Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Mitch Leidner’s struggles during non-conference play helped create competitive games and narrow margins of victory, so any chance of a quarterback change for the Minnesota Golden Gophers had to be postponed. But the junior signal caller’s performance on Saturday against Northwestern, which included two turnovers in a 27-0 loss, made it a no-lose proposition for head coach Jerry Kill to put true freshman Demry Croft in the game during the fourth quarter.
On Sunday Kill downplayed the idea of a quarterback controversy, while also suggesting that Croft could see more playing time going forward. Leidner is all but certain to start next Saturday against Purdue, and that is the right decision at this point. Croft may see some playing time before the fourth quarter next week, regardless of how Leidner is playing, but he clearly needs more time before he should be counted on to start games.
In a 39-38 victory over Purdue last season, Leidner actually played fairly well. He did not throw the ball much, with nine completions in 18 attempts, but he had 165 passing yards (9.2 yards per attempt) and 84 rushing yards while accounting for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).
If nothing else, Leidner should enter the coming week of practice with some good memories from his 2014 performance against the Boilermakers. He surely needs to raise his level of play this season, but any positive vibes can only help and facing Purdue should provide some.
A quicker hook could very well come for Leidner next Saturday, and when it’s all said and done we could see a nearly equal split of playing time between he and Croft during the game.
It’s anyone’s guess who the Golden Gophers’ starting quarterback will be during the majority of the Big Ten schedule, and I don’t necessarily think Kill has any real idea right now. But for the next six days or so, any talk of Leidner losing the starting job needs to be postponed.
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