MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota was so eager to get back on track after the lopsided loss at Iowa that several of the Gophers started watching the not-so-pretty tape of the game that evening after the team returned home.
“They’re playing hard. They want to please,” coach Jerry Kill said, adding: “They want to know. We’re not asking them. They want to see. They want to see what went wrong and what could be better. So to me that’s a good sign.”
The Gophers are able to view the video on their personal laptops as soon as the coaching staff posts it. But Kill said this was the first time he knew of that happening so soon after a game.
“They don’t want to let anybody down, so they’re working at it,” Kill said.
Minnesota was off last weekend so there was plenty of time to watch the dominant performance by the Hawkeyes in that 31-13 decision, fueled by 182 yards rushing by the offense and three interceptions by the defense. The Gophers didn’t score until midway through the third quarter, and they let Iowa build a 24-point lead. The strong pass rush and productive running attack the Gophers showed in winning all four of their nonconference games was mostly gone on that humbling afternoon in Iowa City.
But they have plenty of opportunities left on the Big Ten slate to put that behind them, beginning with the homecoming game this Saturday against Northwestern.
“The big picture is that we’re 4-1. That’s something to be happy about but it’s also not enough to be content about,” said safety Brock Vereen, adding: “That whole bye week, guys were in here watching film, non-stop. Every time I was at the facility there were a bunch of other guys there.”
The break in the schedule made the Gophers wait longer to get back on the field to get the disappointing feelings out of their minds, but they were able to rest and heal. Left guard Tommy Olson (ankle) was expected to practice on Tuesday for the first time since he was hurt on Sept. 22 against Syracuse. Kill said center Zach Mottla (ankle) is at full speed for the first time since his injury in practice on Sept. 11.
And quarterback MarQueis Gray, who sprained his left ankle in the game on Sept. 15 against Western Michigan, returned to practice on Sunday. Kill said he’s “cautiously optimistic that he can be available in some situations” on Saturday.
“I pushed him a little bit, and I thought he responded OK,” Kill said Tuesday, adding: “He took some reps. We even did a little bit with team reps, but still has a little bit of a limp. If we were playing tomorrow, he wouldn’t be ready to play, but we’ll see how things progress.
That means the Wildcats, who blew a 28-17 lead with 10 minutes left at Penn State last week and suffered their first loss of the season 39-28, ought to be ready for Gray and Max Shortell to play. The Gophers wouldn’t hesitate to use both of them.
“If he’s full tilt and ready to go, that’s good for our football team,” Kill said of Gray.
Kill said the extra practice time was good for the team, too. He said he was in a bad mood last week. So the workouts were focused on fundamental skills like blocking and tackling, rather than doing too much analyzing Northwestern.
“It was a good week of practice. Guys were flying around out there. It should be a good benefit for us this week,” wide receiver A.J. Barker said.
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