Gophers’ Head Coach Kill to take medical leave 26 Sep 11

Less than 24 hours after a shocking loss to North Dakota State, the Golden Gophers discovered they will be without head coach Jerry Kill for an undetermined amount of time.

Kill was admitted into the Mayo Clinic after suffering a seizure Sunday morning. Kill, in his first season as Minnesota’s coach, had a seizure and collapsed on the sidelines during the New Mexico State game on Sept. 10.

Kill was hospitalized for several days, but returned for the Gophers’ next game against Miami (Ohio), a 29-23 win. He also coached Saturday’s game against North Dakota State, a 37-24 loss.

It’s unclear if Kill will be back for Minnesota’s Big Ten opener at Michigan. Tracy Claeys, Kill’s longtime defensive coordinator, will take over the controls if Kill is not available. Kill has had seizures in the past, during games in 2001 and 2005 when coaching at Southern Illinois. He has yet to miss a game because of the seizures.

The loss to North Dakota State, a Football Championship Subdivision team, dropped Minnesota to 1-3.

The Gophers fell apart in every area against the Bison. Quarterbacks MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell each threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Gray and Shortell combined to complete nine passes and the offensive line gave up five sacks. Minnesota allowed 28 points in the second quarter and gave up 336 total yards for the game.

“I feel bad for our students, I feel bad for the state of Minnesota, I feel bad for our kids,” Kill said in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after the game. “We all want to win.”

The loss brought back bad memories for Minnesota fans, who have seen the Gophers lose to an FCS team three times in the last five seasons. The Gophers lost to North Dakota State in 2007 and were defeated by South Dakotalast season.

Another demoralizing loss to an FCS team and the prospect of being without their head coach means the players have a lot to deal with as they get ready for their trip to Ann Arbor.

“We just need to stay together as a team,” running back Duane Bennett said. “The last thing we need is to have guys fall apart and go by the wayside. We just need to tip our hats to North Dakota State and make the corrections as a team.”

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NCAAF Team Report – Minnesota – NOTES, QUOTES

–LB Aaron Hill, who missed the first three games because of a hamstring injury, started against North Dakota State. He made five tackles.

–Minnesota drove 68 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown on its opening possession against North Dakota State. It was the first time the Gophers scored on their first drive of a game this season.

–The Gophers also held a team scoreless in the first quarter for the first time this season. Minnesota trailed 28-14 at halftime, the third time it headed to the intermission facing a deficit in four games this season.

–Minnesota fell to 7-2 all-time against North Dakota State, having lost the past two meetings. The Bison defeated the Gophers, 27-21 in 2007 at the Metrodome

KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Donnell Kirkwood — He rushed for a career-high 70 yards on 10 carries against North Dakota State. Kirkwood ran for two touchdowns, including a 30-yarder in the second quarter. It marked Minnesota’s longest scoring run since DeLeon Eskridge had a 46-yard touchdown run at Illinois on Oct. 11, 2008.

LOOKING GOOD: The sputtering running game finally produced against North Dakota State. Minnesota ran for a season-high 168 yards. Quarterback MarQueis Gray was held to 41 yards on 18 carries, but Donnell Kirkwood andDuane Bennett combined for 130 yards. The Gophers will need production from the running backs if they are going to be competitive in Big Ten games.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Gophers couldn’t control either side of the line of scrimmage against North Dakota State. That’s to be expected once Big Ten play opens where Minnesota can’t match up against more physical squads, but certainly not against a team from the Football Championship Subdivision. The Gophers’ offensive line allowed five sacks and didn’t get to North Dakota State’s quarterback once. Minnesota’s defense has recorded one sack in four games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We need to take accountability for how we play. We have to get better. We need to get this thing turned around and come out next week and play better.” — Minnesota safety Kim Royston on the Gophers’ 37-24 loss to North Dakota State.

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NCAAF Team Report – Minnesota – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

–QB MarQueis Gray took a step back against North Dakota State after showing progress versus New Mexico State and Miami. He completed 5-of-12 passes for 53 yards, no touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Gray was limited to 23 rushing yards on 13 attempts against the Bison. He ran for 100-plus yards in the previous two games, including a total of 171 yards against Miami, the most ever by a Minnesota quarterback.

–RB Duane Bennett ran for a team-high 74 yards on 13 carries against North Dakota State. He had 70 yards on seven attempts in the first half.

–S Kim Royston had a season-high 11 tackles against North Dakota State. He has reached double figures in tackles in all four games.

–K Chris Hawthorne has recovered from a shaky start to his Minnesota career. He kicked a career-long 36-yard field goal in the third quarter against North Dakota State, his fourth straight successful attempt. Hawthorne, a transfer from North Carolina State, missed three of his first four attempts in the first two games.

ROSTER REPORT:

–RB David Cobb made his first career appearance against North Dakota State. The freshman had a three-yard gain in the fourth quarter.

–LB Brendan Beal has missed all four games because of a knee injury. The transfer from Florida has been taking part in drills to test the knee, but hasn’t returned to practice.

–OT Josh Campion sustained a concussion in fall practice and has missed all four games.

–WR AJ Barker has missed the first four games with a hamstring injury.