Cobb steps up in key role for Gophers

David Cobb was a third-stringer at the start of the season, but he has emerged.

Minnesota running back David Cobb runs in for a touchdown in the second half against Western Illinois on Saturday, at TCF Bank Stadium.

Amanda Snyder

Minnesota running back David Cobb runs in for a touchdown in the second half against Western Illinois on Saturday, at TCF Bank Stadium.

by Nate Gotlieb

Gophers running back David Cobb started the season as the third-stringer, but the team turned to him in a crucial situation Saturday against San Jose State.

With the Gophers up 13-10 late in the second quarter, Cobb was called on to carry the ball on a fourth-and-goal situation from the 1-yard line.

Cobb, who was initially hit at the line of scrimmage, broke a tackle and dived into the end zone to give Minnesota a two-score lead. 

After a quiet start to his career as a Gopher, the junior from Killeen, Texas, has developed into one of the top running backs on the team. He leads the team with 332 rushing yards through four games.

“He came in with a great attitude during camp,” head coach Jerry Kill said after the game. “He’s had to earn it. He’s had to work, so give the credit to him.”

Cobb started the season behind both Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams Jr. on the depth chart.

But since Kirkwood injured an ankle in week one, Cobb and Williams have seen a bulk of the carries. The pair combined to rush for 342 yards and six touchdowns in week two and week three.

Williams had 15 carries for 60 yards last Saturday, but Cobb had the hot hand. He ripped off a 35-yard run midway through the second quarter and had a 17-yard run early in the fourth. Cobb finished with 25 carries for 125 yards — both career highs — and two touchdowns.

Kill said having starting middle linebacker Damien Wilson on the team — Cobb’s first cousin — has been critical in Cobb’s improvement.

The cousins grew up together in Mississippi and are roommates on campus.

“When he does well, you want to do well,  too,” Cobb said. “Just having that family bond up here with me is always a good thing.”

Signs point to Leidner

Kill indicated at his weekly press conference Tuesday that sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson won’t play Saturday against Iowa unless he is 100 percent healthy.

Nelson injured his hamstring during the second quarter of the Gophers’ win over Western Illinois on Sept. 14. Kill said last Saturday he would have only used Nelson in limited situations against SJSU — such as if Leidner lost his helmet and had to sit out a play.

Kill said after the game Nelson was “80 percent running-wise.” On Tuesday, he said Nelson “seemed to be getting along pretty good.”

“We’ll start out practice and see how things go,” Kill said. “We’re not going to change our style. … So he’s going to need to be 100 percent for us to give him the green light.”

One large hog

Senior safety Brock Vereen was in for a surprise when he first lifted the Floyd of Rosedale, the 98-pound bronze pig awarded to the winner of the Minnesota-Iowa game each year.

“I had no idea how heavy it was until it was too late,” he told reporters after Tuesday’s press conference. “I almost threw my back out.”

The Gophers have beaten Iowa twice during Vereen’s three full seasons on the team — both times at TCF Bank Stadium.

Minnesota will aim to reclaim the pig this weekend after it lost it in Iowa City, Iowa, last year.

Vereen offered this advice to whoever will lift the Floyd of Rosedale on Saturday.

“You have to lift with your knees,” he said.