Kill: Minnesota' M.O. is 'Here we go'
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota is coming off the worst defeat in a Big Ten game in the school's history, a 58-point shutout loss at Michigan.
After an early and easy touchdown by the Wolverines in that game, Gophers coach Jerry Kill noticed an attitude problem with his team.
"As soon as the University of Michigan went boom, boom, boom and scored, I think our kids went 'Oh, no, here we go,'" Kill said. "That's our M.O."
The Gophers have lost 10 of their last 25 games since November 2008, and for the players who've been around for most of those defeats, there's a discouraged mindset that can be hard to reverse.
"We just don't have a fight-back mentality. Is that the kids' fault? No. It's our program's fault, and right now it's my fault because I'm the head coach," Kill said Tuesday during another rambling, colorful news conference he used to paint a picture of disparity between the broken-down Gophers and the top teams in the Big Ten.
He spelled out the work he and his staff have to do to build Minnesota into a consistent winner. He quoted Murray Warmath and mentioned Bud Grant.
He spoke of checking on players in their dorm rooms and the difficulty of keeping them all in class, but he said his predecessor, Tim Brewster, wasn't to blame. He pointed out the way Wisconsin trusted Barry Alvarez to turn around that program.
And in lamenting the challenge of improving the Gophers in practice during the week, Kill even insisted he had better depth last season at Northern Illinois.
"We just don't have the bodies in our program," he said, adding: "We can't do what we did at Northern Illinois last year because we're not gifted enough. Hell, we've got to quit trying to do it, because we can't. Don't ask somebody to do something they can't do. So we've got to do something different."
Ranting and raving and putting the players through painful, boot-camp-style drills won't be on his list.
"You can go beat the heck out of them all you want. But if you take somebody that's not athletic and gifted and you just keep beating him, he gets slower. We've gotten slower since we played USC, OK? So there are a lot of psychological things that I've got to figure out," Kill said.
That starts with simply getting the Gophers to feel better about themselves. Senior left guard Chris Bunders has it figured out, for his part.
"Football is a wonderful game. I love to play it, and I'm going to play it as long as I can and as hard as I can," Bunders said. "So I appreciate coach thinking that we're going to be kind of starting things here, but whether that's the case or whether we're just out here having a good time and playing our butts off in our senior year, that's all I'm hungry for."
Kill said he evaluated every player on the roster with his staff Tuesday morning to determine which of them have been putting forth a full effort and truly care about playing. Without factoring in experience or scholarship status, Kill said he plans to simply play the guys who are giving their best.
"It's the same thing every place I've ever been. I suppose if this was a great job, I wouldn't be here. That's what I'm saying. They would have had somebody else hired," Kill said. "It's a tough job for tough people and tough times."
Sophomore safety Chase Haviland, a walk-on from Thief River Falls who's 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, is one player Kill singled out for his effort who will see more time on the field. Two senior starters, defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey and cornerback Kyle Henderson, are two others he praised for their performance.
There weren't any other kudos coming from the coach this week.
"We're in the middle of the storm right now. It has to end somewhere," Kirksey said, adding: "We're like, 'Aw, man, we want things to change now,' but it's hard to make things change overnight. It's hard to face reality when you're looking at a situation like that."
Minnesota (1-4, 0-1 Big Ten) plays Saturday at Purdue (2-2, 0-0), and freshman Max Shortell will again be the starting quarterback until MarQueis Gray is "completely healthy," Kill said. Gray didn't play last week due to a toe injury.
Starting offensive tackles Ed Olson and Jimmy Gjere each left the Michigan game with injuries, and Kill said their status is in question this week, as with starting cornerback Troy Stoudermire, who missed last week because of a broken bone in his forearm.
Senior running back Duane Bennett has seen his workload drop and freshman Donnell Kirkwood had a hamstring problem against Michigan, giving freshman David Cobb a sudden chance to carry the ball. Devon Wright is in the mix, too.
"They're all capable of making a play, but I want to see somebody make a play," Kill said.