Gophers End Tough Week on a High Note

The Gophers accomplished two vital things with their 29-23 win over Miami on Sept. 17. Not only did they capture their first victory of the season, they won one for coach Jerry Kill, who suffered a seizure on the sidelines during last week's loss to New Mexico State.

Minnesota's assistant coaches helped hold the Gophers together, starting with a team meeting the day following Kill's seizure. The assistants ran practice while Kill was hospitalized. Kill returned to practice Thursday and was back on the sidelines Saturday for his first win as Minnesota's head coach.

Following the emotional win, which wasn't locked up until safety Kim Royston broke up a pass at the goal line on the game's final play, the players chanted, "Jerry, Jerry, Jerry," in the locker room. The players also gave Kill a game ball.

"It's a nice moment, but really the assistant coaches deserve the credit for this win," Kill said. "The coaches did a great job putting together a game plan and the players executed it. We probably won the game because the fans in the final two minutes were on their feet making it hard for Miami to hear."

Quarterback MarQueis Gray, who accounted for 334 yards passing and running in the win, admitted the week was difficult for everyone involved with the program.

"I think any team would be worried about their head coach when they see something happen like that," he said. "We were down a little bit this week, but when he came back on Thursday it just gave us that much more momentum to go into this game and play for him, play for ourselves and get that win."

Strictly from a practical standpoint, the Gophers desperately needed a victory. After showing a lot of positives in losing 19-17 to USC in the opener, Minnesota suffered a stunning 28-21 home loss to New Mexico State, which came into the season rated as one of the worst teams in the country.

"We had come so far as a team, we definitely needed to get this 'W' under our belts to get things rolling," Royston said in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "And I think that's what this is going to do."

Minnesota hosts North Dakota State, which is 2-0 and ranked eighth in the Football Championship Subdivision poll, in its final non-conference game.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Gophers took their first lead of the season on Donnell Kirkwood's four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

--Minnesota's first blocked punt since 2009 couldn't have come at a better time. Duane Bennett came off the left edge to not only block a Miami punt deep in RedHawks' territory, but he picked up the ball inside the 5-yard line and ran it in for a touchdown. The block came early in the fourth quarter and gave Minnesota a 29-16 lead.

--Defensive end Michael Amaefula recorded Minnesota's first sack of the season against Miami. The Gophers were last in the nation in sacks in 2010.

--Minnesota is 27-3-1 all-time against Mid-American Conference schools. The Gophers are 3-0 all-time versus Miami.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Malcolm Moulton -- The junior college transfer continues to play well in his first season with the Gophers. He led Minnesota with four receptions for 72 yards, including a 59-yard gain in the first quarter. Moulton is becoming a reliable No. 2 option in the passing game, especially when Da'Jon McKnight is being double teamed.

LOOKING GOOD: MarQueis Gray took another big step in his transition to quarterback against Miami. He ran for 171 yards -- the most ever by a Minnesota quarterback -- and has gone over the 100-yard rushing mark in back-to-back games. Gray completed 11-of-21 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Although the Gophers recorded their first sack of the season, the defense against the passing game still has a lot of holes. Miami quarterback Zac Dysert threw for 325 yards, completing 27-of-48 passes for two touchdowns. Minnesota still doesn't put enough pressure on the quarterback and the defensive backs must do a better job in coverage.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a long five or six days. I appreciate my wife's support and my family's support. There are a lot of people to thank. I had very little to do with this win." -- Minnesota coach Jerry Kill following the Gophers' victory over Miami.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES:

--S Kim Royston made the game-saving defensive play when he broke up Miami quarterback Zac Dysert's pass at the goal line on the final play of the game to preserve the 29-23 win. The win was the first for Royston, who missed last season with a broken leg, since Nov. 14, 2009.

--K Chris Hawthorne, who had made only one field goal in four attempts in the first two games, had a big day against Miami. The transfer from North Carolina State made all three of his kicks, from 33, 19 and 26 yards

--TE John Rabe caught his first career touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, a 1-yard toss from MarQueis Gray. The score broke a 16-16 tie and gave the Gophers the lead for good.

--TE Eric Lair caught a 43-yard pass in the second quarter, the second longest gain of his career. His career long was a 44-yard gain last season against Northern Illinois.

ROSTER REPORT

--LB Aaron Hill has missed all three games because of a hamstring injury, but could return in the next week or two.

--LB Brendan Beal has yet to play this season because of a knee injury. The transfer from Florida has been taking part in drills to test the knee, but hasn't returned to practice.

--OT Josh Campion sustained a concussion in fall practice and has missed all three games.

--WR A.J. Barker has missed the first three games with a hamstring injury.


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