Rain Delays Gopher Victory
September 20, 2014

Like a machine sputtering along despite possessing faulty components, the University of Minnesota football team did its best to compensate and used brute force to subdue a lesser foe, San Jose State, by 24-7 at TCF Bank Stadium on September 20 before an announced gathering of 47,739 spectators, few of whom resembled enrolled students. Those students who did attend, along with the rest of those in attendance, were sent scurrying for the exits during a rain delay of slightly more than one hour. Few returned. Some cursed the demise of the Metrodome.

Head coach Jerry Kill has been forced by team injuries to take the redshirts off eight true freshmen, seven on defense, and one on the offensive side of the ball. One of the defenders, the 6-6, 243-lb. Gaelin Elmore of Somerset, Wis., is listed as a tight end in the media guide. In addition, Kill has utilized the services of 10 freshmen who wore redshirts in the 2013 season. One of the latter is second-string quarterback Chris Streveler who stepped in for the injured Mitch Leidner. Tight ends Nick Hart and Nate Wozniak were used in the absence of All-America candidate Maxx Williams, also sidelined by injury.

Relying heavily on untried troops forced the Gophers to simplify strategy against the Spartans, who were bowl-eligible (but not chosen) last year. On offense this meant run left, run right, and run the ball up the middle. Somewhere Bernie Bierman is smiling in the knowledge that he was right after all. Winners don’t need a passing game.

“All we did was run-option football,” Kill said after the game’s conclusion. Simple as that. “All I care about is winning the game.”

Streveler didn’t complete a pass until six minutes and 22 seconds remained in the fourth quarter (to Drew Wolitarsky, good for a seven-yard gain). By then, Minnesota led 17-7. It was to be Streveler’s only pass completion of the game.

“All day, we ran the option offense,” said Kill. And, all day, San Jose State was vulnerable to the Gopher ground game and the added bonus of keeping the game clock moving, until it stopped for a thunderstorm. When play resumed, Minnesota displayed few ill effects resulting from the delay.

“Our kids were enthusiastic, ready to play after the delay,” recalled Kill. (San Jose State not so much.) “We were aggressive on defense, and we controlled the game.”

Workhorse running back David Cobb took advantage of the Gophers’ bigger line and ran for 207 net yards on 34 carries. Streveler saw the big holes the linemen were creating and ran the ball himself 18 times for 161 yards. It’s this kind of reckless abandon that cost Minnesota the services of their first-string quarterback. Big Ten opponents are ready and willing to take down (and out) running quarterbacks. But this was September 20 against San Jose State, a team unable to stop Cobb and Streveler on the ground.

The fact that the Minnesota coach has been able to overcome the injury bug with the depth of his roster speaks well for the recruiting efforts of Kill and his staff. Kill’s Gophers hail from 21 states and two foreign countries. Forty-two are homegrown Minnesotans. Both Florida and Wisconsin have contributed 13 players. Eleven Illinois natives have roster spots as do the same number hailing from Texas. Six come from Ohio and five from Georgia.

Prior to the arrival of Kill and his loyal staff, the University of Minnesota football rosters were replete with the names of players listed once and never heard from again. Not so with the current regime. The emphasis is on quality, not seat-fillers. Players stick around and graduate. In fact, 13 of them currently possess undergraduate degrees.

Saturday’s game began with SJU quarterback Blake Jurich throwing a pass directly into the hands of Gopher defensive back Demarius Travis. This ultimately led to a Ryan Santoso 38-yard field goal and a 3-0 Gopher lead. It was the first field goal of Santoso’s career. At 6-6 Santoso ranks as one of the tallest field goal kickers in the nation.

The Gophers’ second drive covered nine plays and 85 yards, ending with a nine-yard Cobb touchdown run. The Spartans struck right back with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Jurich to Tyler Winston.

Minnesota took a 17-7 halftime lead after a one-yard touchdown dive by Streveler with no time left on the clock. Kill had elected not to attempt a field goal in the situation. “We needed momentum,” he said. “If we can’t quarterback sneak for six inches, then we’re not very good up front.”

The Gopher defense took over in the second half and held San Jose State scoreless for the period. The only scoring in the half was by Minnesota, and resulted from a 16-yard touchdown scamper by Cobb.

Streveler recruited for his ability in Illinois high-school football to run an option offense. He also operated brilliantly in the Marian Central Catholic High School’s no-huddle offense. Against San Jose State, Minnesota went no-huddle for a time in the first half. Could it be that coach Kill has a no-huddle surprise for Minnesota’s next opponent, Michigan in Ann Arbor?

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