Jerry Kill still is very high on the Gophers despite their 23-17 loss to No. 2 TCU last Thursday. Kill believes his team would have won the game had Rodrick Williams not fumbled a potential touchdown in the end zone and quarterback Mitch Leidner not been stripped of the ball on the Maroon-and-Gold’s 15-yard line when a block was missed on the offensive line.
You have to pay tribute to a defense that held a TCU team that averaged 46.5 points per game last year to 23 points.
On a positive note for the offense, the Gophers were moving the ball at the end of the game and might have scored the winning touchdown had there been just a little more time on the clock.
Kill makes it clear that, despite the criticism of the quarterback, Leidner is going to remain the starter. I believe that if the Gophers had been able to protect him with a healthy offensive line, he could have led them to victory.
Meanwhile, Craig Thompson, who is the commissioner of the Mountain West Conference, and a University of Minnesota alumnus from 1974-1978, has an interesting viewpoint when it comes to the Gophers’ matchup against Colorado State this weekend.
The Gophers are a six-point favorite against the Rams, who beat Savannah State 65-13, although Savanah State has lost 24 in a row.
Thompson has worked as the commissioner for 17 seasons and has seen five of his teams reach BCS bowl games.
He said that Colorado State — which went 10-3 last season but lost head coach Jim McElwain to the Florida Gators before hiring Mike Bobo away from Georgia, where he had been offensive coordinator for 14 years — could pose a challenge to the Gophers. The Rams haven’t lost at home in 10 games, a school record dating to the 2013 season.
“They have seven returning starters on offense, have an All-American wide receiver [Rashard Higgins], a really good tight end [Kivon Cartwright], but it’s a new quarterback [Nick Stevens],” Thompson said. “He had a big day last week against an FCS team [Savannah State], but it was his first collegiate start. They lost a good quarterback [Garrett Grayson] to the NFL [a third-round pick of the New Orleans Saints] and they lost a running back [Dee Hart] to the NFL, but they have seven starters back on offense, eight on defense, they’re probably right now a little better defensively. They have a new scheme, they switched to a 4-3 defense.”
Stevens completed 20 of 28 passes for 289 yards and five touchdowns in the Rams’ victory last week. Cartwright caught three passes for 56 yards and a touchdown before he was injured in the second quarter. Still, Thompson said that the expectations are a little lower for the Rams this season just because of the turnover in staff and starters.
“They’re picked to finish third in the Mountain Division, behind Boise State and behind Utah State,” he said, while adding that he believes they’ll give the Gophers a game. “I think they will; it’s a home game. They had a big day last week. There should be a nice crowd and they’ll be very competitive, I believe. I think that they moved the ball really well, but it was not against a defense like Minnesota’s.”
But Thompson added that, last week, the Mountain West had a good showing against another power conference.
“We beat the Pac-12 twice last week, Hawaii beat Colorado and Boise State beat Washington, so we were 2-0 against the Pac-12 last week — but that’s just one week,” he said.
Does he think the crowd will be a big one for the Gophers game?
“That’s a hard one, the place isn’t that big, 32,000 [seats],” he said. “Maybe high 20’s, maybe 30,000, it won’t be a sellout but it should be a pretty good crowd.”
Vikings land update
Lester Bagley, Vikings executive vice president, says that while the purchase of land the Vikings are looking to buy in Eagan hasn’t been finalized, the team does like the spot for a number of reasons.
“It’s close to the airport, it’s on 494, it’s close to St. Paul and Minneapolis,” Bagley said. “You know, the Wilfs have a vision for a broader development on that property. We also acquired some property next door, so we have almost 200 acres under control [and] about 140 acres of that is buildable. If all goes well, our practice facility would take about 31 acres, and right now we have 12 acres at Eden Prairie. It’s almost three times the size of our current situation.”
Meanwhile, on the stadium front, Bagley reports that next Thursday Mortenson Construction is hosting a topping-off party where the final piece of steel will be placed and signed by people involved with the project.
He also said that the team will know Nov. 5 whether or not they have won the bid to host the BCS National Championship game in 2020.
• Don’t give up on the possibility that the new soccer stadium still will be built on the Farmers Market site in Minneapolis, with Hennepin County commissioners Mike Opat and Peter McLaughlin working hard behind the scenes to make it happen there rather than in St. Paul.
• There’s a good chance that Vikings center John Sullivan won’t be able to start Monday night against the 49ers, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner is confident that Joe Berger, who Turner says has had a great camp, will do a good job.
“He has played center, he has played guard, he’s kind of a leader of that group now while we’re getting Sully ready to go. He is a valuable guy to us and that is why we wanted him back. I think he will do well if he has to go.”
It is hard to believe Sullivan has played 57 consecutive regular-season games at one of the most challenging positions in the NFL, but that streak may come to a close.
• The architects for the proposed new athletic facilities at the University of Minnesota — BWBR of St. Paul and RDG of Des Moines— continue to work on the plans for the project. But while some university officials are optimistic that some work will start this fall, I hear from good sources that chances are better that action will start next summer.
• Mark Coyle, new Syracuse athletic director, was an assistant under Joel Maturi, the ex-Gophers athletic director, and worked at Boise State before taking the job.
• In addition to working out at Hamline, members of the Gophers men’s and women’s track teams are also training at Concordia University in St. Paul.
• Lakeville North and Lakeville South football teams play each other on Sept. 18, and before the game, a ceremony will honor Lake- ville resident Mick Tingelhoff, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com