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Updated: September 16th, 2013 12:21pm
P.J.R.: The group that matters can handle Kill's affliction

P.J.R.: The group that matters can handle Kill's affliction

by Patrick Reusse
1500ESPN.com
Email | Twitter

The reports were nearly unanimous in saying that Jerry Kill was "rushed'' to a hospital at halftime of the Gophers-Western Illinois game on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

That's one of my favorites: "rushed'' to a hospital, as opposed to an ambulance crew stopping at Station 19 for some wings, and at Caribou for coffees with steamed milk, and then dropping off the Gophers football coach at the hospital.

In this case, Kill actually was driven by non-emergency vehicle to the University hospitals.

This was the third game in which Kill's in-game coaching was cut short by a seizure: Near the end of a 28-21 loss to New Mexico State on Sept. 10, 2011; at halftime of a 26-10 loss to Michigan State on Nov. 24, 2012; and at halftime of the 29-12 victory over Western Illinois.

New Mexico State was the first-ever home game for Kill and his coaching staff. Several of the coaches had previously experienced Kill's seizures, but not the players, or the Minnesota media and fans. It was a stunning experience for those parties, and it might have taken away, say, a 25 percent chance the Gophers had to get a tying touchdown in the final seconds.

I don't think Kill's absence in the second half vs. Michigan State had much to do with the complete inability of the Gophers' defense to stop Le'Veon Bell and the Spartans' running game. Bell finished the final game of the 2012 regular season with 35 carries for 266 yards.

On Saturday, the Gophers led 7-6 at halftime, fell behind 12-7 early in the third quarter, and then overwhelmed Western Illinois as should be the case against a team from the second division of Division I football.

Does the impact of Kill's in-game seizures on past results matter much?

It does when you're offering this premise: To this point, there's no evidence that Kill's epilepsy and the public seizures it has produced have had a negative impact on Minnesota's football program.

Unless: You want to count the lost 25 percent chance to beat New Mexico State two years ago this month. Once their coach went down, the Gophers were so rattled that quarterback MarQueis Gray made one of the ugliest plays of his college career (and that's saying something) and the visitors escaped with a victory.

So, if Kill had not had his seizure, his inaugural Gophers could have gone 4-8 rather than 3-9, and, man, that would have been thrilling.

Of more interest in mentioning the Gophers and New Mexico State is this: Kill's initial Gophers were such a low-talent bunch that they were capable of losing to the lowly Aggies, and two seasons later, Kill's Gophers went to Las Cruces, N.M. and romped 44-21.

That's all we really need to realize Kill and his staff have improved things considerably from the mess inherited from Timmy (Two-Times) Brewster.

How about recruiting? Maybe Kill's seizures have been used against him with some impact by rival coaches. I have no idea, but I do have a guess:

Most of those four-stars turning down Minnesota to go elsewhere are doing so based on the Gophers' 45 years in the football hinterland rather than the fact Kill's affliction has been making an annual appearance during a game.

We do have strong evidence that the players now know the drill when their head coach heads for the hospital. And if the players who are the nucleus of an improving program can handle it, that should be what matters.

--PATRICK JAMES REUSSE.

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse
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