Gophers down Northwestern 20-17

Jerry Kill was watching over his team from the press box.

Jack Satzinger

EVANSTON, Ill. — The Gophers are back and so is their head coach Jerry Kill — sort of.

Minnesota, fresh off a bye week, beat Northwestern 20-17 on the road. It was led by a strong defensive effort, but the story of the game might have been Kill’s presence.

Kill, who took a leave of absence to focus on his epilepsy treatment earlier this month, did not coach Saturday, but was in attendance and watched his team from the coaches’ box.

At halftime, with the game tied 7-7, Kill was spotted walking out of the press box elevator and into the coaches’ box.

Gophers acting head coach Tracy Claeys said earlier this week that he doubted Kill would be at the game and said he didn’t even know if Kill would watch the game.

A University spokesperson told the Daily that Kill and his wife, Rebecca, drove to watch the game. That spokesperson said Kill decided he couldn’t watch the game from home.

Though Kill was in attendance, the spokesperson was adamant that “nothing has changed” about Kill’s status.

Closer to a bowl

Saturday’s victory marks the Gophers’ first Big Ten win of the season and just their second Big Ten road win in the Jerry Kill era.

Now with five wins in hand, Minnesota needs just one more victory this season to become bowl eligible. It has five games left on the schedule.

Two QB System?

In a game against Northwestern, something to watch for is its two-quarterback system.

It was Minnesota, however, that used multiple quarterbacks Saturday.

Mitch Leidner started the game, but Philip Nelson came in midway through the second quarter to execute an eight-play, 82-yard touchdown drive.

That sequence gave Minnesota its first score of the game after the offense sputtered through much of the first half. Nelson completed eight of 11 passes for 112 yards and one touchdown in the game. It was just the second time this season Nelson finished a game without throwing an interception.

Northwestern had trouble maintaining consistency on offense without dual-threat quarterback Kain Colter. Colter usually splits playing time with Trevor Siemian, who threw two interceptions and fumbled a ball after being sacked.

That defensive pressure, combined with efficient play from Nelson, was enough for the Gophers to get the victory with their head coach looking on from above.