Minnesota quarterback Conor Rhoda ‘has to continue to fail to grow’

Rhoda has four interceptions in five games.

Quarterback Conor Rhoda prepares to pass the ball on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Image by Courtney Deutz

Quarterback Conor Rhoda prepares to pass the ball on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

by Drew Cove

The Gophers came into this season with questions at quarterback, and after five games, the position is Conor Rhoda’s — for now.

While he has 54 completions per his 97 attempts, he has also thrown four interceptions in five games.

“The way I saw it evolve the most was when I went from being a third, fourth-string guy my first three years here, to then winning the backup job my redshirt junior year,” Rhoda said. “It was a confidence boost for myself, but it also showed the rest of my team, that ‘hey, I can do this.’”

The quarterback initially shared the starter’s spot with his counterpart, Demry Croft.

Now, Rhoda has been the solo starter at quarterback since the third game of the season, and since then the team is 1-2, with two consecutive Big Ten losses. Rhoda has managed to throw for 786 yards and five touchdowns this season. 

“He’s the best quarterback we have right now,” Fleck said. “I think he’s done a great job until this point, of doing what we’ve asked him to do.”

Fleck told reporters after the loss at Purdue that Rhoda is the starter because he deserves to be in that position, especially with his leadership this season.

Rhoda, despite his heavy leadership role, has thrown three interceptions in the last two games.

Two of those interceptions in the last two games came in the last minute of each game while Minnesota was driving down the field to tie the score.

“I think the experience of being in those situations [can help finish games],” Rhoda said. “The time’s also running out to continue to have learning experiences, and that falls on me.”

Another one of Rhoda’s turnovers that came against Purdue was a fumble. Rhoda and the offense were in the red zone, and he ended up running the ball and fumbling it at the 7-yard line.

“I’m not going to be emotional in making that decision [regarding the starting quarterback spot],” Fleck said. “’Well, you made a mistake, you sit down,’ that’s not fair. He’s got to continue to fail and grow as he goes through it.”

The turnovers the Gophers have made aren’t helping their cause to win more games.

“[This is] his sixth start,” said offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. “[He’s] continuing to learn from his experiences. The more confidence you get, the more experience you have. Maybe you have a little bit better timing… Getting the ball out of your hand goes with experience.”