KIRK'S OPENING STATEMENTS
The injury situation right now...I think we are looking a little bit better right now, we will find out more this week on whether or not Grant and Jared will return. They were working out last Thursday and were dressed Saturday, but obviously they were not ready to play yet.
We are hopeful that we will get both of those guys back. Probably the most questionable guy is Ed Hinkel. He tried to go Saturday and could not play effectively; I think he played just three plays and that was it. I am not sure where that is at but we will know more this week.
The big task for us right now is to get our mistakes corrected, with penalties being a big part of that. Doing a better job on some details. The most important thing is getting our football team back on their feet. That was a tough loss and we have been in that situation a couple of times this year, but now we have to get back on our feet. We have a great challenge, obviously, as we play Minnesota. They are an excellent football team. The statistics don't lie in this case; they are playing at a very high level.
If you look back to a year ago, we played a team in our last game last year that was still growing and I think a big turning point for their team was what happened during their bowl preparation. They had great preparation, went down and played a great football game against Arkansas, a team that had played for the SEC Championship, and beat them pretty convincingly. Ever since that, I felt that has given them a great thrust forward. I think they were positive over the summer, as I saw Coach Mason at the Big Ten luncheon. And rightfully so, as they have a great football team.
Starting on offense, their line does a great job and their coaches have a good scheme. The line is very talented and pretty athletic. They do a nice job. They have talented receivers, a veteran quarterback in Abdul-Khaliq; he is really playing like a fifth-year senior. Then they have an unusual situation in having another fifth-year senior that came in and took over for him the other day, so they have a real luxury there. Needless to say, their running backs are extremely impressive. They have three guys back there that are doing an excellent job, and that is not to mention Jackson, who had 1,300 yards last year; he is the fourth guy they list. That is an interesting situation.
I think the other big part of their team's success is the way their defense is growing. They have grown immensely in a year's time. They are stronger, more physical, more aggressive and very sound. Things are complementing each other well. When you have a ground game like that, it helps the defense. They are on a roll right now. They are really on a positive streak since the bowl game.
It is going to be a great challenge for our football team. We are looking forward to it. We have a lot of work to do this week and it will be great to be back in Kinnick. I am very hopeful that we sell this one out. I know the crowd will be into it and will show up to honor a lot of great seniors. We have a great senior class. These guys have done a fantastic job for us. It will be a special moment for them playing their last ballgame in Kinnick.
All in all it should be a great weekend, and we need to do our work this week to make sure that we can be ready to go on Saturday.