It was a surreal environment at the Gophers football game after head coach Jerry Kill collapsed on the sideline with a seizure.
Kill, who has a history of seizures, was seen thrashing on the ground with his legs kicking violently as trainers attempted to tend to him.
TCF Bank stadium fell silent and nearly all players took a knee as they tried to comprehend what was going on with the coach.
Team doctor Pat Smith addressed the media shortly after the game and confirmed it was a seizure. Kill has a history of seizures ever since undergoing surgery to help fight his kidney cancer. Smith also said Kill has been on medication for seizure prevention.
The doctors believe the seizure was instigated by the heat and the fit was probably incited by dehydration.
Prior to the medical stoppage, Minnesota was driving down the field in a hurry-up offense. With 20 seconds remaining in the game, just prior to a 4th-and-10 play, players began gathering around the coach.
It wasn’t immediately clear what was happening but when trainers began tending to the collapsed coach, his legs began thrashing violently.
The stadium remained eerily quiet as spectators tried to come to grips with the situation at hand. Time crawled by for nearly 10 minutes until the medical crew was able to load Kill onto a stretcher and wheel him out of the stadium with an IV in his arm.
It became known after the game that the cause of the long stoppage was the medical staff waiting for the seizure to subside and also for sedatives to take effect. Smith said Kill’s vital signs remained stable throughout the process and that he was never in immediate life-threatening danger.
Kill has been transferred to an area hospital, though Smith didn’t specify which one.
He was reportedly stable and awake at the hospital later that night, medicated but able to talk with his wife, Rebecca.
The stadium cheered as Kill was carted off the field. There was an awkward vibe afterwards, though, because there was still 20 seconds remaining in a game where the Gophers trailed heavy underdog New Mexico State.
Minnesota’s offense took the field and tried in vain to amp the crowd as the stadium speakers blared to “get behind your team” in the 4th-and-long play with the game on the line.
It seemed so inconsequential that the Gophers failed to convert the first down as quarterback MarQueis Gray was hit in the backfield and rifled the ball almost straight up in the air. The ball was batted around a bit before falling incomplete to seal the defeat.
The Aggies took the field and kneeled to expire the remaining seconds on the clock and complete the victory. Quarterback Andrew Manley celebrated with his teammates after taking the knee as a sparse population of Aggies’ fans cheered in the crowd, but all celebration was brief and subdued in light of what had just happened.
Minnesota players, who had to sit back and watch their coach receive treatment, walked towards the locker room sluggishly. Most had their chins on their chest, calculated, plodding with one foot in front of the other.
The players weren't left completely in the dark on Kill's medical history, but the uncertainty of the severity of the situation may have left some players ill at ease.
"It's scary but at the same time we've been informed that it's happened before so we pray that the best thing happens -- that Coach gets well soon," senior running back Duane Bennett said. "As a player, you have to continue to have your focus on the field because we know that coach Kill would have wanted us to go out and execute regardless of whether he was there."
The head coach had a similar incident in 2005 while coaching with Southern Illinois University, Kill’s offensive and defensive coordinators said.
They corroborated the tale of his previous collapse and seizure in the middle of a game. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, who has worked with Kill for 12 seasons, said it probably looked worse than it was. He added the unknown was the scariest part for the players.
As for going forward, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who has worked with Kill for 16 seasons, said Kill will be back to coaching shortly. “He’s never missed a game,” Claeys said.
Smith said he expects Kill to recover fully, but there was no timetable for his return to the team.
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