Souhan: Run-first Leidner starting to look like ... Tundra Tebow?

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 22, 2013 - 12:29 AM

In his first start, redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner rushed for 151 yards, scored four touchdowns and led the Gopher football team to its most significant victory of the box-of-chocolates portion of the college football season.

Last year, Kansas State’s Collin Klein became known as Prairie Tebow.

Leidner has a chance to become Tundra Tebow.

Tim Tebow — now hosting a late-night infomercial on how not to last in the NFL — popularized the notion of quarterback-as-fullback while leading Florida to a national title. Klein performed a fair impersonation.

Leidner probably isn’t quite ready for a glorifying nickname after one nonconference victory, 43-24 on Saturday over San Jose State, but he borrowed liberally from Tebow’s resume.

He ran over tacklers, pushed crowds of bodies into the end zone, and threw just enough to confirm that the forward pass remains perfectly legal in college football.

The victory, against a tremendous quarterback in San Jose State’s David Fales, established what the Gophers are: A strong and varied running team that has improved on defense and special teams in Jerry Kill’s third season.

If there is any downside to a quarterback running for twice as many yards as he gains passing, it is this: As the Gophers enter the Big Ten schedule, they’re not sure who their starting quarterback is, or whether any of their quarterbacks can throw the ball effectively against quality competition.

Leidner had almost as many rushing touchdowns (four) as completions (five). He completed five of 12 passes for 71 yards and took one sack.

Through four games, Gophers quarterbacks have completed 33 passes, a total that has to make Christian Ponder feel a lot better about himself.

“He doesn’t back down from anybody,’’ Kill said of Leidner. “He’s a physical kid. I will say this: All three of our quarterbacks are ready to play. And they’re all that way.’’

Kill said Philip Nelson remains his starting quarterback. Nelson, Kill said, was at “80 percent’’ effectiveness running and could have handed the ball off in an emergency but wasn’t ready to play. Kill also said he was prepared to pull the redshirt off freshman Chris Streveler if Leidner had been lost to injury.

Usually, uncertainty at the quarterback position causes problems. Kill said that’s not the case here, and for once a coach might be telling the truth about that. Nelson is a strong runner who threw the ball effectively at times last year. Kill goes out of his way to praise Streveler. And Leidner averaged 6.3 yards per carry against a team that seemed to figure out pretty quickly that he was the Gophers’ best weapon.

“Both me and Phil can throw the ball,’’ Leidner said. “But when you have a successful running game, you stick with it. San Jose State threw the ball a ton but didn’t put as many points on the board on us. That says something about the running game.

“We can definitely pass.’’

Saying the Gophers can definitely pass is like saying they’re undefeated. It won’t mean much next week if they can’t win at home against Iowa in one of their most favorable Big Ten matchups.

Kill says Nelson is the starter. Maybe Nelson has earned that. Maybe Nelson is better than Leidner in practice. Maybe, as Kill says, he wants multiple quarterbacks ready to play each game, so each can run without trepidation.

Last year, Kill removed Nelson’s redshirt to press him into duty. That seemed like a strange move at the time, sacrificing a year of eligibility for a talented quarterback in a rebuilding program.

Now it makes sense.

Kill knew Nelson wasn’t necessarily taking over the job for the next four years. He knew he’d have other, perhaps better, options.

Leidner, like Nelson, is a more accomplished runner than passer. Leidner, unlike Nelson, can make yards even when four people are hanging from his neck. Leidner finishes runs like he’s been watching old Larry Csonka tapes.

The Gophers aren’t going to become “Air Jer” in six days, so it might be wise to see if Iowa can stop Tundra Tebow.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Carolina 6:00 PM
Columbus
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Detroit
Montreal 7:30 PM
Chicago
Arizona 8:00 PM
Edmonton
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
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 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pm30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 am
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: How will the Gophers do against Michigan?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close