MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Golden Gophers got a huge emotional lift when Jerry Kill returned to practice five days after suffering a seizure on the sidelines in a loss to New Mexico State.
It was a much-needed shot in the arm for a shaken program.
Kill spent five nights in the hospital and rejoined the team at practice Thursday. Team doctors have given him a clean bill of health and expect him to be at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday against Miami (Ohio).
There’s no reason that the RedHawks should sneak up on the Gophers.
Kill and his staff are plenty familiar with the RedHawks after facing them as coaches at Northern Illinois the previous three seasons. They also are fully aware of the attitude that Miami (0-1) will bring to TCF Bank Stadium because they’ve been in their shoes before.
“Basically those kids have been told they’re not good enough to play Big Ten football,” Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. “So, yeah, I think they come in wanting to prove.”
Claeys would know. He and Kill were coaching at Northern Illinois when they beat the Gophers in TCF Bank Stadium last season and lost to the RedHawks in the MAC title game.
Kill went 2-1 against Miami during his short time in the MAC, but the Gophers were much more concerned about their coach’s health this week than any strategic plans he had for the RedHawks.
Kill collapsed in the closing seconds of the loss to the Aggies last weekend, the third time he’s had a seizure on game day in his coaching career. Each time he’s returned without missing a game.
Even though Miami has a new coaching staff after hiring Michigan State assistant Don Treadwell to replace Mike Haywood in the offseason, the RedHawks will bring with them some key players who helped them edge Kill’s Huskies 26-21 in that conference championship game last season.
“Personnel wise we’ve got a pretty good idea of them,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. “We’re relying on that and then some past history with some of their coaches.”
And Miami is expected to get receiver Nick Harwell back after he missed the season opener due to a violation of team rules. Harwell was one of the most productive receivers in the country as the season came to close last season, hauling in 62 passes for 856 yards in the final nine games to help the RedHawks to the conference championship.
Treadwell said he is interested to see how sharp his team plays after having a bye just two weeks into the season.
“It certainly was a unique time to have a bye,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of byes in my 25-plus years, but never after just one game.”
If Miami can find a way to pull out a win, it will snap a 14-game losing streak for the school in non-conference road games. The last time that has happened was a 41-14 victory at Temple on Oct. 29, 2005.
“As coaches, we’ve got our hands full just getting our own group ready to play,” Treadwell said. “Us in particular, because we were not on last week. … We’re always excited for the MAC and the opportunities that we have when it comes to non-conference games.”
The Gophers (0-2) are reeling, but hope to get Kill back and move forward.
Team doctors said they expected Kill to make a full recovery, just as he has the other two times he has had a seizure on game day. Despite the frightening and violent nature of the convulsions, Kill has never missed a game because of them.
“I definitely would like to lighten the stress on him and have a really good game,” center Ryan Wynn said. “Miami-Ohio’s going to give us a challenge on both sides of the ball, so I can’t promise no stress.
“But in terms of us just doing the right things and doing our jobs, I hope that myself and the rest of the team can do that and at least get that part of the stress off coach’s shoulders so he can relax a little bit.”
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