One of the weaknesses of Jerry Kill’s team in his first three years as Gophers coach was special teams. But the play of the special teams and the kicking game in Thursday’s 42-20 victory over Eastern Illinois might have been one of the unit’s best displays since Kill took over.
Freshman Ryan Santoso handled the kickoffs, and junior Pete Mortell handled the punts. Santoso had seven kickoffs that averaged 63.6 yards and featured five touchbacks, a great start to his career with the Gophers. For comparison’s sake, in 2013, Chris Hawthorne averaged 62.2 yards per kickoff during his senior season and had six touchbacks on 62 attempts.
Santoso also went 6-for-6 on extra points but didn’t attempt a field goal. He was ranked as the seventh-best kicker in the nation by ESPN in the class of 2013.
Mortell, meanwhile, had five punts that averaged 51.2 yards, including a long of 61 yards. He had two punts downed inside the 20-yard line and two touchbacks. Last season, Mortell averaged 43.3 yards per punt and had a long of 62.
• The Timberwolves have to be thrilled with the way fans have reacted to their big Kevin Love trade, which ultimately landed them the past two No. 1 overall picks in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett along with veteran forward Thaddeus Young. In the five days after the trade was announced, the Wolves website received more visitors and page views than in any other five-day period in team history. In that time the Wolves also sold more full-season-ticket equivalents than they had in the previous two months combined. That uptick in sales means the Wolves have already surpassed last season’s total season-ticket revenue with over a month to go before training camp opens in Mankato.
• Among the happiest Gophers football parents in the stands Thursday were Stan and Carolyn Edwards of Novi, Mich. They watched their son Berkley run four times for 60 yards and two touchdowns, including a 42-yarder. Both parents were wearing Gophers jerseys. Both Stan and Berkley’s brother Braylon played at Michigan on their way to the NFL. And when Stan was asked in a BTN interview if he will wear a Minnesota jersey when the Gophers play at Michigan on Sept. 27 to open Big Ten play, his wife immediately answered by saying, “He better.”
• Eastern Illinois hadn’t been shut out in 126 consecutive games, and until Jerry Kill emptied his bench with about seven minutes to play Thursday, the Gophers had a chance to break that streak.
• Former Vikings receiver Percy Harvin had seven catches for 92 yards over two preseason games for Seattle.
• Former Gophers safety Brock Vereen sat out Chicago’s preseason finale Thursday, but the fourth-round draft pick has a really good shot at a starting job.