Before the Gophers reclaimed the Little Brown Jug last Saturday, their next opponent pulled a big upset of its own.
Northwestern was an 11-point underdog at Penn State, but the Wildcats won 29-6. Northwestern had been 2-9 in its previous 11 games, dating to last year, but this was a reminder the Wildcats won’t be pushovers when they play at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 11.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill said his staff has reminded players that Northwestern had their number, winning five of six meetings, before Minnesota won 20-17 last year in Evanston, Ill.
“I think everybody knows how smart, how well-coached and what Northwestern’s all about,” Kill said. “None of that surprises me. Early in the season, there are a lot of kinks that you’ve got to get worked out, and they’re playing really good defense right now.
“They went and dominated Penn State; that’s pretty easy to see on film. So does it help you? You bet, I think any of those things help catch your attention.”
Northwestern plays host to Wisconsin on Saturday, while the Gophers have a bye.
Players quickly refocus
Quarterback Mitch Leidner and tight end Maxx Williams were both pleased that the team came back from the emotional victory at Michigan and got back to work at practice.
Williams, who’d battled a calf injury, said this is the best he has felt since training camp. Leidner said his turf toe is still sore but that he otherwise feels fine. He said he’ll continue wearing a knee brace for precautionary reasons.
Asked about winning the jug, Williams said, “At first I was just in shock a little bit. It was just one of those moments in my life that I’ve always dreamed about. But the way I look at it, we’ve got to move on. We’ve got this bye week to look ahead to Northwestern.”
The Gophers will be favored against Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois, meaning they have a good chance of being 7-1.
But Leidner isn’t afraid of that possibility getting into players’ heads, leading to a letdown.
“Not really,” he said. “We’ve had two really good practices coming off that Michigan game which has been huge for us. That’s a big thing that this team really does well is we come to work every single day, and I think that’s really going to help us taking it game-by-game.”
Poock to get redshirt
Cody Poock, who was playing outside linebacker with the first-team defense before tearing the ACL in his right knee March 29, has been cleared to practice but won’t play this season, Kill confirmed.
Poock will get a medical redshirt and have three years of eligibility remaining.
He’ll be a candidate to start at middle linebacker, with Damien Wilson graduating this year.