheduling a home-and-home series with Texas Christian for 2014 and 2015. The move recouped much of the money Minnesota paid to North Carolina, and helped quiet critics.

But this New Mexico State trip still has its purpose. The Gophers can’t afford to lose. Imagine the indignity of paying North Carolina and then stumbling anyway — against one of the worst college football programs in the country.

The Gophers are 15-point favorites, but they were 20-point favorites in 2011, when New Mexico State came to TCF Bank Stadium and won 28-21. Minnesota was trying to mount a last-minute comeback when Kill, in his first home game as Gophers coach, had an epileptic seizure on the sideline. As painful as those memories are, the coach doesn’t want his team to forget.

“If you get beat by somebody, and you get a chance to go play them again — if that doesn’t motivate you a little bit, I don’t think you’re real human, you’re not a competitor,” Kill said.

Nelson is 3-5 in eight career starts. Backup quarterback Mitch Leidner took his first college snaps in the season opener against UNLV, and if the Gophers can build another comfortable lead, it will be a chance for both quarterbacks to gain experience.

The Gophers are built to run, and they will be without two of their top running backs — starting tailback Donnell Kirkwood and true freshman Berkley Edwards. So, two former Texas high school standouts — Rodrick Williams and David Cobb — will get chances to show off their skills, close to home.

The Aggies opened last week at No. 15 Texas, and the score was tied 7-7 two minutes before halftime before the game turned into a 56-7 Longhorns romp.

  • related content

  • The Call: Gophers at New Mexico State

    Saturday September 7, 2013

    Quarterback Philip Nelson completed only 45 percent of his passes last week, and the Gophers could have a hard time establishing the running game with Donnell Kirkwood and Berkley Edwards...

  • Gophers-New Mexico State game now streamed live online for free

    Saturday September 7, 2013

    Gophers at New Mexico State: How to watchThe Gophers game at New Mexico State is not being carried live by...

  • Hartman: Boston says Aggies will be tough for Gophers

    Friday September 6, 2013

    The former Gophers AD believes New Mexico State’s football team is improving.

  • In 2001, New Mexico State’s Robert Clay found a gaping hole in the Gophers defense during a game the Aggies, 20-point underdogs, won 28-21. The Gophers are favored by 15 today in Las Cruces.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota - T. May 6:05 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
NY Yankees - C. Capuano 6:07 PM
Toronto - M. Buehrle
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 6:10 PM
NY Mets - J. deGrom
Boston - A. Ranaudo 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Miami - T. Koehler 6:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - S. Carroll
Texas - S. Baker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Colorado - C. Bergman 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Oakland - J. Lester 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Los Angeles - D. Haren 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Washington - J. Zimmermann 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Atlanta 24 FINAL
Jacksonville 14
Detroit 23 FINAL
Buffalo 0
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 35
Kansas City 14 FINAL
Green Bay 34
NY Jets 7 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
St. Louis 13 FINAL
Miami 14
Carolina 10 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
New England 13 FINAL
NY Giants 16
Washington 24 FINAL
Tampa Bay 10
Baltimore 22 FINAL
New Orleans 13
Chicago 13 FINAL
Cleveland 33
Denver 27 FINAL
Dallas 3
Minnesota 19 FINAL
Tennessee 3
San Francisco 40 FINAL
Houston 13
Arizona 9 FINAL
San Diego 12
Seattle 31 FINAL
Oakland 41
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Houston 7:00 PM
Sporting Kansas City
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Phoenix
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 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
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: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close