Rebuilding Project is a Big One For Kill

The best thing the Golden Gophers can do about their 42-13 loss to Wisconsin is look ahead. Dwelling on a game in which they were outplayed in every area won't help anybody.

"We have to stay together," quarterback MarQueis Gray said. "We have two more games to go. We have to continue to work hard through the next two weeks and make plays during the next two games."

The Gophers are in last place in the Legends Division of the Big Ten with a 1-5 record and are 2-8 overall. Minnesota travels to Northwestern on Nov. 19 and hosts Illinois in the season's final game on Nov. 26.

Minnesota has lost eight straight games to Wisconsin. The latest defeat was yet another reminder how far the Gophers have to go to be competitive week after week in the Big Ten. After beating Iowa and leading for most of the game before losing to Michigan State, Minnesota had no chance against the powerful Badgers.

The Gophers gained a season-low 156 yards and were held without an offensive touchdown. Minnesota's two touchdowns came when kicker Jordan Wettstein ran in a fake field goal and Duane Bennett returned the second half kickoff 96 yards.

Wisconsin's offense moved the ball at will, gaining 461 yards, and quarterback Russell Wilson completed his first 16 passes.

Coach Jerry Kill, who took over the job in December, has been telling everyone all along that rebuilding the program wouldn't be easy. This game reinforced Kill's words.

"You go through phases in your first year taking over a program," Kill said in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. "You'll do some good things, then all of a sudden things don't go right. And you've got to come back. That's part of taking over a program. Bottom line is we've got to do a better job coaching. I take responsibility for that."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Minnesota has lost eight straight games to Wisconsin, the Gophers' longest losing streak in the series. Minnesota hasn't defeated the Badgers since 2003 in a 37-34 victory at the Metrodome. That's the last time the Gophers had possession of Paul Bunyan's Axe, the trophy the teams play for every season.

--The Gophers, who have had problems getting to the quarterback all season, sacked Wisconsin's Russell Wilson twice on the Badgers' first possession of the game. Cornerback Kyle Henderson and linebacker Gary Tinsley recorded the sacks.

--Duane Bennett's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half was the second kickoff return for a score this season by the Gophers. Marcus Jones returned a kickoff 92 yards against Purdue. It's the first time Minnesota has had two kickoff returns for touchdowns in a season since 1997.

KEEP AN EYE ON: QB MarQueis Gray -- After making progress the previous two weeks, he had his worst game of the season against Wisconsin. Gray, who played with a back injury, completed 6 of 14 passes for 51 yards and threw an interception. He had 19 carries for 68 yards. Gray became a father the day before the game when his girlfriend gave birth to twin boys.

LOOKING GOOD: At least opponents have to be on their toes when they play the Gophers. Minnesota's two touchdowns against Wisconsin both came via the unconventional route. Kicker Jordan Wettstein scored on a five-yard run on a fake field goal in the second quarter. Holder Adam Lueck took the snap and flipped it to Wettstein, who broke a tackle and ran over another defender at the goal line. Duane Bennett ran back the second half kickoff for a 96-yard touchdown. Bennett took the kick, ran up the middle, cut to the left sideline and raced untouched to the end zone.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Until the Gophers can control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, they're going to get pushed around against the Big Ten's heavyweights. Minnesota was outgained 461-156 in total yards, a mark that was a season-low for the Gophers. The most telling number came in rushing yardage, where Wisconsin rolled up 283 while Minnesota managed 105. The Gophers have many areas of need. Getting bigger, more physical players on the front lines is the biggest issue coach Jerry Kill must address.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've been practicing it for probably three weeks. I'll be honest. I thought I was down. I saw him (the defender) coming, and I tried making a little move on him. I think I watched the running backs all week." -- Minnesota kicker Jordan Wettstein, on his five-yard touchdown on a fake field goal.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES:

--LB Gary Tinsley had a season-high 12 tackles, including seven solo stops, against Wisconsin. Tinsley also had three tackles for a loss of yardage and a sack.

--LG Tommy Olson returned against Wisconsin after missing the Michigan State game because of a sprained ankle.

--WR Da'Jon McKnight, the Gophers' leading receiver, caught a team-high four passes for 34 yards against Wisconsin.

--S Kim Royston continues to have an outstanding season. He had nine tackles, including one for a loss of yardage, against the Badgers. Royston transferred from Wisconsin to Minnesota following the 2008 season.

ROSTER REPORT

--K Chris Hawthorne has missed the last three games because of a sore quad muscle.

--CB/KR Troy Stoudermire has missed the last six games because of a fractured left wrist.

--WR/KR Marcus Jones will miss the rest of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament.

--OL Ryan Orton was out against Wisconsin because of back spasms.

--LB Brendan Beal has missed the last three games because of a knee injury.

--OL Josh Campion is expected to miss the rest of the season because of a concussion.

--DE Harold Legania has missed the last five games because of a foot injury.

--OT Jimmy Gjere has missed the last six games because of a concussion.

--DE Leston Simpson has missed the last five games because of a head injury.


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