The Gophers are believed to lead the Big Ten, if not the nation, with seven targeting penalties, though the conference won’t release that information until season’s end.
On Tuesday’s Big Ten media teleconference, coach Tracy Claeys was asked if he’s concerned about his players developing a reputation with officials.
“No, not at all,” Claeys said, reiterating that he thinks three of the targeting penalties came on unavoidable hits. “We practice the way you’re supposed to practice and lower the target down.
“And anytime you have a game and everything’s full speed and happening fast, that can happen. And when it does, you call it and you get punished. But no, I don’t worry about that.”
On KFAN (100.3-FM), Claeys added that anyone in the country who comes to a Gophers practice would see the coaches teaching tackling the right way.
Claeys made it clear Saturday that he agreed with the call on Duke McGhee, whose helmet-to-helmet hit knocked Northwestern receiver Austin Carr from the game. It was McGhee’s second targeting ejection in four weeks.
“He knows better than that,” Claeys said. “That is the thing that the rule is passed for, so it was a good call.”
Former Gophers coach Jerry Kill has monitored Minnesota’s progress in between his duties at Kansas State as associate athletics director and chief football administrator.
Claeys, who took over last year when Kill resigned, is finishing the first full year of a three-year, $4.5 million contract. The deal includes a relatively small buyout (currently about $500,000), but Kill believes Minnesota will extend the contract soon.
“There’s no question he deserves an extension,” Kill said in a telephone interview. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t extend a group of good people and coaches who’ve done things the right way, with integrity.”
The Gophers scored a touchdown on the game’s opening drive against Northwestern, just as they did at Nebraska and against Rutgers. Throw in a field goal against Purdue, and Minnesota has scored points on four of its past five opening drives.
The Gophers have scored 82 first-quarter points, up from 37 last season, and a quick start could be key in this week’s game at Wisconsin.
“It just goes to show you that our kids haven’t quit,” Claeys said. “We practice well, and we get out of the gates, and do a good job. It’s that time in between. We’ve got to find a way to keep a little bit of that momentum going.”
Starting cornerback KiAnte Hardin missed the second half of the Northwestern game because of an unspecified injury, but Claeys said Hardin is fine for this week’s game.