Notebook: Gophers 'have taken advantage of opportunities' in 2-0 start
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Jerry Kill was undoubtedly an exhausted guy late Sunday morning as he sat in his office breaking down his team's second consecutive win of the year -- a convincing 44-21 victory at New Mexico State on Saturday night.
Who could blame him? Kill and the Gophers didn't get back from Las Cruces until 4 a.m. Sunday. Less than six hours later, he was already in his office reviewing game film.
But the quick turnaround was more than tolerable, as Kill could find comfort after a performance in which the Gophers overcame a less than ideal situation -- (long Week 2 road trip, 90-plus degree on-field temperatures, etc.) to subdue the Aggies to secure a 2-0 start.
Kill saw plenty of execution breakdowns he wasn't happy with, but ultimately the Gophers showed the signs of legitimate progress that he was looking for.
"We have taken advantage of opportunities," Kill said, referring in part to the combined five special teams and defensive touchdowns the Gophers have collected in two games. "It's just a young football team trying to get better."
"We're just a young team that is going to continue to get better this year as long as we stay healthy. I worry about that."
--Speaking of staying healthy, the status of junior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun stands as the Gophers' biggest injury concern coming out ofSaturday's road game. Boddy-Calhoun injured his right knee on the second play of the game.
As of Sunday morning, Kill hadn't heard how the MRI results turned out, but said early indications from the training staff expressed hope Boddy-Calhoun could be back in "a couple of weeks.
--Junior cornerback Derrick Wells returned to the field for the first time this season. Wells was kept in a secondary role on the edge, used primarily in nickel situations.
Kill said the plan from the get-go was to ease Wells back in, having missed significant practice time in the last month with shoulder and hamstring problems. Wells was not originally supposed to play on special teams, but Boddy-Calhoun's injury brought about the need to have Wells fill in.
--Kill was impressed by the performances churned out by tailbacks Rodrick Williams Jr. and David Cobb. The Gophers tormented New Mexico State's defense by pounding out 355 rushing yards. Williams, taking over for injured junior Donnell Kirkwood, rose to the forefront with 148 yards. Cobb got in on the action with 56 yards off nine carries.
"Both those kids played outstanding, physical football," Kill said. "They ran the ball hard. I imagine (New Mexico State's) safety is pretty sore today."
--New Mexico State couldn't hold up against a grinding push from the Gophers' offensive line throughout the game. The O-line looked notably stronger than they did at times last week against UNLV, but Kill was not fully satisfied.
"They were better than Week 1, but we still got some guys in there that still have to clean things up," Kill said. "But they still controlled the line of scrimmage. You don't have 469 (total) yards if you don't control the line of scrimmage. We're going to be very technical with them ... Technique-wise, we could be a lot cleaner than we were."
--In a two-game stretch, the Gophers have had only five penalties, although four of those came against New Mexico State. The low penalty numbers mixed with a decrease in blatant mental lapses has been one of the most pleasing developments of the first two weeks for Kill.
"We're not having as many, that's for sure," Kill said. "We need to continue that kind of football. That's the formula to having success."
--Coming up with a catch and a carry for a combined 12 yards, true freshman receiver Donovahn Jones saw a significant bump in playing time, which held true to Kill's previous desire to get the freshman more incorporated with the offense. Fellow freshman receiver Drew Wolitarsky also had an increased role on offense and special teams.
Kill acknowledges that both receivers are still very raw, but he feels they are on the right developmental track.
"Neither one of them still knows what to do. You've got to gradually bring them along. I think they played about where they need to play. Just about right."
--Defensive end Alex Keith injured his hand against New Mexico State. Kill did not yet know the severity of the injury. Keith, who recorded a sack against UNLV, had four tackles and a pass break-upSaturday.
--Kill said redshirt freshman receiver Jamel Harbison will be back for next week's match-up with Western Illinois after sitting out two games due to an off-field discipline issue: "We'll play Harbison next week, so I'm excited about that, get him back going."