The University of Iowa University of Iowa

On Minnesota Football, Modernism, and the Duality of Life

What does Jerry Kill thinks about when he drinks his coffee? What thoughts bounced around behind his eyes while he sips the lager of morning?

Head coach Jerry Kill certainly has his work cut out for him this season trying to improve a dismal Golden Gophers team. (Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)

Does he look at depth charts and rosters, arguing with himself about which one of the giants he in charge of should play more than the others? Does he look over his children’s homework before they go to school?

Maybe he doesn’t think about anything at all, maybe he just drinks his coffee with the tenacity and authority of a man with an important and well-paying job.

Minnesotans by reputation are nice, self – deprecating people with sly sense of humor and an appreciation for good conversation. Garrison Keillor and Joe Mauer are both wonderful representations of their native state. Also by reputation, Minnesotans are bad at football. It could be the only place in the continental U.S. where people ask ‘is it hockey season yet?’

Out of the manual for ‘rebuilding a dormant football program’ Minnesota has done the right things: they built an opulent stadium, changed up their uniforms, and hired a tenured and successful coach. They have done everything except the final and most important step: ‘win football games’ and that may be elusive for some time.

Their offense is anchored by Marquise Gray, a dual threat quarterback who rushed 966 yards and six touchdowns last year, while throwing for 1,495 yards and 8 touchdowns (8 interceptions as well).

The running back is James Gillum, a new player, fresh from the junior college ranks, and the defense will be led by corner back Troy Stoudermire.

Gray is both the best player on the team, and the worst. His ability to run and create plays is something that is sorely lacking on the Golden Gopher football team, however, his inconsistency and the frequency with which he throws the ball to people wearing the wrong jersey harms the team just as much.

MarQueis Gray is one of many question marks for the Gophers this season. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The duality of nature is also a problem for Jerry Kill. He is at one time a tough no-nonsense authoritarian who is successful in his profession, and suffering from chronic health issues. At one point last year he even had a seizure on the side line and had to be carted off the field.

Minnesota’s schedule includes four winnable games at the start of the season, and games with Illinois and Purdue could be winnable. Bowl eligibility could be a real possibility for this team; however, so could loosing every B1G game. It is hard to know what to expect from Minnesota this year.

The season will come down to Jerry Kill’s ability to stay on the sideline and Marquis Gray’s ability to throw the ball to the right team.

If James Joyce were writing about this team, he would something like “The newspapers were right; yes. Snow is general all over Minnesota.” Then he would stop writing about American football, because he lived in Paris and died long before college football became the national and cultural goliath that it is.

However, I think Joyce would be attracted to this team because of the state they represent. Joyce, a native Irishman, would probably enjoy Minnesota’s brutal winters, its cultural alcoholism, and the funny accents. The Gopher state would probably remind Mr. Joyce of home.

So maybe that is what Jerry Kill thinks about when he drinks coffee. “I hope Marquis Gray stays healthy, I hope I stay healthy, I hope the students come out, I hope Iowa isn’t very good this year.”

If you are a betting man, MAC darling Western Michigan in week three could be an easy upset pick. I see wins against New Hampshire, Syracuse and Illinois. Possibly getting upsets against Northwestern and Purdue. But for now, it looks to be another disappointing year in the Twin Cities, with a 3-9 record.

It could be a long time before Minnesota is successful again, however, considering the relative nature of ‘success’ simply winning a bowl game would be a major coup for Kill and company. But for now, snow is general all over Minnesota.