Gophers Grab Win Over RedHawks, 29-23
Sept. 17, 2011
Gray threw for 163 yards and rushed for 171 more and Duane Bennett blocked a punt and recovered in the end zone to hand Kill his first victory as coach of the Golden Gophers (1-2).
Zac Dysert threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns and Nick Harwell had 12 catches for 162 yards for the RedHawks (0-2). Miami drove the ball to the Minnesota 20 in the closing moments, but Dysert's pass to Chris Givens in the end zone was broken up as time expired.
Kill made it through the game without incident, a big relief to Gophers fans and his players who watched him collapse at the end of last week's loss to New Mexico State.
He spent five days in the hospital and didn't rejoin the team until Thursday, and his first game back was no cake walk.
The Gophers were clinging to a seven-point lead early in the fourth when Bennett came off the left edge and blocked Zac Murphy's punt. The ball hung in the air and he plucked it out of the air just before falling into the end zone for the TD and a 29-16 lead.
Dysert drove Miami 80 yards in 2:34 on the next possession, scrambling and finding Dawan Scott wide open in the end zone to keep it interesting.
The Gophers went for it on fourth and 9 from the Miami 34, but Gray's pass fell incomplete, and Dysert drove the RedHawks to within striking distance in the closing moments.
With his hands on his knees, Kill watched Kim Royston breakup the final pass of the game, and the student section serenaded him with chants of "Jerry! Jerry!" as he walked off the field a winner for the first time in maroon and gold.
Kill has a history with seizures, but last week was the first time his new team witnessed it, and it shook them to the core. Kill spent the next five days in the hospital while doctors tried to find the right dosage of medication to keep them under control.
He didn't rejoin the team until Thursday afternoon and it wasn't clear when the day began whether he would be on the sideline at TCF Bank Stadium or in a coaching box to keep the excitable coach in a more insulated environment.
But Kill jogged onto the field with the team just before kickoff and coached the entire game from field level. Known for his fiery intensity and beet-red face during game day, Kill appeared to remain calm for most of the first half.
Doctors said a combination of dehydration and stress triggered his latest seizure, and team physician Pat Smith promised to keep a closer eye on Kill during games. Several times throughout the game, Smith came up to Kill and handed him a cup of water or Gatorade to drink.
The coach just looked tired all day, his shoulders a little slumped as he watched the tight game unfold.
He perked up toward the end of the first half, riding the field judge hard after they didn't review a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Erik Finklea that pulled the RedHawks to 13-10 heading into the break.
Kill became animated as he followed the official about 40 yards up the sideline, barking in his ear and pumping his fist as he argued his point.
After Chris Hawthorne's 26-yard field goal gave Minnesota a 16-10 lead out of the break, Dysert hit Chris Givens on a 7-yard fade into the end zone to tie the game. But Aaron Griffo's snap on the extra point bounced in front of the holder Dysert, preventing Miami from taking the lead.
Gray used his arm in the first half, completing eight of his first nine passes for 146 yards. He used his legs in the second half to keep the Gophers offense moving.
He had a 20-yard run and two 14-yarders in the third quarter, often taking off after seeing his first read on a pass was covered. On third-and-goal from the 1, Gray threw a touchdown to John Rabe for a 23-16 lead just as the fourth quarter began.