Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the league’s head coaches (Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year) and media (Dave McClain Coach of the Year). He is the second Gopher coach ever to win the award and first since Glen Mason, who was honored in 1999 as the Dave McClain Coach of the Year.
Kill, who is in his fourth year at Minnesota, led the Gophers to an 8-4 record and a 5-3 mark in the Big Ten. The Gophers, who were picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten West in a preseason media poll, were one game away from playing for a Big Ten championship.
Kill guided Minnesota to an 8-5 record last season, meaning the Gophers have won eight games in back-to-back seasons for only the fifth time since 1906. The Gophers were 4-4 in the Big Ten last year and finished 5-3 this year, giving Minnesota its first back-to-back seasons of four Big Ten wins since 1999 (5-3) and 2000 (4-4).
Kill also coached five players (one on offense, one on special teams and three on defense) who were named All-Big Ten First Team by either the coaches or media, which is the most that the Gophers have had since 2004. This is also the first year since 1986 that Minnesota had a first-team member on offense, defense and special teams.
This year, Minnesota recorded Big Ten wins against Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa and Nebraska. The Gophers beat Michigan 31-14 to win the Little Brown Jug and drubbed Iowa 51-14 to reclaim Floyd of Rosedale. This is the first time that Minnesota has beaten both Michigan and Iowa during the same season since 1967 (beat Michigan 20-15 and Iowa 10-0 in consecutive weeks). Minnesota scored 31 straight points at Michigan and scored 51 straight points against Iowa in its wins this year.
Minnesota won at Michigan for only the 13th time in 53 games and its 31 points were the most scored in a road win against the Wolverines since 1937 when the Gophers won 39-6. The 14 points allowed were the fewest since Minnesota shut out the Wolverines 16-0 in 1977. The Gophers ended a two-game losing streak to Iowa, as they scored 51 points to down the Hawkeyes. The 51 points were the sixth most ever scored by the Gophers in the rivalry and most since 1949 when Minnesota won 55-7.
Kill led Minnesota to a 28-24 win at Nebraska, which was the Gophers’ first victory in Lincoln since 1960. It was also the Gophers’ second consecutive win against the Huskers, as Minnesota snapped a 16-game losing streak to Nebraska last season. This year, Minnesota trailed 21-7 at halftime, but rallied for its first win against a ranked opponent on the road since the Gophers won at No. 6 Ohio State in 2000. The 14-point comeback was Minnesota’s largest since it was down 14-0 in the first quarter at Northwestern on Oct. 4, 2003 (won 42-17). It was also Minnesota’s largest second-half rally since it trailed Purdue by 14 points in the third quarter on Oct. 9, 1993 (won 59-56).
Minnesota defeated Northwestern for the second time in two years and also won its second straight game against Purdue in 2014.
The Gophers suffered four losses this year to teams who have a combined 38-10 record (Ohio State is 11-1, TCU is 10-1, Wisconsin is 10-2 and Illinois is 6-6). Minnesota played valiantly in defeat, as it held TCU (No. 3 in scoring) to its lowest point total of the year and held Ohio State (No. 5 in scoring) to its second-lowest point this year. The Gophers also kept the Badgers (No. 16 in scoring) beneath their scoring average.
Kill’s Gophers are 9-5 in their last 14 Big Ten games, as they have posted home wins against Iowa (2014), Purdue (2014), Northwestern (2014) Nebraska (2013) and Penn State (2013) and road wins at Michigan (2014), Nebraska (2014), Northwestern (2013) and Indiana (2013). Four of Minnesota’s five defeats came to ranked teams in Ohio State (2014), Michigan State (2013) and Wisconsin (2014 and 2013).
The 9-5 mark is the best record for Minnesota in a 14-game conference stretch since it went 10-4 from Nov. 11, 1972 – Oct. 19, 1974 (beat Northwestern twice, Wisconsin twice, Iowa twice, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois, while it lost to Ohio State twice, Michigan and Indiana in that span).
The Gophers will play in their third-straight bowl game this year under Kill. Minnesota has played in three straight bowl games one time before, as it played in five straight bowl games from 2002-2006 under Mason. If Minnesota were to win its bowl game, it would be only the eighth time in history that the Gophers would win nine games in one season and the only the second time in the last 109 years.
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