SAN DIEGO – After four up-and-down years as a Gophers quarterback, Mitch Leidner still has the chance to ride off into the sunset a winner.
Leidner will play in his 47th and final game for the program Tuesday, when the Gophers meet Washington State in the Holiday Bowl.
“We’ve talked about how we want to be a tough, physical team and show them what the Big Ten’s all about,” Leidner said. “That’s kind of the mentality we have going into the game is to be able to hopefully overpower these guys.”
Leidner took extra time to heal from some unspecified injuries after throwing four second-half interceptions in the Gophers’ last game, a 31-17 loss at Wisconsin.
He was injured heading into last year’s Quick Lane Bowl, as well, but put off foot surgery long enough to earn MVP honors in that 21-14 victory over Central Michigan. Leidner completed 14 consecutive passes at one point in that game, just as he had one year earlier in the Citrus Bowl against Missouri.
Throw in Leidner’s relief performance for Philip Nelson in the 2013 Meineke Car Care Bowl against Syracuse, and Leidner has played some of his best football in bowl games. In three bowls, he has completed 56 of 83 passes (67.5 percent) for 686 yards, and four touchdowns with one interception.
“Mitch is one that has worked extremely hard,” coach Tracy Claeys said. “He definitely has the size and can make the throws.
“I would say Mitch’s biggest weakness — if you want to call it that — is that all quarterbacks in college get their favorite guys they want to throw it to. And [he’ll force it sometimes], rather than going through his progressions and taking what the defense gives him.”