Coach Jerry Kill knows victories can’t be the only barometer he uses to judge his team.
The Golden Gophers are 2-8 overall and in last place in the Legends Division of the Big Ten with a 1-5 record. The last three weeks have seen the Golden Gophers upset Iowa, lose a close decision at Michigan State and get routed by Wisconsin.
Kill, who is about to finish his first season as Minnesota’s coach, realizes getting a program back on its feet can be a long and slow process.
“I’d like to tell you it’s different than what I’ve gone through at the previous stops, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s the same thing. You win when you’re not supposed to. Then you scratch your head you’re playing the way you are. You get close. Somebody blows you out. You’re trying to figure it all out. That’s pretty typical of a situation coming into a new program. I wish it wasn’t that way, but it just seems to work that way.”
The Gophers travel to Northwestern on Nov. 19 and host Illinois in the season’s final game on Nov. 26. Minnesota must get one victory to match last season’s 3-9 record.
“I think we just got to continue to move forward,” Kill said. “Certainly you’d like to win. That’s why you put on the uniform, but I’d like to see us move forward and keep working hard. We have a lot of things we need to improve on.”
Kill was pleased with his team’s progress in the win over Iowa and the near-miss against Michigan State, but the Gophers were totally overmatched in their 42-13 loss to Wisconsin.
“We’re leaving a lot of plays on the field,” he said. “The previous two and a half weeks offensively we’d executed pretty well. Going into the Wisconsin game, we felt like we had a good game plan. We just didn’t execute it. Part of that is that Wisconsin is a very good football team. They’re what we’d like to be in the fact that they had the ball all the time and your offense sits over there.”
NCAAF Team Report – Minnesota – NOTES, QUOTES
–Minnesota gets its last chance to win on the road this season Saturday. The Gophers are 0-4 away from home. Two of Minnesota’s three wins last season came on the road.
–The Gophers dropped a 29-28 decision to Northwestern last season at TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota led 28-20 early in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats rallied and won on Stefan Demos’ 27-yard field goal with 2:07 remaining. The Gophers have lost three of the last four in the series by a total margin of nine points.
SERIES HISTORY: Minnesota leads Northwestern 50-31-5 (last meeting, 2010, 29-28 Northwestern).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Any improvement in the overall unit must start on the offensive line. The Gophers had their worst game of the season against Wisconsin. Minnesota didn’t score an offensive touchdown and gained a season-low 156 yards. The Gophers’ two scores came on a fake field goal and a kickoff return. The line didn’t open holes for the running game, allowed too much pressure on quarterback MarQueis Gray and didn’t give the receivers time to get open.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The defense was overpowered by Wisconsin’s strong front. The Gophers allowed 461 yards, including 283 on the ground, and quarterback Russell Wilson completed his first 16 passes. Minnesotafaces a completely different challenge this week. Northwestern’s spread offense is run by quarterback Dan Persa, who makes quick reads and throws the ball to several different receivers and is also a running threat.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We made some mental errors that you just can’t make. You go, ‘Gosh darn, what’s going on here?’ ” — Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, on his team’s play in last week’s 42-13 loss to Wisconsin.
NCAAF Team Report – Minnesota – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK’S GAME: Minnesota at Northwestern, Nov. 19 — Can the Gophers bounce back from last week’s rout? Instead of dealing with Wisconsin’s size and strength, Minnesota will go against Northwestern’s quick-strike offense.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Get some points on the board. Northwestern averages 30.9 points a game and will likely reach that total against the Gophers’ pourous defense. The offense needs to have a good day against the Wildcats’ suspect defense.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB MarQueis Gray — Playing with a back injury and only hours after becoming a father, the junior had his worst game of the season against Wisconsin. Gray completed 6 of 14 passes for 51 yards and threw an interception while gaining 68 yards on 19 carries. Coach Jerry Kill thought the back injury affected Gray’s performance and the quarterback’s progress with the injury will be monitored in practice.
K Jordan Wettstein — For someone who wasn’t even in the picture a few weeks ago, the junior walk-on has made a name for himself. Wettstein has made five of six extra points and both field goal attempts. He also scored a touchdown on a fake field goal last week. Wettstein, who is filling in for the injured Chris Hawthorne, took a pitch from holder Adam Lueck and ran five yards for the score.
TE Collin McGarry — After coming into the season with two career catches, the senior is second on the team with 14 receptions. McGarry has caught two touchdown passes and has a long gain of 20 yards.
LB Keanon Cooper — The junior is fourth on the team with 63 tackles. Cooper has four tackles for a loss, has forced two fumbles and recovered a fumble.
–K Chris Hawthorne has missed the last three games because of a sore quad muscle. He’s doubtful to play against Northwestern.
–CB/KR Troy Stoudermire has missed the last six games because of a fractured left wrist and is questionable for the Northwestern game.
–WR/KR Marcus Jones will miss the rest of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament.
–OL Ryan Orton was out against Wisconsin because of back spasms and is questionable for the Northwestern game.
–LB Brendan Beal has missed the last three games because of a knee injury.
–OL Josh Campion is expected to miss the rest of the season because of a concussion.
–DE Harold Legania has missed the last five games because of a foot injury.
–OT Jimmy Gjere has missed the last six games because of a concussion.
–DE Leston Simpson has missed the last five games because of a head injury.