Big-game experience should help Leidner, Gophers

The team must overcome a hostile environment when it travels to Nebraska.

Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner searches for a pass on Saturday aganist Ohio State at TCF Bank Stadium.

Image by Bridget Bennett

Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner searches for a pass on Saturday aganist Ohio State at TCF Bank Stadium.

by Grant Donald

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner has had a roller-coaster season to say the least.

Whether it was early-season injuries, leading the team to major victories against Michigan and Iowa or making costly mistakes against Ohio State and TCU, each week has brought something new to the Lakeville, Minn., native.

However, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover  said one thing has stayed consistent for Leidner — his will to compete.

“I sometimes think [Leidner] kind of likes the idea of ‘OK, our backs are against the wall, here we go, let’s fight our way out,’” Limegrover said. “We’re not going to do anything to
dissuade his thought process on that because when he’s feeling good, the rest of that group follows behind.”

Throughout the season, the Gophers have had a tough time winning when Leidner has struggled.

In his six victories, Leidner has thrown nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. In his three losses, he has thrown only one touchdown and an alarming six interceptions.

After the Ohio State loss on Saturday in which he threw two interceptions, Leidner said he had to play better.

“I think the thing about that with Mitch is we have to play really good up front,” head coach Jerry Kill said. “We [have] to make sure we do a great job in protection, and the rest of it will take care of itself.”

While Leidner has struggled at times in his career, he has also had success in hostile Big Ten environments, including a 30-14 victory at Michigan Stadium earlier this season.

Leidner and the Gophers will experience yet another hostile environment this Saturday when they travel to Nebraska.

“Two years ago, we played there and they made so much noise that we could feel the vibrations in our chests,” senior defensive lineman Cameron Botticelli said. “It’s a tough place to play on the road.”

It’s not just the environment that makes playing in Nebraska a daunting task — the Cornhuskers feature an experienced pass rush that feeds off the crowd’s energy.

“[Nebraska has] two defensive ends that are long and can rush the passer and [are] aggressive, good run players,” Kill said. “We’ll have to execute very well to be successful.”

Part of being able to execute at a high level is dealing with the crowd noise, something the Gophers have incorporated into practices this week.

“Our equipment managers have these massive speakers, and they play crowd noise during our practices,” Botticelli said. “[The speakers] can get loud; it is a great simulation.”

While the speakers can be beneficial, redshirt junior Briean Boddy-Calhoun said the best way to prepare for crowd noise is by experience.

“You go down to TCU, and that was a hostile environment. You go to Michigan, which is 100,000 [people],” Boddy-Calhoun said. “We are a veteran team with experience and really have nothing to worry about heading down to Lincoln.”