Joe Christensen's Gophers Insider: Texas Bowl loss has silver lining

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 29, 2013 - 8:38 AM

Overachieving underclassmen should give Gophers a solid nucleus for next season.

hide

The Gophers left the field disappointed after a 21-17 loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl but have improved each year under Jerry Kill.

Photo: MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Who says lower-tier bowl games serve no purpose?

The Gophers’ 21-17 loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl on Friday was played before a crowd so small, it felt like the Prep Bowl inside Reliant Stadium.

For football fans who made the trip from Minnesota and those watching on TV, the game played out like the Frustration and Agony Bowl, sponsored by Are You Serious?

But it addressed three key questions facing the team:

• When will Jerry Kill return to the sideline?

The answer arrived after halftime, when the head coach came down from the press box, hoping to rally his troops. Kill had coached exclusively from the press box for the previous six games, even after resuming all of his old duties following a two-week leave to treat his epilepsy.

Kill’s health has improved since he missed the Oct. 5 game at Michigan because of a seizure, and this was one way to prove it publicly heading into the offseason. That should only help recruiting.

• Is Philip Nelson entrenched as the starting quarterback?

No. This game definitely reopened that discussion, as Nelson completed only two of seven passes, short-hopping some and overthrowing others.

As planned, the Gophers let Nelson handle the first two drives, with Mitch Leidner taking the next two. There have been games when the offense moved better with Nelson, but this time it moved much better with Leidner.

Leidner tossed two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to give the Gophers a 17-14 lead.

“Mitch played an outstanding game,” Kill said. “He played his guts out, played hard, gave us a chance to win and did a great job for a redshirt freshman.”

Kill has been effusive with his praise for Nelson after other games. He seemingly has no favorite. Making one of these two quarterbacks the undisputed starter might help him settle in and relax, but Nelson and Leidner are too close in caliber — and both too inconsistent — to crown only one of them king.

Competition makes teams better. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover has said every job is open heading into the offseason, and that includes quarterback.

“All winter long, all spring long, leading into summer camp, it’s all competition,” Leidner said. “We’re going to compete every day, and whatever happens, happens. We both want to play, and we both want to lead this team to a Big Ten championship, whatever it takes.”

• Is the team positioned to win next year?

They’re moving to the Big Ten West, along with Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Northwestern and Purdue. Their two crossover games, from the East Division, are against Ohio State and Michigan.

This could make it tough to continue the program’s upward trajectory under Kill — from 3-9 to 6-7 to 8-5 in his first three years. The Gophers were picked to finish last in the Legends Division this year but started 8-2 before losing their final three games to Wisconsin, Michigan State and Syracuse.

  • related content

  • Reusse blog: A fan can't justify this Gophers loss

    Saturday December 28, 2013

    The Gophers now have a six-game losing streak in bowl games. And Jerry Kill now has an 0-5 postseason record as an FBS coach.

  • Chart: Gophers football schedule for 2014

    Saturday December 28, 2013

    Gophers 2014 scheduleAug 28 Eastern IllinoisSept. 6 Middle Tennessee StateSept. 13 at Texas ChristianSept. 20 San Jose StateSept. 27 at MichiganOct. 11 NorthwesternOct. 18 PurdueOct. 25 at IllinoisNov....

  • Replay: Syracuse 21, Gophers 17

    Saturday December 28, 2013

    Gophers replaySyracuse 21, Gophers 17The recap: Two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Mitch Leidner gave the Gophers a 17-14 lead, but...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - M. Pineda 12:07 PM
Toronto - D. Hutchison
Detroit - M. Scherzer 12:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Sale
Chicago Cubs - F. Doubront 1:15 PM
St. Louis - J. Masterson
Cincinnati - A. Simon 3:05 PM
Pittsburgh - V. Worley
Minnesota - K. Gibson 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Philadelphia - J. Williams 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
Miami - J. Cosart 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Boston - A. Webster 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cleveland - T. Bauer 6:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Detroit - K. Ryan 6:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt
Texas - R. Ross Jr. 6:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Colorado - T. Matzek 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada 7:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Gonzales
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(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 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 10 3rd Qtr
UCF 3
Troy 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 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
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Colorado 3:00 PM
Seattle
New England 4:00 PM
Toronto FC
Columbus 6:30 PM
Montreal
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Chicago
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
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
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
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 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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close