Minnesota QB Leidner remains confident through struggles

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Hours after Mitch Leidner and heavily favored Minnesota survived a scare from lowly Kent State, the Golden Gophers quarterback felt compelled to call coach Jerry Kill to get something off his chest.

Leidner knew he had performed poorly earlier in the day, completing 17 of 27 passes for 184 yards and two interceptions in the 10-7 victory. It was the second straight week the offense muddled through an ugly victory, and Kill's refusal to discuss his quarterback situation after the game raised eyebrows.

''I basically just called him and said, `Hey coach I'm sorry I didn't get the offense going like we wanted to today' and basically ended it at that,'' Leidner said on Tuesday. ''Coach Kill told me a couple things, but after that I just felt it was the right thing to do. The game had been eating at me a little bit.''

That's not all that is eating at Leidner these days.

With expectations higher for this Gophers team than any in recent memory, many fans have started to clamor for Kill to take the redshirt off of dynamic freshman Demry Croft in an effort to give the offense a jolt. Croft threw warmups on the sideline last weekend, but Kill has remained mum on his plans for the position heading into the game on Saturday against Ohio (3-0).

Kill spent most of his time on Tuesday deflecting attention from Leidner to the patchwork offensive line in front of him, which has suffered several significant injuries.

''A lot of people talk about quarterbacks and all that stuff right now, but truly our issue is not running the football as good as we've run the football,'' Kill said. ''We've got good backs, and they can carry the rock, but we've got to do better up front, and we've got to find a way to stay healthy.''

The one redshirt Kill spoke openly of removing on Tuesday was for Tyler Moore, the backup center, who may have to move to guard to help fill in for the injured Jon Christenson.

Few fans have much interest in talking about guards and centers, however. The quarterback is the marquee position, and Leidner's seat is getting pretty warm.

With a stifling defense and the relative struggles of other teams in the Big Ten's West Division, the Gophers entered the season with hopes of making a run at the conference's title game. But that will be incredibly difficult if they don't get more production out of their offense, and that starts with a more consistent Leidner, who remains confident in his ability to get the job done.

''I have a ton of confidence in myself,'' Leidner said. ''I haven't lost that, that's for sure. You take things that you learn from each game and you move forward. I'm a leader of this team, been a captain for two years now and gotta keep getting better every single day.''

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