Big Ten

'Nothing is really going right' for Gophers offense, but is QB change coming?

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'Nothing is really going right' for Gophers offense, but is QB change coming?

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.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Will Penn State have enough offense to keep up with Hoosiers?]

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.

[MORE BIG TEN: After surgeries, infection, ICU stay, Matt Frazier finally back to football]

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.”

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.