Minnesota, New Mexico St. clash in Jerry Kill's homecoming
As Minnesota aims for a successful 2022 season, the Golden Gophers are getting a blast from the past.
Facing former coach Jerry Kill for the first time since he left the program in 2015, Minnesota opens against his New Mexico State squad on Thursday night in Minneapolis.
Minnesota is a heavy favorite, thanks to star running back Mohamed Ibrahim (3,003 rushing yards, 33 touchdowns in 28 career games), quarterback Tanner Morgan (8,072 yards, 56 touchdowns, 27 interceptions in 42 games) and six returning starters from a defense that allowed an average of 17.3 points during its 9-4 2021 season.
There is intrigue aplenty with the return of Kill, who went 29-29 -- 0-3 in bowl games -- during four-plus seasons at Minnesota before leaving in 2015 due to his epilepsy concerns.
Kill was not happy when the university fired his assistant and successor Tracey Claeys amid turmoil within the program. Or current Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, who said he had to "rebuild" the Gophers program after taking over in 2017.
"I'll get booed out of that stadium, I don't know," said the 61-year-old Kill, who spent four games as interim TCU coach in 2021.
"Going back to Minnesota, I guess, I guess the good lord tests me," Kill added to the Twin Cities' KARE11.
It also remains to be seen if Kill and former assistant Fleck will shake hands Thursday. On the field, Minnesota needs a positive start after falling to Ohio State and Michigan, respectively, in its last two openers.
"Every team has its own fingerprint and character and identity, and this team will, too," Fleck said. "I just look forward to seeing what it is."
New Mexico State (0-1) must rebound from Saturday's 23-12 home loss versus Nevada. The Aggies managed 303 total yards, while committing five turnovers and eight penalties. Receiver Kordell David caught seven passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.
In 2018, Ibrahim ran for 101 yards during Minnesota's 48-10 victory over New Mexico State, which has lost 18 straight road games.
--Field Level Media