What They're Saying - Aug. 1

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Fall camp practice schedule (GopherSports)
Gophers are not lacking leaders (Star Tribune)
Cobb embraces role (Minnesota Daily)
Here we go (The Daily Gopher)
Position previews (FSN)
A look at the running back (The Daily Gopher)
Kill wants Gophers starving (CSNChicago)
Watch Lists: Cobb l Olson l Mortell l M. Williams
Gophers jump into professional development (GopherSports)
Kill encouraged as Gophers open camp (Sid)
Gophers looking to build on success (Bring Me The News)
Five things to look for as camp opens (WCCO and Pioneer Press)
Leidner worked out with NFL players this summer (FSN)
Kill brimming with confidence (PennLive)
Mortell has lofty goals this year (Green Bay Press Gazette)
Kill on the rise (Yahoo! slide seven)
Leidner sees passing game improving (Pioneer Press)
Gophers looking to make strides (Chicago Tribune)
Leidner is the guy in charge (Detroit News)
MSU's Dantonio likes Gophers (Star Tribune)
Photo day fun (GopherSports)


What They're Saying - National Signing Day

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If you missed National Signing Day yesterday (and really, how could you?) then we have you covered. Below is a roundup of clips from Minnesota and from around the country and North America of the newest Gophers.

GopherSports: Signing Day Central

Sid: Kill fought hard to land top recruits

Star Tribune: Gophers get their guy

Star Tribune: Wayzata tight end has size and talent U was looking for

Star Tribune: Gophers recruiting class

Pioneer Press: Jones signs with Gophers

Pioneer Press: Stelter looks forward to signing with "great group"

Pioneer Press: Gophs' class best of Kill's tenure

Jeff Jones, the state's number one recruit, signed an NLI with the Gophers Wednesday.



Minnesota Daily: No. 1 recruit Jones commits to Gophers

ESPN.com: Kill says latest class must help "turn the tide"

Owatonna Peoples Press: Stelter signs with Minnesota

ESPN.com: Recruiting Q&A with Jerry Kill

Montreal Gazette: Kafo gets scholarship at Minnesota

AL.com: Gibson heading to Minnesota

Local15tv.com: Gibson to Minnesota

The Telegraph: James signs with Minnesota

Clayton News Daily: Mundy's Mill has historic signing day and Players willing to travel far to play college football

BTN.com: Kill talks Signing Day

FoxSportsNorth: Jones to follow in Hageman's footsteps






Hageman Turning Heads At Senior Bowl

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Minnesota fans have long known about the dominance and confidence of defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman, but now the rest of the football world is taking notice as well.

Hageman is in Mobile, Ala., this week prepping for Saturday's Senior Bowl and by all accounts turned in a strong first practice. The Senior Bowl is at 3 p.m. on Saturday and will air on the NFL Network.

Here are some of the observations of Hageman after the first day of practice.


Axe Week Attention

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This Saturday, two 8-2 teams will meet on the gridiron in the most-played rivalry in Division I FBS football: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin. Paul Bunyan's Axe entered the scene in 1948, and the teams have played for it ever since. 

Leading into the 2013 edition of the Border Battle, both the rivalry and the Gopher coaching staff have captured the media's attention. Catch up on some of the national and athletic department coverage here:

During the week...

...Coach Kill's toughness and the Gophers' unique situation were featured in:
*CBSSports.com's front page, in an article by Dennis Dodd
*ESPN.com's college football front page, in an article and video by Ivan Maisel
*USA Today's front sports page, in a feature by Erik Brady
*The Minnesota Daily, in a story by Sam Gordon and Dane Mizutani

...members of the team talked about the historic rivalry:


...ESPN.com did stories on:

...fans had a chance to remember some of the game-changing moments in past Axe games:


...and the team prepared for a game with this on the line:


Gophers' Belief Leads to Historic Win

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IMG_20131026_143237_303.jpg

MINNEAPOLS, Minn. - In the Minnesota locker room following last week's 20-17 win at Northwestern, the Gophers' coaches talked about how much this year's team could accomplish if it just believes in itself.

One of the things mentioned in that victorious celebration was that the Gophers had what it takes to beat Nebraska. That was a bold statement, given that the Huskers entered today's game without a loss in the series in more than 50 years.

Well, it looks like Minnesota's players took that message to heart.

On Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota rallied from an early 10-0 deficit to defeat the No. 21/25 Huskers, 34-23.

Led by sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson, junior running back David Cobb, and an inspired defense, the Golden Gophers scored 17 unanswered points to take a 17-13 lead at the half. Minnesota then scored the first 10 points of the second half to build a 27-13 lead and hold on for the win.

After the game, fans stormed the field and a mass celebration took place around the 50 yard line.

Here are some of the things the Gophers accomplished with the milestone victory:

--Minnesota defeated Nebraska for the first time since a 26-14 win on Sept. 24, 1960, snapping a 16-game losing streak versus NU

--Minnesota scored its most points against the Huskers since a 39-20 win in Minneapolis on Oct. 20, 1951

--The Gophers improved to 6-2 this season, qualifying for a bowl berth for the second consecutive year

--Minnesota recorded its first win versus a nationally-ranked opponent since defeating No. 24 Iowa, 27-24, to end the 2010 season

The win created such a buzz on Twitter that the person updating Minnesota's Game Day Blog could hardly keep up with the traffic.

Nelson entered the game with 8:41 remaining in the second quarter and the Gophers trailing, 10-7. He immediately led Minnesota on a seven-play, 88-yard drive, completing two passes for 53 yards in the process.

The key play on the drive was a 33-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Engel on 4th and 10. Engel beat two Nebraska defenders on a post route and made a leaping grab of Nelson's pass, giving Minnesota a 14-10 lead with 6:21 left in the half.

"When the play call came in, I knew I was the go-to on that play," Engel said. "Philip put a good ball up there, and at first I thought it was going to be overthrown, but it hung in the air. So I stuck a foot and put my hands up and the next thing I knew it was a touchdown."

Here's another milestone - when Engel scored that touchdown, it gave Minnesota its first lead versus the Huskers since 1969. Yes, you read that correctly.

Cobb also played a huge role for the Gophers, as he recorded his second-straight 100-yard rushing game by carrying 31 times for 138 yards, both career-highs. Cobb's performance helped the Gophers rush for 271 yards on 54 attempts, an average of 5.0 yards per carry.

"From the first quarter on, throughout the game, the offensive line had a great push and as a running back if there's no penetration you can see you gaps, holes and cuts and it makes it easy," Cobb said. "So they did a great job of play action pass and it opened up the lines for me. Really, it was more the O-line and just the whole play-calling scheme more so than me."

Defensively, the Gophers allowed 88 yards and 10 points on Nebraska's first two drives of the game, but then settled down to surrender just 81 yards and three points the remainder of the half.

The strong defensive play for Minnesota continued into the third quarter, as the Gophers forced Nebraska into three-and-outs on its first two possessions, while Minnesota's offense took the opportunity to score 10 points and build a 27-13 advantage with 2:33 left in the third.

At that point, the Gophers had outscored the Huskers, 27-3, since the 7:06 mark of the first quarter. Those in the crowd of 49,995 dressed in Maroon and Gold were ecstatic, while those wearing red were in shock.

"I think we all just have this confidence right now," Nelson said after the game. "We know that we can compete with anyone and that's the main thing as a football player. You just have to believe in yourself and that you are going to go out there and compete. That's where we are at right now."

Nebraska fought back, scoring the next 10 points to cut Minnesota's lead to 27-23 with 9:26 remaining. But the Gophers' defense once again did its part to allow Minnesota to retain the lead by forcing a 37-yard field goal by Pat Smith instead of allowing a tying touchdown.

After Nebraska forced a punt to regain possession with 5:50 left in the game, Minnesota's defense did its job once again. The Gophers dropped the Huskers for minus-2 yards and forced a punt, which Sam Foltz shanked out of bounds at the Huskers' 34.

On the ensuing drive, Cobb carried six times for 16 yards and Nelson completed a key 20-yard pass to freshman tight end Maxx Williams, before Nelson sealed the monumental victory with a one-yard touchdown run with 0:48 seconds left.

And, in the end, Minnesota's defense came up big once again, as senior defensive back Jeremy Baltazar intercepted Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez with 0:16 left.

"We are starting to believe and that's all that really needs to be said right now," Nelson said. "We have the confidence rolling from week to week and we are finally starting to realize how good we really can be."

Believing in themselves, the Gophers accomplished what few outside the program thought they could do. Now it's on to Indiana, a team Minnesota last faced during 2008.

Belief. It can create a confidence and a swagger that can help a team accomplish great things.

Saturday's performance versus the Huskers was a perfect example.

Get Ready to #BringFloydHome

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Floyd of Rosedale is on the line this Saturday when the Gophers take on Iowa at TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota looks to reclaim the beloved bronze pig it won in both 2010 and 2011 before the Hawkeyes took him back last year. Get ready to #BringFloydHome by catching up on some of this week's coverage.




The history of Floyd of Rosedale (GopherSports)
Game sold out (Pioneer Press)
Line play will be key (ESPN.com)
Floyd, 5-0 record on the line (FSN)
Coaches to wear special patches for MD fundraising (Star Tribune
How to be a Gopher fan (GopherSports)

Rushing Attack Powers Gophers Past SJSU

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Today's game between Minnesota and San Jose State was a battle of differing offensive styles, as the Gophers' powerful running game went head-to-head with the Spartans' potent passing attack.

At the half, Spartans senior QB David Fales, a highly-regarded NFL prospect, had thrown for 294 yards and Minnesota held a slim 20-17 lead.

But, in the end, redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Leidner and Minnesota (4-0) had run over the visiting Mountain West Conference opponent by amassing 353 rushing yards on 67 carries during the Gophers' 43-24 victory at TCF Bank Stadium.

Go Gophers! Mitch Leidner
Go Gophers!
Leidner rushed for 151 yards on Saturday.
Go Gophers!
Leidner tied a Minnesota school record for a QB by running for four touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback to accomplish that feat since Curtis Wilson had four scores in a 33-9 win versus Indiana on Nov. 18, 1967. Leidner also finished with 151 net rushing yards, the seventh-best effort by a QB in the program's history.

Junior running back David Cobb added two more rushing TDs, as Minnesota dominated the time of possession by controlling the ball for more than 41 minutes.

"The thing is, we took what they gave us. We tried play-action passes, but their safeties were playing about 12 to 14 yards deep in the soft corner," Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said. "So with that, it is hard to play a play-action, but we hit them a couple times. If you don't get that extra guy down there in the run then you better be able to run the ball. And then the quarterback is the extra guy that can run it."

Both Leidner and Cobb wound up with 100-yard performances, as Cobb finished with 25 carries for 125 net yards. With Leidner's rushing total, it marks the first time in program history that Minnesota has had a pair of QB's with 100-yard rushing games in a season, as sophomore Philip Nelson ran for 122 yards at New Mexico State.

"Running the action game and mixing up the power game it was a good formula, no question about that," Kill said. "I am proud of the kids. Mitch (Leidner) is a tough kid. He will be a little sore tomorrow. It's good that we have the depth that we have. I appreciate the kid's efforts."

Fales wound up completing 22-of-35 passes for 439 yards and three TDs, but the Gophers intercepted a pair of his pass attempts and did much better controlling SJSU's signal-caller in the second half. Fales was 10-of-19 for just 145 yards and the two INTs after the break. In the third quarter, he was limited to 1-of-6 for just nine yards.

During its non-conference schedule, Minnesota ran the ball 197 times for 1,129 net yards, an average of 5.7 yards per carry. With the six rushing TDs in today's victory against the Spartans, the Gophers have scored 16 rushing touchdowns already this season. Last year, the Gophers scored 14 rushing TDs in 13 games.

Today's game marked the first career start and first full game for Leidner, who has now rushed the ball 46 times for 251 yards (5.5 yards per rush) and five TDs this season. Cobb, who was not listed on the season-opening depth chart, has 53 carries for 332 yards (6.3 yards per rush) and five TDs. Additionally, sophomore RB Rodrick Williams Jr. has 45 attempts for 267 yards (5.9 yards per rush) and three TDs.

"The start of the game was a little tough, but the offensive line did a great job pushing," Cobb said. "The coaches kept telling us to be patient and make the right decisions, so that the big plays can happen. And Mitch [Leidner] did a great job today."

The 43 points scored by the Gophers marked the third time in four games this season that Minnesota has surpassed the 40-point barrier. It's the first time since 2006 that Minnesota has had at least three games with 40 or more points, and the Gophers head into next week's Big Ten home opener versus Iowa with an average of 41.8 points per game.

Fales opened some eyes and proved his value as a pro-style passer who might be the best QB the Gophers face this season. But Minnesota's ability to control the football for more than two-thirds of the game made it difficult for Fales and the Spartans to stay in the game.

What's impressive about the Gophers' rushing attack is that they have been able to continue to be dominant despite the absence of two key starters. Junior running back Donnell Kirkwood has been out of the lineup since injuring his ankle in the season-opening 51-23 win against UNLV on Aug. 29, and Nelson missed his first start at QB this week after suffering a hamstring injury in last week's 29-12 win versus Western Illinois.

Next week, Minnesota faces its first conference test of the season, as the Hawkeyes (3-1) come to town to battle the Gophers for the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy. If the Gophers are able to reclaim the pig from their rivals to the south, this Minnesota rushing game figures to play a key role.

All-Around Effort Nets Another Win

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LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- For the first time this season, Minnesota took its show on the road, and the Golden Gophers turned in another solid all-around performance during a 44-21 win at New Mexico State.

For the second week in a row, head coach Jerry Kill's Gophers scored more than 40 points, with touchdowns coming from the offense, defense and special teams. It's the first time since November 2005 that Minnesota has scored 40 or more points in back-to-back victories, and the team is off to a 2-0 start for the second straight season.

Sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson directed a Minnesota offense that racked up 469 total net yards, and the Gophers used their size advantage to rush for 342 yards. Sophomore Rodrick Williams Jr. led Minnesota with 148 yards and a TD, and Nelson added 122 yards and his third rushing TD of the season on a night where the Gophers were without the services of injured junior Donnell Kirkwood.

Minnesota ran 23 fewer plays than the Aggies, but gained 112 more offensive yards, while averaging 8.1 yards per play in the win. The Gophers' passing game netted just 127 yards, but Minnesota was dominant in the running game with an average rushing play of 8.0 yards.

During last week's 51-23 home victory against UNLV, junior defensive back Marcus Jones opened the second half by returning the Rebels' kickoff 98 yards for a TD. This week, Jones once again made his mark on special teams with a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown with 1:22 left in the first half. It was Minnesota's first punt return for a TD since the 2000 season, and it helped send the Gophers into the locker room with a 27-7 lead at the half.

Defensively, the Gophers held the Aggies to just 4.4 yards per play (2.5 per rush), while forcing a fumble that was returned 50 yards for a touchdown by senior linebacker Aaron Hill late in the fourth quarter.

Minnesota (2-0) now returns home for the next three weeks, beginning with next Saturday's matchup with FCS member Western Illinois. The Gophers will attempt to start a season 3-0 for the second year in a row, something that hasn't happened since they opened 5-0 during 2004 and 4-0 during 2005.

Another all-around performance like they've turned in during the first two weeks will go a long ways toward achieving that distinction.

Defense and Special Teams Lead the Way

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By athletic communications assistant Michael Molde

After battling to a 16-13 halftime lead against UNLV by scoring a touchdown late in the first half, Minnesota was looking for someone or something to give it a spark in the second half.

That spark came from a guy with two surgically-repaired anterior cruciate ligaments, junior defensive back Marcus Jones. The speedy Jones, whose previous two seasons were ended by ACL tears, took the second half kickoff at Minnesota's 2-yard line and raced down the UNLV sideline for a 98-yard return for a touchdown.

"It couldn't happen to a better person, with what Marcus Jones has been through," head coach Jerry Kill said. "Two ACL injuries, and his return was well-executed. I think maybe one guy got his hand on him."

Jones' score was the Gophers' first kickoff return for a TD since Duane Bennett's 96-yard return versus Wisconsin on Nov. 12, 2011, and it stretched Minnesota's advantage to 23-13 just 12 seconds after the half.

Late in the game, Jones showed his speed again, as he made a touchdown-saving tackle on a 64-yard run by UNLV's Shaquille Murray-Lawrence. Jones gained probably 5 yards on Murray-Lawrence, who had broken through the middle and looked like he'd outrun the defense for a long scoring run. But Jones pulled him down at the Minnesota 11-yard line.

"He got out there (on defense) and made a heck of a play right away," Kill said. "They eventually scored, but he ran a guy down and showed that he could really run. It couldn't have happened to a better kid."

Midway through the third quarter, special teams played a role in another touchdown, as senior nose tackle Ra'Shede Hageman reached up to block a 37-yard field goal attempt by UNLV kicker Nolan Kohorst. Senior defensive back Martez Shabazz gathered in the ball at the UNLV 49 and returned it 51 yards for a score, giving the Gophers a 30-13 lead.

Go Gophers! Briean Boddy-Calhoun
Go Gophers!
Boddy-Calhoun made his first career interception.
Go Gophers!
"I think it (the blocked FG) was a big boost for us," Hageman said. "(Martez) Shabazz caught everybody off guard on the other team. He's been making those kind of plays all through practice, so I wasn't surprised by his play. I was able to get the block and then I pushed the ball forward and Shabazz picked it up. It was definitely a game-changer."

Then, early in the fourth stanza and with UNLV driving deep into Minnesota territory, junior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun stepped in front of a Nick Sherry pass attempt and returned it 89 yards for the third touchdown from the Gophers' defense and special teams.

Boddy-Calhoun's score made it 37-16, and the Gophers coasted to a decisive 51-23 win before a crowd of 44,217 at TCF Bank Stadium. In all, Minnesota's defense broke up nine pass attempts, blocked two other passes and came up with two interceptions.

Jones accounted for 149 return yards in the game, with 134 yards on kickoff returns and one punt return for 15 yards. The returns shaped the course of the second-half surge, as Minnesota outscored the Rebels, 35-10, after the intermission.

Nelson, Leidner Score First Career Rushing TDs

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By athletic communications assistant Michael Molde

Sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson made his eighth career start for the Golden Gophers on Thursday night, helping to propel Minnesota to its highest point total ever at TCF Bank Stadium.

The Gophers turned in a very successful debut to the 2013 season, soundly defeating UNLV, 51-23, before a crowd of 44,217. Nelson completed 10-of-22 pass attempts for 99 yards and a touchdown, while also leading the Gophers with 12 rushing attempts for 83 yards and two TDs.

Go Gophers! Philip Nelson
Go Gophers!
Nelson ran for two touchdowns in the win.
Go Gophers!
The rushing touchdowns were the first of his brief career, and the rushing total also topped his previous best of 67 yards during his first-ever collegiate game at Wisconsin last fall. With the speedy Nelson utilizing his feet, he helped Minnesota sustain drives, going 8-of-14 on third-down conversions.

Nelson gave Minnesota its first lead of the game, breaking free for a 48-yard run up the middle just 1:15 into the second quarter. Just seconds before halftime, he helped the Gophers retake the lead, 16-13, by lofting a touchdown pass to freshman tight end Maxx Williams with 0:18 remaining before the break.

"We knew we had to score at the end of the half. In practice, we worked a lot on the two-minute drill and I think tonight we executed it very well," Nelson said. "When we practice against our own defense, we have a tough time scoring on them in two minutes. I think we did a really great job finishing off the drive the way we wanted to."

In the second half, Minnesota received a boost from its defense and special teams, which combined for three touchdowns to break the game open, and Nelson added his second rushing touchdown midway through the final stanza to give the Gophers a 44-16 lead before giving way to redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner.

In limited minutes, Leidner made his mark, as well. The 6-foot-4, 233-pounder rushed three times for 25 yards and the team's final score of the game, plowing his way into the end zone for a four-yard TD run with 0:42 left.

It was an impressive performance from the Gophers' top two signal-callers, as they limited mistakes and displayed the type of run-pass threats that have been typical in head coach Jerry Kill's offenses.

Nelson's second pass of the game, a long heave down the Minnesota sideline, was intercepted at the 15 yard line. But he was able to avoid any further turnovers, while also directing a Minnesota offense that wasn't whistled for a penalty until the fourth quarter. The Gophers ended their season-opener with just one penalty for five yards.

"I think Philip, just by watching, has a lot of confidence, and the one pick he threw could go either way," head coach Jerry Kill said.

Overall, it was a heck of a start to the season for the Gophers' highly-touted QB from Mankato West High School, and it will give next week's opponent, New Mexico State, lots to prepare for.