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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner has a turf toe injury on his left foot, leaving his availability uncertain for this week's game against San Jose State.
But coach Jerry Kill said the sophomore would practice Tuesday and play Saturday, as long as he's deemed 100 percent healthy.
"I would never play anybody that was 82.9. I'm not going to risk a kid or a quarterback or anything like that," Kill said, in response to a question about whether Leidner was at full strength last week in the 30-7 loss at TCU. Leidner hurt his left knee in the Sept. 6 win over Middle Tennessee but played with a brace on the leg at TCU.
"They've got to be cleared by the trainer. I always tell the trainer, 'Can he play full speed?' Because this is a full-speed game," Kill said.
Leidner's backup, Chris Streveler, has relieved him in each of the last two games. But the freshman said he's confident he won't be starting this Saturday.
"I know if Mitch can play, he's going to play," Streveler said.
For the second straight year, the Gophers are last in the Big Ten in passing yards: they're averaging 130.7 per game. That imbalance won't cut it once conference play begins, and it's already hurt them this month.
Leidner has completed only 48.1 percent of his attempts (26 for 54), with four interceptions and two touchdowns. He has run for two scores. Streveler threw his first college touchdown pass at TCU.
The Gophers (2-1) have injury issues beyond Leidner. Senior left guard Zac Epping has been playing with a sprained ankle, and Kill said he's questionable for Saturday. Running back David Cobb was also limited last week by a sprained ankle. Backups Berkley Edwards and Donnell Kirkwood were bothered by shoulder injuries as well. On the other side, defensive end Alex Keith has been out since hurting his knee in the opener.
Five players have gone down with season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tears in their knees, including key backup linebacker Nick Rallis and starting defensive tackle Scott Ekpe. Frustrating, sure, but Kill wasn't about to complain.
"Sometimes, the teams that are challenged more turn out pretty good," Kill said, alluding to the time he missed last year trying to get his epileptic seizures under control while the Gophers won four straight Big Ten games and finished 8-5. "Last year they were challenged by me."
In running down the ACL injuries during his weekly news conference, Kill wryly noted the list was as of "Monday" only to correct himself when he realized it was Tuesday.
"You got to understand," he said, with a grin. "Don't win, don't sleep. Got to get better."
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