Jerry Kill uses Minnesota’s downtrodden past to motivate its future

All season, Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has been trying to figure out a way to motivate his players and last weekend he finally found something that worked.

Prior to Saturday's game against Iowa, Kill brought more than 100 previous Gopher letter-winners into the team's locker room and just before the team took the field, showed his team a video of fans tearing down the goalposts and escorting the metal out of the Metrodome after Iowa's 45-21 win over the Gophers in 2002.

Message received.

"Yeah, they showed that and you know, I'm a MN native and that really did irritate me," cornerback Kyle Henderson said. "Being a Gopher - that was one of the biggest things - I felt belittled. I wasn't a player at that time, but I felt their pain because I know what it takes to go into a game.

"The amount of work you put in - to lose and have them humiliate you like that, I thought was terrible. I felt for them, I definitely wanted to make sure I did something for those guys."

The presence of former players telling war stories coupled with seeing one of the most raucous fan celebrations ever recorded was enough to spark the bottom-dwelling Gophers to a 22-21 upset over the Hawkeyes. Quarterback MarQueis Gray sneaked the ball over the goal line for the winning points on fourth-and-goal with 2:48 remaining in the game, giving Minnesota its first lead — in the month of October.{YSP:MORE}

"Coach Kill said I need to stop trying to be everybody's friend and be a leader of this team," Gray said. "It showed today."

Minnesota, who retained the Floyd of Rosedale trophy for the second consecutive season, snapped a four-game losing streak and, at 2-6, kept slim hopes of a bowl berth alive. The win also validated the seven-year, $8.4 million contract Kill received earlier in the week.

"This helped us move forward in a strong and positive way," running back Duane Bennett said. "It feels great to keep Floyd here again especially it being my senior season; it's great to go out with a bang."

We'll see if those positive feelings continue against Michigan State this weekend.

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Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham.

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