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.


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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Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 5 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: D. O`Day 3
Milwaukee - LP: J. Broxton 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Holdzkom 4
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda 5
Washington - WP: D. Fister 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: T. Koehler 2
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 3
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Cleveland - LP: K. Crockett 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: J. Burton 5
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 10 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 10 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 5
Arizona - LP: C. Anderson 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. Lyles 15
Cincinnati - LP: D. Holmberg 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Lackey 2
Philadelphia - LP: D. Buchanan 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 3
Texas - WP: L. Bonilla 12 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 3
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 5
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 11:00 AM
Troy 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 11:00 AM
Bowling Green 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 11:30 AM
Tulane 11:30 AM
Hawaii 1:00 PM
Marshall 1:00 PM
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Utah 2:30 PM
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Texas State 3:00 PM
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 5
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
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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 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
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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