Gophers need to win winnable games
Gopher football Goal #2: Win the games you’re supposed to win.
In my second of ten Gopher Goals, I highlight how new Gophers head coach Jerry Kill can uplift the Minnesota football program by utilizing his ability to win those games he should win.
Working in the Gophers favor: The familiarity of the coaching staff and their past success.
Jerry Kill takes pride in winning the games he’s supposed to, and he has proven he can do it.
Teams coached by Kill in the past all showed steady improvement.
Saginaw Valley State improved from 6-4 to 7-3, then to 9-2. Emporia State finished 5-6 then 6-5.
At Southern Illinois, where Kill said he had “absolutely no talent,” his team went from 1-10 (1-6 in conference) his first year, then 4-8 (2-5), and then 10-2 (6-1). His Division I-AA team even beat Big Ten member Indiana.
At Northern Illinois Kill experienced the same measured success. His first year with the Huskies they went 2-10 (1-6), then 6-7 (5-3), then 7-6 (5-3), and finally 11-3 (8-0). Heck, Northern Illinois even won games they shouldn’t have, including victories over Big Ten schools like Purdue and Minnesota.
You can see by the yearly records, and inparticularly the conference records, that Kill’s teams have succeeded in winning the games in which they’re supposed to win.
The experience of the coaching staff and the familiarity of one another’s work is a benefit not many coaching staffs are presented with. However, Kill was given the opportunity to bring most of his staff with him from Northern Illinois.
Offensive Coordinator Matt Limegrover has been on Kill’s staff for 12 years, while Defensive Coordinator Tracy Claeys has been with Kill 16 years. Here are a list of Gophers coaches who have worked with Kill for over five years:
- Brian Anderson (Running Backs)-10 years
- Jeff Phelps (Defensive Line)-5 years
- Rob Reeves (Halfbacks/Tight Ends)-14 years + playing experience
- Jay Sawvel (Defensive backs/Special Teams)-10 years
- Eric Klein (Head Strength & Conditioning Coach)-17 years
- Pat Poore (Assistant Coach/Wide Receivers)-10 years
The work ethic of the coaching staff has already been on display during spring practices. They are expecting the same out of a team which has had its struggles winning when it should.
Since 2007 when Tim Brewster took over as head coach, the Gophers have endured frustrating losses to teams like Florida Atlantic, Bowling Green, South Dakota, and Kill’s former team Northern Illinois. Nothing against these teams, but these are schools that a Big Ten member like the University of Minnesota should beat. There is a reason big time programs schedule weaker, non-conference games: to get wins and build confidence going into conference play.
Starting this year with games against New Mexico State, Miami (Ohio), and North Dakota State, which are all home games, the Gophers must show they have the ability to beat teams in weaker conferences.
Kill has proven he has the ability to build programs. This cannot happen overnight at Minnesota. However, by simply winning the games they are supposed to win, Kill and the Gophers will start rebuilding this program one win at a time.
I think Kill put it best.
“We’re ordinary people trying to accomplish extraordinary things. That’s really what we are right here. Right now, with the athletes we have here, we’re ordinary cats trying to accomplish extraordinary things.”