MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Gopher football team takes on Northwestern on Saturday searching for Minnesota’s first Big Ten win.

It will most likely be defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys’ first time as acting head coach in Jerry Kill’s absence, as the head coach is in the midst of an indefinite leave to manage his epilepsy.

Claeys has also made his first executive decision.

Mitch Leidner will start at quarterback Saturday, Philip Nelson will play.

“He played well enough and they moved the ball on offense,” Claeys said. “What I shared with the offense is that Philip will be ready to play. I’d like to get him in the game some time.”

In some respects, this could be the beginning of an audition for the head job.

If Kill decides not to return — although few expect that — that means Claeys will be working with the special teams and the offense for the first time.

“I don’t think it changes anything for us,” Maxx Williams said. “We know Kill has a situation and we move forward. All the coaches know what they’re doing. We look forward to playing Northwestern this week.”

And yes Claeys got some advice from Kill when he talked to him last night.

“The main things is to have fun,” Claeys said. “We have to enjoy it.”

Some maintain it’s a long-shot that Kill returns on Saturday. Others say don’t bet against it.

Mike Max