Good Weather for a Football Game
April 27, 2013

Past attempts by University of Minnesota marketing wizards to promote the annual Spring Football Game have included a passing scrimmage, free autographs, and even an outdoor classic at St. Thomas.

But ever since the departure of Lou Holtz, Twin Cities football fans have treated the event with distain. Undaunted, athletic director Norwood Teague’s minions pulled out all the stops this year with a genuine 60-minute game preceded by alumni touch football, used equipment sales, and the full marching band. They stopped short of offering free beer. They need not have bothered. A crowd guessed at 8,500 showed up with the attraction being a warm day after a brutal Spring that allowed audience members to merely sit in the sun for a few hours.

The game itself wasn’t bad as these things go. Nobody got hurt and both the maroon and the white performed with a reasonable amount of responsiveness. For the most part, quarterbacks Phil Nelson and Mitch Leidner managed to hit their receivers. Running backs Rodrick Williams Jr. and Cole Banham combined for 81 combined rushing yards, although both could be benchwarmers August 29 when the Gophers open at home against UNLV.

Linebacker James Manuel made seven tackles (five unassisted) and managed to not injure anyone. Nelson completed 13 of 17 passes including a five-yard touchdown toss to Derrick Engle.

Leidner had a pair of touchdown passes for the white squad, one to Logan Hutton for 36 yards and the other to Jamel Harbison for 10 yards.

“I thought we had a good day overall, on both sides of the ball,” said Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill.

In general, the squads were made up of haves (maroon) and have-nots (white). The maroons had stalwarts such as Donnell Kirkwood, K.J. Maye, and Issac Fruechte. The whites had Grayson Levine, Yoshoub Timms, and Jordan Hinojosa. The contest was engineered to simulate an actual Fall football game, and it was a surprise to Kill and his staff when the have-nots took a 17-14 lead in the third quarter. Nelson then righted the maroon ship with a pair of scoring drives for a 24-17 victory, just as the script required.

Now that North Carolina has been removed from the schedule, the 2013 Gophers are set to go 4-0 in the non-conference season and squeeze in at least a pair of Big 10 wins en route to another minor (not on New Year’s Day) bowl game. That’s the plan, anyway.

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