Gophers coach Jerry Kill didn’t give specific names but said about 20 players couldn’t practice Wednesday because of injuries, including four offensive linemen and two or three players who probably are out for the season.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my 32 years of coaching,” Kill said. “Just one of those years. What do you do? Like I tell our guys, ‘You can’t get down. You just coach them.’ We’re going to play with some young players probably, and that’s part of it. They’ll have to grow up, and we’ll be better down the road for it.”
Kill said “there’s a chance” left guard Jon Christenson (knee surgery) will be able to play at Purdue on Saturday but said the chances of safety Damarius Travis (hamstring) and Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee) returning are “slim and none.”
Kill is trying not to let the injuries demoralize the team.
“It’s like I told them, ‘We’ve lost one Big Ten game. We’re 3-2. Michigan State was in a dogfight with Purdue last week,’ ” Kill said. “Every game is going to be a dogfight. We’ve just got to find a way to win.”
Leidner playing hurt
Kill acknowledged that quarterback Mitch Leidner isn’t running as well as he did earlier in his career. Leidner is averaging 2.5 yards per carry, compared with 4.0 as a freshman and 3.6 last year as a sophomore.
“He hasn’t been healthy,” Kill said, declining to give specifics. “He’s tough. This week, he seems to be running a lot better.
“He’s been beat up. You get hit — and we’ve been beat up on the offensive line — and he’s taken some shots. And you take those kinds of shots, your body wears down. So it’s been tough on him. I don’t think there’s any question about it. But shoot, he’s a warrior.”
Croft still No. 2
Kill hasn’t named a starting quarterback for the Purdue game, but there are continued hints that Leidner still is the starter.
Asked about freshman Demry Croft, Kill said, “He’s an even-keeled guy, still learning a lot, but we’ve got to have a backup quarterback, with the way things are going with our football team. … We’ve got to get some guys playing time, and he’s the No. 2 quarterback.”