Takeaways from the Gophers' 23-17 loss to TCU on Thursday night at TCF Bank Stadium:

-:Freshman Rodney Smith should be the Gophers' starting running back.

He's better than Rodrick Williams, who isn't as shifty and fumbled near the goal line on Thursday night.

Smith can make defenders miss and knows how to finish runs. He may replace Cobb's workload, but he can do a fair impression.

-Jerry Kill does not like being questioned about his play-calling. One local reporter asked about the Gophers running the ball so much near the end of the game, and Kill noted that TCU was playing six defensive backs, then said, ``I guess I'm not a very good coach.''

-Rodney Smith could be fun to have around. Asked whether he was nervous, Smith said, ``Kill said if you're not nervous you're not human. So I guess I'm a machine.''

-Neither Kill nor his players seemed devastated by the loss. K.J. Maye and Smith were smiling. Kill was matter-of-fact. What did Kill say to TCU coach Gary Patterson, his close friend, at the end of the game?

Kill: ``He said `We're never going to play each other again.' I said, `That's right.' ''

My take:

For all of the positive vibes around the Gophers, they've lost five of their last seven games.

And they've lost most of those games for the same reason - the inability to hit key passes, or open passes, that could have altered the outcomes.

Mitch Leidner wasn't very good on Thursday night. Chris Streveler is a runner in a quarterback's jersey. I think freshman Demry Croft has a chance to play this season. If Leidner doesn't look like he's capable of beating a good team, I think Croft could end up taking over.

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New episodes with Michael Russo, Roy Smalley and Viking Update's Tim Yotter are up at MalePatternPodcasts.com. The first episode of Jim Peteersen's Minnesota Hoops will be up tomorrow, as well as my latest chat with Matt Birk and another with Saints manager George Tsamis.

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We'll be running the Russo-Souhan Show from Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub starting October 1.

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