Coach Kill stays mum on Gophers starting quarterback
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota Gophers coach Jerry Kill opened uncertainty at quarterback when he pulled junior Mitch Leidner in the second half of last week’s 27-0 loss at Northwestern.
As Minnesota (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) prepares for an important game at Purdue on Saturday, Kill is keeping his decision on his starter private.
Kill declined to say if Leidner or freshman Demry Croft would start this week, though Leidner was one of three players to speak with the media following Kill’s weekly news conference. Kill said Leidner’s availability didn’t indicate if he would start this week.
”No, Mitch will meet with the media any time; he’s not going to dodge any bullets,” Kill said, later adding: ”Nobody needs to know about that. Nobody needs to know what we’re doing with the quarterback from week to week. We don’t need to tell anybody what we’re going to do.”
Leidner has started 21 of his 27 career games but was just 10-of-21 passing last week for 72 yards and one interception when he was pulled in favor of Croft. In his first action of the season, Croft was 5-of-11 passing for 27 yards.
In five starts this season, Leidner has thrown for 950 yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions and has a 57.2 completion percentage.
”I haven’t lost any confidence,” Leidner said. ”I’ve been in this situation a lot. I’ve won a lot of football games. I’ve been throwing the football well as far as how previous games have gone. I haven’t lost any confidence there. It’s a matter of as an offensive unit to just keep getting better.”
The Gophers have the lowest-scoring offense in the conference this season and are 12th of 14 Big Ten teams in total offense. Kill accepted blame for the offensive struggles and said the team needs to go back to relying on its running game.
Minnesota has had occasional big plays from freshmen backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks but is last in the Big Ten in rushing offense, averaging 141.2 yards per game.
”We’ve got to get back to being who we are, and we’ve got to find a way to do it,” Kill said. ”We were throwing the ball 35 times a game. That isn’t who we are. That’s not who I am. That’s not how we’re going to be able to win in the Big Ten.”