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Updated: October 1st, 2013 7:49pm
Gophers notes: Nelson learns 'valuable lesson' after Iowa's four sacks

Gophers notes: Nelson learns 'valuable lesson' after Iowa's four sacks

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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• When sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson watched through film from the Minnesota Gophers' lopsided loss to Iowa, there were moments when he cringed seeing himself fail to get rid of the ball before succumbing to the pressure of the Hawkeyes' front line.

Nelson was sacked four times, with two coming on third down in Iowa territory.

A critical mistake came in the second quarter with the Gophers sitting on Iowa's 28-yard line, trailing only 3-0. Nelson, struggling to find an open man downfield, was eventually swallowed up by the defense and bumped out of field goal range. Iowa went on to score on its following drive.

"That's something I looked at and it's something I have to fix," Nelson said. "I can't be taking sacks, especially when we're getting closer to the redzone, maybe in the field goal range. That's definitely something Coach Kill said to me, 'You've got to learn from that' ... That was definitely a valuable lesson I learned Saturday."

• Safety Brock Vereen (knee) and cornerback Derrick Wells (shoulder), both limited against Iowa with injuries suffered in-game, are expected to be ready to go Saturday at Michigan, coach Jerry Kill said Tuesday.

Vereen and Wells practiced on Sunday, and were slated to practice again Tuesday evening.

Wells is the bigger the concern, with the status of his shoulder being an ongoing issue since fall camp. Kill mentioned that Wells would be monitored throughout the week, but wouldn't say whether or not he is considering limiting the junior cornerback's play count on Saturday.

Senior Jeremy Baltazar, Wells' backup, was used on 52 of 70 defensive plays -- his most significant stretch of playing time this season.

• Redshirt junior running back Donnell Kirkwood returned to the "U" offense last Saturday, handed the ball on three of the eight plays he came in on.

Slowly being folded back into the offense since injuring his ankle in the season opener against UNLV, Kirkwood's current role is still undefined. Kill said he will "see how the week goes" before making a call on where Kirkwood will fit into gameplan at Michigan.

• In the aftermath of the ugly defeat at the hands of rival Iowa, Kill has been quick to deflect the criticism that has flared up on to himself.

"We need a good, intense practice (today). I need to do a better job, frankly. I need to do a better job," Kill said.

"As a coach, instead of pointing fingers at the kids, 'We needs this and we need that. We're not good enough there,' you've got to take a look at yourself and say, 'we had a few who flunked the test on Saturday, why did they flunk? Lets talk to them. Lets work with, find out why they didn't do well and get it fixed.' That's what we've done. Now we'll have to see if we've got it fixed."

• The absence of fullback Mike Henry was a crucial, but overlooked blow to the Gophers against Iowa. Henry, a main component of the run-blocking scheme, sat out due to a rib injury and is questionable for Saturday.

"Coaching-wise, we had to move people around because of his injury," Kill said. "We probably should have played (redshirt junior tight end) Gabe Mezzenga much more and left (redshirt freshman) Maxx (Williams) alone ...I think it hurt us. I think it hurt our execution. We had two or three people out of position. Not good on our part."

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
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