Hartman: Gophers done in by lack of Big Ten experience

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2013 - 11:42 PM
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Iowa running back Mark Weisman picked up some of his rushing yards on a 2nd half carry. (MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE(mlevison@startribune.com)

Photo: MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com,

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One thing the Gophers’ 23-7 loss to Iowa on Saturday proved is that the program is still in the building stage and not ready to compete with more experienced football teams.

The score actually didn’t tell the story of how much Iowa outplayed the Gophers in this game.

Watching this game, it was evident that coach Jerry Kill had better players when he was at Northern Illinois, where he and had time to build the program. It was Northern Illinois that both handed Iowa its only loss of the season and also crushed Purdue on Saturday.

Kill has mentioned more than once that the youth of this team will be a problem, and this game again demonstrated how important experience is.

The Hawkeyes completely dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and like Kill said, when you get outplayed on both sides of the line, you aren’t going to win games.

Iowa gained 246 yards on the ground to 30 for the Gophers, with Mark Weisman leading the charge with 24 carries for 147 yards.

And Hawkeyes first-year starting quarterback Jake Rudock performed like he was Joe Montana, with the Gophers defensive line not laying a hand on him the entire game. He completed 15 of 25 passes for 215 yards, including a 74-yard completion for a touchdown.

On the other side, the big surprise was when Philip Nelson started at QB after the great performances by Mitch Leidner in the previous two games.

But Nelson is a better passer than Leidner, and it was likely that Kill and the coaches, in studying film, decided the Gophers would have trouble running the ball and decided going through the air was the solution if they were to win this game.

Kill explained how Leidner would have been used. “If we’d have got into a situation where Philip was using his legs a lot and had to run, yes. We would have played Mitch. But we never got in that situation. We couldn’t run the ball, we had to throw the ball. So we went with maturity, and that was the decision that was made.”

Now the Gophers face the tough task of playing on the road at Michigan and Northwestern the next two weeks, and both teams are better than Iowa.

It will be a real challenge these next two games.

Must-win game in London

No doubt the Vikings need to win Sunday’s game for a lot of reasons, but an important fact to remember is that they will have 14 players in uniform today in London when they face the Steelers who will be free agents next season.

The club might lose a number of those superstar free agents, and knowing they might not have them in the future was the main reason it felt like this would be the final year for this group of stars to advance to the playoffs and maybe have a chance to reach the Super Bowl.

There is no chance the Vikings will sign all of the starting free agents next season.

And with this year’s schedule being so much more difficult the rest of the way, the chances of this team turning its season around are not very good.

Among the free agents are players who make up the heart of the defense, including linemen Jared Allen (who will make $14.2 million this season), Kevin Williams ($4.9 million), Brian Robison ($4.4 million), Fred Evans ($1.45 million) and Everson Griffen ($630,000), and starting cornerback Chris Cook ($630,000).

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