Same record, but Gophers look better this year

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 23, 2013 - 2:50 PM

The Gophers have the same record as last year when they were thumped by the Hawkeyes.

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Minnesota Gophers vs. San Jose State football. Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner dragged San Jose State tacklers with him as he ran to the 1-yard line to set up a Gophers touchdown in first half action. (MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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The Gophers football team is 4-0 heading into Iowa Week, just like last year, when the Hawkeyes took all that momentum and squashed it, sending Minnesota home with a 31-13 defeat.

“They physically got after us a year ago — physically, mentally, every phase of the game,” Gophers coach Jerry Kill recalled Sunday.

The Gophers hope this year’s first four games prepared them better, and there is some statistical evidence that they’ve improved, with the 3-1 Hawkeyes set to visit TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday.

“I think we’re a bigger, stronger team than we were a year ago, but so are they,” Kill said. “I think they’re a much better team than they were a year ago, without a doubt.”

The Hawkeyes finished 4-8 last season. This year, they rebounded from a season-opening loss to Northern Illinois with victories over Missouri State and Iowa State before throttling Western Michigan 59-3 on Saturday.

The Gophers defeated Iowa in 2010 and 2011 to claim the Floyd of Rosedale trophy, and to get it back, they’ll have to stop Mark Weisman, who had 155 yards by halftime last year. Minnesota also will have to limit turnovers, as Max Shortell had three interceptions and a fumble in last year’s defeat.

Shortell was subbing for injured MarQueis Gray, and now the Gophers have Mitch Leidner at quarterback, with Philip Nelson recovering from a strained hamstring.

All signs point toward Leidner starting against Iowa. Kill said Nelson’s hamstring injury is about 80 percent healed, adding that tailback Donnell Kirkwood’s sprained ankle is about 90 percent healed.

“You can’t sell out and play kids that are 85 percent,” Kill said. “Number one, it’ll get you beat. Right now, 100 percent of Mitch is better than 80 percent of Philip. One hundred percent of David Cobb is better than 90 percent of Donnell.

“If you’ve got 100 percent of Philip Nelson or 100 percent of Donnell, that’s a different deal.”

Last year’s loss to Iowa sent the Gophers to a 2-6 Big Ten finish, same as in Kill’s first season. Will Saturday be different? For some perspective, here’s a look at how the Gophers got to 4-0 last year and this year:

The opponents

2012: The Gophers defeated UNLV (in three overtimes), FCS New Hampshire, Western Michigan and Syracuse. Three came by seven or fewer points. The first three opponents were cupcakes, but Syracuse finished 8-5 and beat West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl.

2013: The victories have come against UNLV, New Mexico State, FCS Western Illinois, and San Jose State. The Gophers trailed Western Illinois 12-7 late in the third quarter, but they’ve pulled away to win each game by at least 17 points. The first three opponents were soft, but San Jose State was 11-2 last year and remains dangerous with elite quarterback David Fales.

The offense

2012: Thanks largely to a 44-point output against New Hampshire, the Gophers averaged 30 points per game, 184 rushing yards per game and 222 passing yards per game. They ran on 65 percent of their plays.

2013: They’ve averaged 42 points per game, rushing more effectively (282 yards per game) but not passing as well (105 yards per game). They’ve run on 76 percent of their plays.

“I think we’ll throw it more [moving forward],” Kill said. “We’ve just taken what the defenses have given us.”

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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
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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

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