Gophers handle Kill's health scare

September, 14, 2013
9/14/13
5:15
PM ET
When Minnesota's quarterback needed to be replaced in the first half, the Gophers plugged in the backup and kept on moving.

That approach was also needed on the sidelines, when the Gophers had to fill the void on the coaching staff after another health scare for head coach Jerry Kill.

Jerry Kill
AP Photo/Andy KingJerry Kill suffered a seizure on the sideline for the third time since taking over as Minnesota head coach.
Kill suffered a seizure late in the first half of Saturday's game and was sent to the hospital. Minnesota's players and coaching staff are familiar with with Kill's epilepsy and know the drill when Kill must leave a game early. But simply being aware that something might happen and actually dealing with it are two different things, and with a different coach in charge on the sideline and a new quarterback on the field, the Gophers proved they could handle some adversity in a 29-12 victory over Western Illinois.

"We keep our normal routine," defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. "That is how we were trained. That is what [Kill] would want.

"The team knows what they have to do and nothing changes.”

A few responsibilities shift among the coaches, though. Claeys becomes the acting head coach up in the booth and defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel handles the field-level responsibilities.

But aside from that shuffling of the personnel, the Gophers proceeded as if nothing was wrong. After the offense struggled in the first half, Minnesota appeared to get stronger in the second half and pulled away.

Backup quarterback Mitch Leidner was instrumental in that surge after taking over in the first half when Philip Nelson suffered a leg injury. He was dangerous both as a rusher and a passer in an efficient outing that might establish a case for an expanded role at quarterback.

But even if Leidner stays on the bench, the Gophers are fully aware of how important it is to be prepared for anything and are ready to put the backup plan in action -- from the players to the coaching staff to the medical staff that was called in to help Kill during a game for the third time since he took over the program before the 2011 season.

"[Kill] was attended to by medical personnel on the field and was then driven to a local hospital as a precaution to ensure proper medication levels," Minnesota senior associate athletic director Chris Werle said in a statement. "He is resting comfortably.

"Coach Kill’s staff, which is the most tenured in the nation, and his team are well acquainted with his condition and are prepared if a situation like this arises."

Having a plan is one thing. Executing it while facing adversity is another, and the Gophers pulled it off without a hitch.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter

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