Night kickoff adds buzz to UM-Syracuse
MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota football team hosts Syracuse this Saturday for a game under the bright lights at TCF Bank Stadium. The 7 p.m. kickoff is already the second night game for the Gophers through four weeks of the season. Minnesota opened the year with a night game on the road against UNLV.
Playing at night is no doubt a good thing for Gophers fans, as it gives them all day to prepare for the game. There's no need to wake up early and get to the stadium by kickoff at 11 a.m.
But for head coach Jerry Kill and his players, having to wait until 7 p.m. has its disadvantages.
"I think as coaches, sometimes you like playing at 11 because you don't have to think about everything all during the day and the afternoon," Kill said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "You get up, you go to work, you play, you get home and you can get your week started again. Playing at night, as a coach you get done around 12 o'clock or 1. You basically don't go to sleep and you go to work on the next week.
Clearly, the allure of a night game at TCF Bank Stadium, coupled with the fact that the Gophers are off to a 3-0 start, has created some buzz around campus. The school advertised tickets to Saturday's game for just $10. According to a university official, the school sold out of 5,300 of the $10 tickets. Approximately 1,800 of those tickets were sold within the first 12 hours they went on sale after last Saturday's win against Western Michigan.
"I think as a coach, as far as the kids and the fans and those kinds of things, I think a lot of people like going to a Saturday night game," Kill said. "From a (coach's) standpoint, when you have 12 opportunities, the time you play them and when you play them, you don't worry about that. You just play good when you play them."
This Saturday's game is the only night game at TCF Bank Stadium this season. Last year, Minnesota hosted North Dakota State for a 6 p.m. kickoff in the final non-conference game.
High-scoring Syracuse: When the Gophers and Syracuse finally do kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday, Minnesota will be facing a high-scoring offense that has scored a total of 98 points in its first three games (an average of 32.7 points per game). Syracuse has averaged 379.7 passing yards per game, third-most in all of college football.
Minnesota had its hands full with a pass-happy Western Michigan team last Saturday, but the Orange offense could be an even bigger test.
"They're very explosive," Kill said of the Orange. "They've got a receiving corps with an athletic skill set. They're different than a lot of people we'll play, even the rest of the year. … Very gifted at wide receiver and quarterback. They can go vertical with the football."
Syracuse earned its first win last Saturday, beating Stony Brook by a 28-17 final. In their opening game, the Orange lost a shootout to Northwestern, falling 42-41 at home to the Wildcats. Syracuse fell to 0-2 by losing to then-No. 2 USC by a 42-29 final.
Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for over 300 yards in each of the Orange's three games so far. He was 45-for-66 for 482 yards and four touchdowns in the season-opening loss to Northwestern.
"They've got a lot of good athletes on their offense," said Gophers linebacker Mike Rallis. "They like to get the ball to those athletes in different situations in space. We've just got to be on top of our game and everybody's got to do their job."
Gophers not worrying about being 3-0: With Saturday's win over Western Michigan, the Gophers are now 3-0 on the season and halfway to becoming bowl eligible. After all, getting to a bowl game was the team's goal prior to the season.
But when asked about their perfect record to start the season, the Gophers refuse to get ahead of themselves.
"It's a good feeling, obviously, but it's a brand new week," Rallis said. "We haven't done anything this week and we haven't reached any of our goals yet from the preseason. … We really just take it one game at a time. We don't really think about (the record). We have high expectations for ourselves. I don't think we've lived up to those yet."
Kill said being 3-0 hasn't changed the way his team has gone about its business, but it has changed the mood during practice.
"I get so caught up in the bubble and so forth. I'm sure it has. We'll know more today when we go out to practice," he said. "… I think we've been pretty consistent. The coaches here, whether you win or lose, we're going to treat you the same. We're going to get excited about a win and we enjoy it. You enjoy the moments, but then when you come back to work, you go to work."
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