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

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Toronto 8 1st Qtr 4:14
Indiana 15
Cleveland 6:30 PM
Detroit
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
Miami
Memphis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Chicago 9:30 PM
Golden State
Washington 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
NY Rangers 0 1st Prd 8:00
NY Islanders 0
Arizona 2 1st Prd 12:04
Philadelphia 0
Winnipeg 0 1st Prd 9:42
Pittsburgh 1
Washington 0 1st Prd 11:00
Columbus 0
Tampa Bay 6:30 PM
Carolina
Dallas 6:30 PM
Montreal
Detroit 6:30 PM
Florida
Colorado 7:00 PM
Nashville
Buffalo 8:00 PM
Calgary
Minnesota 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Anaheim 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Ball State 12 1st Half 11:49
Akron 7
Northern Ill 10 1st Half 10:48
Bowling Green 13
Western Mich 17 1st Half 10:33
Buffalo 21
Ohio 6 1st Half 13:48
Eastern Mich 12
Xavier 11 1st Half 10:43
Georgetown 8
Vanderbilt 22 1st Half 8:02
Georgia 24
West Virginia 10 1st Half 10:58
Kansas State 7
Central Mich 10 1st Half 11:19
Kent State 8
Saint Josephs 12 1st Half 10:30
La Salle 10
Nebraska 9 1st Half 8:09
Michigan 13
Miami-Ohio 9 1st Half 11:40
Toledo 12
Tulsa 13 1st Half 10:45
Tulane 9
George Washington 15 1st Half 10:24
VA Commonwealth 17
Pittsburgh 14 1st Half 10:17
Virginia Tech 10
Indiana State 7:00 PM
Evansville
Tabor College 7:00 PM
Oral Roberts
Florida 8:00 PM
Alabama
Tennessee 8:00 PM
Arkansas
Texas A&M 8:00 PM
Auburn
Baylor 8:00 PM
Oklahoma State
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 8:00 PM
Utah State
Fresno State 8:05 PM
San Diego St
UNLV 9:00 PM
Nevada
SD Christian 9:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Colorado State 10:00 PM
Boise State
UNC-Asheville 6:00 PM
Liberty
Columbia International 6:00 PM
Charleston Southern
Temple 19 1st Half 10:31
UCF 17
Campbell 5 1st Half 12:04
Presbyterian 7
Coastal Carolina 9 1st Half 10:43
High Point 11
Gardner-Webb 13 1st Half 11:15
Radford 7
Winthrop 9 1st Half 11:37
Longwood 16
Tulane 7:00 PM
Houston
(3) Baylor 7:00 PM
TCU
Navy 7:00 PM
American Univ
Valparaiso 7:00 PM
Illinois-Chicago
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: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close