The Minnesota offense has been bad through five games. And, according to the head coach, it’s probably lost a little confidence, too.
If you’re expecting the Gophers to make a quarterback change to spark an offense that currently ranks 126th in scoring offense and 112th in total offense, you’re going to have to wait until Saturday to see if you’re right.
“I'm not going to make any comments at quarterback,” head coach Jerry Kill said during his Tuesday press conference when asked if Mitch Leidner would continue to be the team’s starting quarterback.
“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. I mean, Mitch, the whole group together has made a mistake here, here, and here. It's not one person. But we'll see how all that works out. We've got a ton of things to work out right now.”
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Kill joins the rest of his Big Ten head-coaching colleagues in leaving these things a complete secret — even this week, Maryland is unlikely to reveal who’s starting at quarterback until Saturday’s game starts. But he’s also not wrong in saying that all the team’s offensive woes stem solely from the play of Leidner.
The junior quarterback has never really appeared capable of leading an explosive offense, but Minnesota has never really asked him to do that, either. The loss of stars David Cobb (running back) and Maxx Williams (tight end) has been a gigantic blow to the offense, as has been a rash of injuries along the offensive line.
Leidner and the Gophers had their worst day yet last week against Northwestern’s suffocating defense in the Big Ten opener. Minnesota gained just 173 total yards in the 27-0 loss, turning the ball over twice. Leidner completed 10 of his 21 passing attempts for 72 yards.
Kill inserted backup quarterback Demry Croft, a freshman, at the tail end of the game, with Croft passing 11 times, completing five of those attempts for 27 yards. It was Croft’s first action of the season. Hence the suggestion that Minnesota might be swapping signal-callers for this week’s game against Purdue, a game that’s surely no guarantee with the Boilermakers fresh off a near upset of Michigan State.
With the Boilers looking better than they usually do and the Gophers in an incredible offensive funk, could things get worse before they get better for Kill’s crew?
The head coach admitted that recent woes have likely dented the offense’s confidence.
“How do you get that back? You've got to go make a play or two,” he said. “It's kind of like life. When things aren't going your way, you've got to have something good happen before you get back on track in life. Same way in football. I mean, nothing is really going right right now. We need something good to happen. Well, you've got to go make something happen to feel good, and so we've got to have some success and have some things to get us rolling.
“We've got to get healthy, and that's an excuse. It is, but that would help us. But in the meantime, we can still do it with the players we have, but we have to maintain their confidence. And part of that you can't come in here and beat them up. I mean, they're beat up enough. They feel bad enough. I mean, our kids care. You think they want to hear everybody say what happened and where they're at? But this is still early in the season now. ... This ain't the end of the world. And if you look at the Big Ten right now, teams are winning 13-10, 10-6. Offensively I don't know if there's a juggernaut in there right now. Iowa maybe, but they scored 10 points to win.
“I think right now it's just how are you going to win. How are we going to win? If it's 17-14, who cares? Don't turn the ball over. Don't be high-risk, things of that nature. I think that that's what we've got to get back into our kids.”