Kill’s seizure raises more questions

Jerry Kill didn’t coach after his fifth game-day seizure Saturday morning.

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill expresses his discontent with a review of a Gophers touchdown against Wisconsin on Oct. 20, 2012.

Mark Vancleave, Daily File Photo

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill expresses his discontent with a review of a Gophers touchdown against Wisconsin on Oct. 20, 2012.

by Jack Satzinger

ANN ARBOR, Mich. —University of Minnesota head football coach Jerry Kill had his fifth game-day seizure Saturday morning and didn’t coach in the Gophers’ 42-13 loss to the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Though coaches and players have stressed there is a protocol for when a seizure occurs, Kill’s latest seizure has raised questions about his ability to lead the program.

Kill, who has epilepsy, had a seizure three weeks ago during the Gophers’ 29-12 victory over Western Illinois University on Sept. 14, but Saturday was the first time he had to miss a full game.

“You have to question his ability to effectively lead a team when he’s missing multiple games a season,” finance junior Matthew Lowe said.

Kill had his first on-field, public seizure with Minnesota in a 2011 game against New Mexico State University. In 2012, he had his second game-day seizure after a loss to Northwestern University and his third at
halftime against Michigan State University.

In all instances, Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys took over the head coaching duties from the press box.

So far, the Gophers have adjusted well to playing without Kill on the sideline. After Saturday’s game, senior defensive back Brock Vereen said Kill’s absence from a full game didn’t affect the team negatively.

“He wasn’t on the flight with us, so at that point we were already mentally preparing for him to not be out here,” Vereen said.

Kill felt sick and remained in Minneapolis to visit with his doctors Friday when the Gophers traveled to Michigan. He planned to fly to Ann Arbor for the game Saturday but opted to stay home after the seizure.

Without Kill on the sidelines, the Gophers hung around for the first three quarters but couldn’t generate enough offense to keep up with the Wolverines’ attack.

Michigan’s offense racked up 348 yards of total offense for its first Big Ten win of the season.

Minnesota athletics director Norwood Teague addressed the media after the loss and said Kill was resting at home.

University President Eric Kaler was also at the game in Ann Arbor. Teague said that he and Kaler had a conversation on Saturday about Kill.

“Dr. Kaler and I spoke, [and] he thinks the world of Jerry as a coach,” Teague said. “He’s concerned about him, but he also knows that [epilepsy] is a moving target. [Kill is] managing it, trying to find ways to manage it better.”

Claeys speculated Sunday morning that an adjustment in Kill’s medication might have contributed to the seizure Saturday morning.

Leidner starts over Nelson

After the game, Claeys said the coaching staff elected to start redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner at quarterback over sophomore Philip Nelson. Nelson started seven times last year and the first three games of this season, but he led a sputtering offense last week against the University of Iowa.

Minnesota only scored seven points with Nelson at the helm. He threw two interceptions and rushed nine times for minus-18 yards.

Leidner could have crumbled in his first career road start in front of an announced crowd of 111,079 without his head coach.

The last time a Gophers freshman quarterback started on the road at Michigan, the team lost 58-0 behind Max Shortell.

Leidner looked shaky early on, fumbling the ball on the third play of the game, but he bounced back on Minnesota’s next possession, leading a 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.

Leidner capped the drive when he lobbed a pass to the corner of the end zone and redshirt freshman tight end Maxx Williams came down with the ball to tie the game at 7-7. Williams led Minnesota with five

Leidner finished with 145 passing yards, completing 14 of 21 attempts. He also ran for a team-high 66 yards.

After the game, Leidner said quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski has helped him hone his passing abilities over the past few weeks.

“I was definitely more comfortable today,” Leidner said. “We’ve been putting in a lot of extra time with receivers. … Coach [Zebrowski] has been working with me.”

Kill’s wife sends team a message

Claeys said that before the game, Rebecca Kill, coach Kill’s wife, sent him a text message to read aloud to the players.

Claeys said the message told the team that she and Kill missed it but wanted the players to compete hard in an effort to bring the Little Brown Jug back to Minnesota.

The Gophers haven’t won the Jug — the oldest rivalry trophy in college football — since beating Michigan in 2005.

Minnesota wasn’t playing only for a trophy Saturday; it was also playing for its coach.

“He inspires us so much,” Vereen said. “He’s going through so much, and deep down we know he wants to be here more than anything. It’s hurting him not to be here, and that’s motivation to play harder.”