Jerry Kill stands behind choice to stay with QB Philip Nelson vs Iowa
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MINNEAPOLIS -- One day after his team suffered through an ugly 23-7 loss to Iowa, Jerry Kill did not falter in his stance behind his decision to stay with sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson over freshman backup Mitch Leidner throughout the struggle-filled afternoon.
"Philip was our first team quarterback and he played well until he got hurt," Kill said in his office Sunday morning. "Then the guy who is his backup comes in and does a good job, gets two wins. Then Philip comes back and he's healthy and ready to go, so we play him. Then I get all these quarterback questions."
"We have two good quarterbacks and both of them have already had an impact on our season and we're 4-1. And they'll continue to have an impact on our season. I guess that's the best way I can put it. How we use them will be dictated by what the situation in the game is and where we're at."
The sting from the beatdown by Iowa was still present, but Kill was notably straightforward and level-headed while offering his strong outlook on the Gophers' quarterback situation.
Nelson, in his first start after sitting last week with a strained right hamstring, undoubtedly had a rough outing on Saturday, as did the entire Gophers offense. The Gophers' first seven drives ended in either a punt or an interception en route to only 165 yards and one touchdown. Nelson could never find a consistent rhythm with his receivers, completing 50 percent of his throws (12-of-24 for 135 yards).
Minnesota trailed 17-0 at halftime and had gotten only as far as Iowa's 28-yard line. Kill said he considered putting Leidner in for a series to possibly jumpstart the offense, but with the window for a comeback narrowing, he chose to stick with Nelson
"Does it mean there was never a conversation of we should take Mitch in this series to maybe change the rhythm of the game a little bit? No," Kill said. "But if you start pulling him just because you're not playing well, then you've got everybody losing confidence.
"Was he the reason the reason we played poorly, was he the total reason? I don't think so. I think it's a team game. Did he miss a couple shots downfield that maybe he'd like to have back? Certainly, but there are 10 other guys out there that have to execute."
Kill encountered a heavy dose of questions about his quarterbacks post-game Saturday. It was obviously still a hot topic a day later, and that isn't likely to change in the week ahead as the Gophers prepare for a daunting road trip to Michigan.
Kill admitted the outside perception of the Gophers having a quarterback debate "kind of amazes" him. But while he firmly defended his position on the topic at length, Kill did not allow any signs of heightened tension to creep into his response.
"Maybe Mitch would have gone in there and changed the whole game and lit it up," Kill said. "I don't know, but that's the decisions we make, whether it's right or wrong. That's what we get paid to do. I guess it wasn't right yesterday that we didn't get enough rhythm. Could we have made a change? Should we? You can say we could done a lot of things differently, because we didn't win the game."
"I'm OK to be questioned about that. We don't have a big quarterback controversy. We have a sophomore quarterback and a freshman, and they're both good players, and they're both learning on the job a little bit."
• Kill confirmed that junior outside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell was pulled in the second quarter due to problems settling into the game early on. Campbell, playing in his first Big Ten game, logged 25 defensive snaps before senior James Manuel, who started the first three games in the spot, stayed in for the remainder of the game.
• An injured right shoulder derailed cornerback Derrick Wells on Saturday. Wells tweaked his shoulder on the Gophers' first drive and came back in for only two snaps late in the first half. Wells returned on Iowa's initial third quarter drive, but was knocked out 12 plays in after reinjuring his shoulder on a tackle.
Kill said the injury was only a stinger, and did not express any concern that it will cause the junior starter to miss playing time next week. Senior Jeremy Baltazar, who took over Wells' spot, was in on 52 of 70 defensive plays.