Gophers will play both quarterbacks

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 16, 2013 - 10:01 AM

Gophers backup quarterback Mitch Leidner will continue to play this season.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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The Gophers had a feeling their offense wouldn’t suffer if they had to replace starting quarterback Philip Nelson with Mitch Leidner, and Saturday’s 29-12 victory over Western Illinois reinforced this.

Nelson injured his right hamstring in the second quarter, and Leidner wound up completing seven of eight passes for 108 yards, and rushing 17 times for 64 yards.

Now, it sounds as if the Gophers are determined to use both quarterbacks, moving forward. Nelson still leads the team with 221 rushing yards, but his completion percentage is 51.2, compared to 87.5 for Leidner.

“I mean, we really didn’t skip a beat [with Leidner],” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. “That’s nice going forward because now you can get him in there, and the kids have confidence in Mitch, and he can take some of that pressure off Philip, and you can play two kids that run your offense.”

Limegrover said he planned to mix Leidner into Saturday’s game even before Nelson got injured. Nelson’s injury isn’t expected to keep him out for long, so the question now is who will start once he’s back?

That’s to be determined. Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said any time one of the team’s players returns from an injury, he needs to prove he can perform better than his replacement. This is laid out in the team’s player policy manual.

Claeys drew a comparison to the tailback spot, where Donnell Kirkwood is returning from a sprained ankle but has to beat out Rodrick Williams and David Cobb, who’ve performed well in his absence.

“Our kids understand the injury policy,” Claeys said. “I think that’s why Donnell is working his butt off because the other two are playing well, and he knows that to get his spot back he has to perform better than them.”

Dunbar passes away

Mike Dunbar, a Gophers assistant head coach and offensive coordinator under Tim Brewster from 2007-08, died Friday after a long battle with cancer. He was 64.

Dunbar was hired as the offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois in February 2012, but the school reassigned him to a special assistant’s role because of health reasons. He still was part of the game-planning each week, as the Huskies made a surprise trip to the Orange Bowl.

Ragnow narrows list

Chanhassen offensive tackle Frank Ragnow, one of the Gophers’ primary recruiting targets, tweeted (@KnarfWongar) that he’s narrowed his list of college choices to seven.

In no particular order, he listed them as follows: 1) Minnesota, 2) Cal, 3) Arkansas, 4) Vanderbilt, 5) Florida State, 6) Wisconsin, 7) Missouri.

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