#13 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 13 Bud Grant
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Gophers vs. UNLV (Aug. 29): Buy Tickets

Representing the 13 days until kickoff is a former No. 13 who went on to a great career after his time with the Gophers was done. Although Bud Grant is best known for his Hall of Fame coaching career in the NFL, his athletic accomplishments at Minnesota are definitely worth remembering.

Go Gophers! Bud Grant
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Grant wore No. 13 in football and basketball.
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Grant was a three-sport Gopher athlete. For Bernie Bierman's football team, he was an All-Big Ten (at the time, All-Big Nine) selection in 1948 and 1949. The FWAA named him to its All-America Second Team in 1949. Grant spent time on both offense and defense during his Gopher career. In the Gophers' game against Washington in 1947, he scored a defensive touchdown off a fumble recovery, leading to a 7-6 Minnesota win.

Wearing No. 13 for basketball as well as football, Grant excelled on the court as he did on the gridiron. He was the 1948 team MVP. He was also a valuable member of Dick Siebert's squad on the baseball diamond.

The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Grant in 1950, but he played for the NBA champion Minneapolis Lakers for a few years before eventually signing with the Eagles. He was a Pro-Bowler in the NFL, but switched over to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL soon after.

Grant's coaching career began when he took the reins for the Bombers at age 29. The rest is history. He eventually went on to lead the Minnesota Vikings to 11 division titles and four Super Bowl appearances, and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1994.

Grant has remained connected to his alma mater. When the Gophers opened TCF Bank Stadium in 2009, Grant was an honorary captain for the game. That same year, he received the U of M's Outstanding Achievement Award.

What They're Saying - Aug. 16

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Biochemistry major and center Jon Christenson is a busy man (Star Tribune)

Scrimmage Audio: Limegrover

New video series: Brick-by-Brick (GopherSports)

Eureka! Philip Nelson (1500ESPN) and a freshman gaining notice (1500ESPN)

Meet long snapper Jake Filkins (FSN)

Two-game packs (MyGopherSports.com)

Scrimmage notes as the season nears (Pioneer Press)

Nelson's experience is showing (Star Tribune)

Legania's journey: from Hurricane Katrina to Minnesota (FSN)

The ESPN bloggers weigh in on the Gophers (ESPN.com)

Third-year charm? (Stillwater Gazette)


#14 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 14 Rickey Foggie and Marquel Fleetwood
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Gophers vs. UNLV (Aug. 29): Buy Tickets

With two weeks left until Gopher football, we bring you a double dose of quarterbacks. Former signal callers Rickey Foggie and Marquel Fleetwood both wore No. 14, and they represent the 14 days left before kickoff.

Foggie is the Gophers' last true freshman starting quarterback to start four straight years. The dual threat QB twice ran for 100-plus yards as a freshman in 1984, including a 153-yard rushing performance against Wisconsin. The Gophers capped off that season with an upset win over Iowa.


Foggie holds Minnesota's career records for quarterback rushing (2,150 yards), quarterback rushing touchdowns (25) and average gain per completion (16.8 yards). He ranks second in games started (42), third in pass efficiency rating (126.24), fifth in touchdown passes (34) and sixth in career yardage (5,162).

With Foggie orchestrating the offense, the Gophers made bowl appearances in 1985 and 1986, winning the '85 Independence Bowl against Clemson. They did not make a bowl Foggie's senior year, but did take back the Little Brown Jug from No. 2 Michigan.

Foggie, a South Carolina native, has made Minnesota his home. After a pro career in the Canadian and Arena Football Leagues, he began coaching. Foggie is currently the head coach at Park Center High School. He is still beloved by Minnesota football fans, and was recognized as one of the all-time "Gopher Greats" before a Gopher game last season.

Fleetwood came along a few years after Foggie's departure, and ended up surpassing some of Foggie's statistical marks. Fleetwood ranks fifth --one spot ahead of Foggie -- in career passing yards with 5,279. He saw action as a back-up in 1989 before becoming the regular starter his next three seasons.

As a senior in 1992, Fleetwood threw 192-for-385 for 2,168 yards, the 15th-best season total in Minnesota history. He twice threw more than 50 passes in a game, completing 35 of 56 against Pittsburgh. That year, Fleetwood also completed the second-longest passing play in school history when he threw to John Lewis for 94 yards against Michigan.

Fleetwood ranks fifth in career completions (465), ninth in completion percentage (.531) and 11th in touchdown passes (18). After his Gopher career, he spent some time in the Canadian Football League.

What They're Saying - Aug. 15

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Goal Line Club to host football luncheons (GopherSports)

AUDIO: Kill l Claeys

Filkins a constant on special teams (GopherSports)

Leidner continuing to improve (Pioneer Press)

Freshmen getting looks (1500ESPN)

Minnesota momentum (AP)

Tickets are available (MyGopherSports)

Edwards trending up and other news and notes (Star Tribune)

Friday nights to college heights: De'Vondre Campbell (News Press)


Minnesota season preview (Patriot News)

Filkins a Constant on Special Teams

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Jake Filkins learned to long snap in the backyard with his dad. Now he is practicing his craft on a bigger stage -- in TCF Bank Stadium and college football fields around the country. During a fall camp featuring strong competition for the kicking and punting jobs, Filkins is one of the few known quantities.

At the beginning of camp, head coach Jerry Kill said that he felt good about Filkins at long snapper and Peter Mortell at holder. Filkins is glad to have a steady role, but is more concerned about the unit's overall success.

Go Gophers! Jake Filkins
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Filkins has taken care of all the Gophers' long snaps the past two years.
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"It feels good," Filkins said. "But the thing is, as a specialist group, we're so close. It doesn't really matter who's in there."

As a freshman in 2010, Filkins was benched in a game after a bad snap on a punt. But when his replacement made a mistake, Filkins came right back in. After that school year, he gave up wrestling for the Gophers, which he had done in 2009-10 and 2010-11, to focus on football. During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, he took of all the long snaps -- for punts, field goals and extra points.

"We've had different kickers and different punters," Filkins said. "But the nice thing is, no matter who's punting or who's holding, we all really work as one. I guess that's probably the best thing I can say about what it's like to be a specialist. It's kind of the undesirable, the unnoticed position, but at the same time, we all embrace and we're all so close because of it. It makes it easy for me to work with anybody."

A few of the Gophers in the kicking and punting battles this fall have either had college game experience or been on the sidelines during the Gophers' games, so they have a sense of what to expect. Ryan Santoso and Justin Juenemann, the two freshmen currently practicing in that group, were more unknown.

"Going in, I was a little worried -- we all were as upperclassmen -- about what's going to happen and how we're going to mesh," Filkins said. "But they both have been great with us. They fit in nicely."

Filkins said that Kill does a good job of putting the kickers in high-pressure scenarios in practice. The Gophers have also set out a cone at 50 yards as a goal for distance on punts. Being a team player, Filkins said he has felt bad when punters have been criticized for inconsistency in recent years.

"For me, I'm just as much a part of the punt as the punter is," he said. "I'm the first half. I have to give a good ball. If he has a bad punt because of a snap that's a foot lower than it should be, then it's a reflection of what I do as well as him."

No one knows yet who will be kicking and punting when the UNLV game rolls around. But whoever it is will have a true veteran snapping him the ball.

What They're Saying - Aug. 14

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Secondary aiming high (GopherSports)

AUDIO: Kill l Vereen l Wells

Vereen confident (FSN)

What's your excuse? (Facebook)

15 Days (GopherSports)

Will where the versatile Donovahn Jones play? (Pioneer Press)

Buy Tickets! (MyGopherSports.com)

Wells is ready for the challenge (Star Tribune)

Paper says UNLV at Minnesota is chance for Rebels to make a statement (Las Vegas Sun)

Key schedule stretch will determine Minnesota's fate (Gold & Gopher)



#15 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 15 Sandy Stephens
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Gophers vs. UNLV (Aug. 29): Buy Tickets

The number of today's countdown, 15, is one of five retired by Minnesota football. It belonged to Sandy Stephens, one of the Gophers' all-time greats. The College Football Hall of Fame inductee played quarterback for the Maroon and Gold from 1959 to 1961.

After a 2-7 season in 1959, Stephens helped lead the Gophers to an 8-2 record, a share of the Big Ten title and a national title in 1960. Minnesota capped off the season with the program's first Rose Bowl appearance. The Gophers lost that 1961 Rose Bowl, but were still named national champions.

The next year, Minnesota got another chance in Pasadena. This time, game MVP Stephens rushed for two touchdowns and threw for 75 yards on 7-for-11 passing as the Gophers beat UCLA, 21-3.


Stephens was named a First Team All-American and the Big Ten MVP, and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1961. He was the first African-American quarterback selected for an All-America First Team.

In 1962, Stephens was drafted in both the NFL and AFL, but neither team that picked him wanted him to play quarterback. He did play quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League for a few seasons.

Stephens died in 2000, but his legacy lives on. The U of M retired his No. 15 that year, and his name and number are on display at TCF Bank Stadium now. In 2011, Stephens was finally inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Bonus reading: 
- ESPN blog post on Stephens' College Football HOF induction
- FSN's take on the induction
- 2000 Sports Illustrated article after Stephens' death
- 2008 Big Ten feature: Stephens dreamed of a Rose Bowl before he put on the M

Gopher Secondary Aiming High

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The Gophers' pass defense ranked fourth in the Big Ten and 12th nationally in 2012. Despite losing two of its starters, the Minnesota secondary does not anticipate any type of drop-off.

Go Gophers! Brock Vereen
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Vereen: "To be the best secondary in the Big Ten is our goal."
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"Mike Carter and Troy Stoudermire were great players, but we still have confidence going forward that we'll be a better secondary," senior safety Brock Vereen said. "To be the best secondary in the Big Ten is our goal."

Vereen is one of the secondary's top returners. He switched from cornerback to safety last year, and continued to grow into the position as the year went on. Vereen is even more comfortable in that spot now that he is in his second season playing there.

Junior Derrick Wells is another returning starter, although he will be at a different position than last fall. He moved from safety to cornerback, and is bigger than both the departing senior starters he will help to replace. Like Vereen, Wells anticipates the defensive backs continuing to build upon last year's improvements.

"I think we are more athletic in the secondary," he said. "We have a lot of speed, a lot of size."

Eric Murray's name has been tossed around as one to watch this year, but Wells also mentioned that Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Martez Shabazz have potential for good seasons.

Head coach Jerry Kill emphasized the team aspect of defense. The linemen, linebackers and secondary all need to be effective in order to truly stop opposing offenses.

"I think if the team gets better, the secondary will be good," Kill said.

With a veteran defensive line and some up-and-coming linebackers, the Gopher defensive backs are not on their own. And with the goal of being the best in the Big Ten, they certainly will not lack motivation and intensity.
 

#16 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 16 Rhys Lloyd
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Gophers vs. UNLV (Aug. 29): Buy Tickets

Former No. 16 Rhys Lloyd represents the 16 days left until the Gophers take on UNLV. Now would be a good time to relive one of Lloyd's most memorable moments:


The 2003 Wisconsin game was not the only time Lloyd made a game-winning field goal. He also drilled a 42-yarder to beat Oregon in the Sun Bowl on New Year's Eve that year.

A native of Dover, England, and a graduate of Eastview High School in Minnesota, Lloyd transferred to the U from junior college in 2003. He had an immediate impact, converting from 52 yards on his first field goal attempt as a Gopher. A few games into his Minnesota career, he took over punting as well as kicking duties and continued to do both through 2004.

Lloyd holds Minnesota's top two season totals for extra points, making 59 in 2003 and 43 in 2004. He ranks 10th in school history in career scoring (180 points) despite playing for only two years. Lloyd's two seasons rank fifth (2003) and seventh (2004) in scoring. He is fourth in field goal accuracy (.722) and tied for the fourth-longest field goal (54 yards).

Lloyd has been a member of various NFL teams, most notably the Carolina Panthers. He was the Panthers' primary kickoff specialist from 2008 to 2010, leading the NFL with 30 touchbacks in 2008.

What They're Saying - Aug. 13

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"Five Is One" is the goal for the O-line (GopherSports.com)

Audio: Kill talks after Monday practice

Receivers are confident (Star Tribune)

Keise hopes perseverance pays off (Pioneer Press)

Trap game? (ESPN.com)

Looking for that signature win (The Daily Gopher)

Three-point stance (ESPN.com)