Gophers' football milestones are molehills

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 6, 2013 - 12:53 AM

Each win is a big step forward, but the Gophers aren’t making a big deal about the numbers.

hide

Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner took some key snaps in the second half of their come-from-behind victory Saturday at Indiana. Leidner finished as the team’s second-leading rusher, with 35 yards on six carries, as the Gophers moved above .500 in the Big Ten.

Photo: ALAN PETERSIME • Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Saturday’s victory at Indiana guaranteed the Gophers that this year will finish as a step forward. Now, they have a chance to turn it into a leap.

After going 3-9 and 6-7 in Jerry Kill’s first two seasons at Minnesota — and 2-6 in the Big Ten both times — the Gophers are 7-2, 3-2 in the conference.

On Saturday, they will play a beatable Penn State team at TCF Bank Stadium before closing the regular season with tougher tests against Wisconsin and Michigan State.

The Gophers will have another bye week to regroup after the Penn State game, and here’s what a victory would mean:

• It would be the first eight-win season since they went 10-3 in 2003 under Glen Mason.

• It would be their first time with four Big Ten victories since they went 4-4 under Mason in 2005.

• It would give them four consecutive Big Ten victories for the first time since 1973 under Cal Stoll.

“We don’t really pay attention to it,” Kill said Sunday. “When I talked to the [players] last week, I said, ‘You need to enjoy the pats on the back. … You need to soak it in, and enjoy the moments. … But you can’t forget where you came from.’ ”

The Gophers flourished as underdogs, beating Northwestern, Nebraska and Indiana, but early betting lines are calling the Penn State game more of a toss-up.

The Nittany Lions (5-3, 2-2) needed overtime at home on Saturday to defeat an Illinois team that has dropped 18 consecutive Big Ten games, dating to 2011. Last month, Indiana defeated Penn State 44-24, but Bill O’Brien’s team came back the next and beat Michigan at home, also in overtime.

“There are a ton of good coaches in the Big Ten, but there’s nobody that did what that guy [O’Brien] did last year, with all the adversity that he faced,” Kill said. “That guy can coach football … and he’ll have his kids ready to play.”

It’s one of four trophy games for the Gophers. The teams will play for the Governor’s Victory Bell, which Minnesota last won in 2004. The Gophers are 0-4 against Penn State since then, with the last meeting coming in 2010, the year before Kill arrived.

Kill said the Gophers need their fans to pack the stadium and that the players have to come out hungry. But he doesn’t want to overstate the importance, either.

“I think we’re playing pretty loose right now,” he said. “I think early, we were pressing so much, and now they’re just playing hard and having fun, and not panicking.”

Kill pointed to the go-ahead drive at Indiana. The Gophers had squandered a 22-point lead and trailed the Hoosiers 39-35. But after returning from a hip pointer injury, sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson hit redshirt freshman tight end Maxx Williams for a 50-yard touchdown pass.

“We had to go down and score and threw the touchdown; that hasn’t happened since I’ve been here anyway,” Kill said. “We usually [hit] the panic button, and I promise you most people were going, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ ”

The Gophers caught their biggest break of the season with 25 seconds remaining, when Indiana tried a screen pass from the Gophers 9. Nate Sudfeld threw the ball backwards, behind running back Tevin Coleman, and after a painstaking pause, Gophers linebacker Aaron Hill grabbed the ball, securing the victory.

“I think every coach will tell you, ‘We’ve got a lot of room to get better yet,’ ” Kill said. “But [Saturday] was a prime example that if you play hard, sometimes things fall your way.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
Golden State 102
Portland 98 1st Qtr 0:21
LA Clippers 93
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Colorado 3
Montreal 1 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 FINAL
Fresno State 68
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Illinois 69
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Nevada 62
Boise State 68 FINAL
San Jose St 51
San Diego St 60 FINAL
UNLV 58
Oregon 65 FINAL
Oregon State 62
UC Santa Barbara 65 2nd Half 13:16
Hawaii 54
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close