Column: Leidner deserved a chance, ya feel me?

Samuel Gordon

Last Saturday against San Jose State, Mitch Leidner turned in one of the most prolific performances by a Gophers quarterback in the last five years.

He was rewarded with a spot on the sideline against Iowa, where he watched Minnesota’s offense wallow in ineptitude through an embarrassing 23-7 homecoming loss to the Hawkeyes.

And relegating Leidner to backup status wasn’t entirely head coach Jerry Kill’s decision.

Sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson apparently has some say in the starting lineup now.

Kill told reporters after the loss he let Nelson decide if he was going to play  Saturday.

“We felt comfortable [that] if he could play, he would, and it would be his call,” Kill said.

Wait a minute.

In the biggest game of Kill’s tenure at Minnesota, the 20-year-old Nelson decided who was going to start at quarterback?


Nelson, who fell to 2-5 as a Big Ten starter, responded by leading the offense to just 165 total yards.

He struggled to read the blitz, looked jittery in the pocket and had little to no accuracy on downfield throws.

The Gophers’ lone touchdown was set up by a long kickoff return. Their longest drive of the game was 34 yards.

Kill was staunch in his defense of the decision to stick with Nelson and said he never thought about making a change during the game.

He opted to go “with maturity.”

Saturday’s game was the perfect platform to end a quarterback controversy.

Leidner rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns in his lone start, last weekend against San Jose State.

If Leidner had started and played well Saturday, he’s the guy moving forward. If he laid an egg, he could have faded into the background without speculation.

In Kill’s defense, the quarterback wasn’t the only problem offensively.

Iowa owned the line of scrimmage and held Minnesota to 30 yards rushing. And there’s no guarantee Leidner would have won the game under those circumstances.

Still, Nelson hasn’t done anything in his short career to distinguish himself from Leidner, and Leidner has played really, really well in the six-plus quarters he’s guided the offense.

Kill met with reporters Sunday morning and discussed the situation some more.

“I don’t really understand all the quarterback questions,” he said.

You’re getting these questions because Leidner absolutely electrified TCF Bank Stadium a week ago.

And you benched him.

Ya feel me?