The Gophers will pack about as much emotion into one football game as possible Saturday, when Wisconsin visits TCF Bank Stadium.
It's Senior Day. It's the regular season finale. It's the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe, which the Gophers haven't won since 2003.
And guess who's coming back? Former coach Jerry Kill will be there for the first time since he retired on Oct. 28 for health reasons. The Gophers had scheduled this game as the annual Epilespy Awareness Game, so it will have extra meaning for Kill.
"I think it's the one trophy game that Coach [Kill] wasn’t able to be a part of winning while we’ve been here," coach Tracy Claeys said. "So I think that has some extra incentive to it, to try and [win that for him]. ... He’s the one that has coached [the seniors] all those years and that, so it would be good to see him there at the game. The kids will enjoy it, too."
Leidner will be ready
Claeys said he has no doubt quarterback Mitch Leidner will be ready for the Wisconsin game. Leidner had a walking boot on his left foot after Saturday's win over Illinois, but he appeared to have no trouble running on the quarterback keeper for the two-point conversion toward the end of the game.
"I don’t think it’s anything too serious," Claeys said. "We’ll limit his plays in practice and make sure that he’s got his legs under him when we go."
Croft ready, just in case
Claeys said the Gophers do have packages ready for Demry Croft should the backup quarterback be needed to replace Leidner at any point. Claeys noted that Leidner got a break one day in practice last week, allowing Croft to take all the first-team snaps in practice.
"When you do that with older kids to make sure they’re legs are under them, it benefits those guys a bunch here late in the year," Claeys said. "So I feel really good, if we had to play Demry, that there’s a set of plays that play to his strengths, that we would move the ball. Now, obviously he’s doesn't have near the experience that Mitch does, and so I’m not going to tell you it would be at that level. But he continues to get better in practice as we rep him more and more."