Matt Limegrover recognized mistakes and audibled, with great results
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Since Gophers head football coach Jerry Kill took a step back to focus more on his treatment of epilepsy, Tracy Claeys and Matt Limegrover have taken a more visible role.
This could very well be a coincidence, but the interim coaching staff is 3-0 since that time. Limegrover, the offensive coordinator has had imaginative and winning game plans in each of those three victories. He said on Monday that the changes actually started after the Gophers lost Sept. 28 at TCF Bank Stadium to the Iowa Hawkeyes.
They got beaten that game for homecoming and scored just one touchdown. Then, the following week, Kill was unable to join the team in Michigan as the Wolverines whipped the Gophers, 42-13.
It was clear that something needed to change. And it appears that has happened, in the form of being more creative and aggressive.
"Absolutely. It's spot-on," Limegrover told 1500ESPN morning show hosts Judd Zulgad and Jeff Dubay. "We got to Iowa and really hit a snag there, hit a road block and didn't play well."
"We really took a look and said, 'OK, what do we need to do differently?' Because the formula we wanted to have, we're not quite there yet. 'What can we change? What can we do to give the kids the best chance moving forward.' We started moving towards what we're trying to do now, getting more kids involved, young kids like Donovahn Jones and Drew Wolitarsky, getting involved the young wide receivers and trying to give those kids something different other than just ground-and-pound.
"When we started doing that we started noticing the kids get a little more excited and practices were becoming more fun and more loose and we were having fun doing it. It's just kind of evolved that way.
It was a combination of starting to trust the young kids, everybody starting to feel comfortable and then also the idea that we can't just turn around and hand the ball off 45 times and win games. We've got to do some things a little bit differently," Limegrover said.
The coordinator also said he thinks players, such as quarterback Philip Nelson, have started to play more loosely, as they better understand the pressures of the game.
"I wish we would have done it earlier but sometimes you've got to admit your mistakes. We're having a heck of a lot more fun in practice. We're letting the kids - with all the motions and movements and shifts - we're letting them be creative with that stuff... All we tell them is, 'hey, get to where you need to be so we can execute the play. I think those kids are enjoying it."
Whether winning is a product of having fun or the inverse is true, Gophers fans have enjoyed the ride in the past month. Limegrover and Claeys appear to be a big part of that.