ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has had so many bouts with his epilepsy that his coaching staff and players have gotten used to him not being around.
Kill missed an entire game for the first time as the Golden Gophers’ coach staying at home after suffering his fifth game-day seizure, and No. 19 Michigan pulled away in the second half to rout his team 42-13 on Saturday.
Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys served as the acting head coach from the press box against the Wolverines.
“We have been through a lot of battles together,” Claeys said after the game. “We are all very well trained on our jobs and our responsibilities. We miss him here as a friend. We are all pretty much used to this, and so are the kids.”
Minnesota officials said Kill was not feeling well on Friday, but planned to travel to Ann Arbor the next day to coach. But he suffered a seizure on Saturday morning and was resting at home in Minnesota while the Gophers were playing at the Big House.
Gophers tight end Maxx Williams insisted the players’ mood did not change when they were informed Saturday morning at the team hotel that Kill wouldn’t be on the sideline at Michigan Stadium.
“We know coach’s situation,” he said. “We have to be prepared. We have to be ready for anything. It didn’t really affect us.”
Minnesota (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten) started off well against Michigan (5-0, 1-0) in the first half before getting outscored 28-6 in the third and fourth quarters.
Williams had a game-tying touchdown reception late in the first quarter and the Gophers didn’t trail again until Devin Gardner threw a TD pass with 1:25 left in the second quarter to put Michigan ahead 14-7.
Kill made contact with his coaching staff before kickoff Saturday, according to the school, but he wasn’t in Ann Arbor to make a couple possibly pivotal calls in the second half.
Minnesota made a field goal in both the third and four quarters when facing a fourth-and-5 at the Michigan 27 and 10 — pulling within 11 points and 15 points — instead of going for it to boost its comeback chances.
Defensively, the Gophers allowed the Wolverines to convert 10 of 13 third downs.
“We couldn’t stop them and get off the field,” Claeys said.
Kill wasn’t on the field because of his fifth seizure Kill on a game day — and second this year — in three seasons at Minnesota. He did not coach the second half against Western Illinois, the third game he wasn’t able to finish because of a seizure, and returned for the next two games.
“We think so much of him,” Gophers defensive back Brock Vereen said. “It makes us motivated to want to play that much harder.”
Kill has worked hard to cope with his epilepsy, becoming an outspoken advocate for research of the condition that can include seizures without a moment’s notice.
He has said it is unacceptable to consistently miss portions of games due to seizures. Kill also has said he would walk away if he came to the conclusion that the stresses of the job and the physical toll it was taking was too much for him to bear.
Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague gave Kill a strong vote of confidence earlier this season, saying he is 100-percent behind his coach. Kill has also had consistent support from university President Eric Kaler.
Teague told KFAN radio before the game that Kill was able to lead practice during the week.
“He was there,” Teague said. “I know it’s so frustrating for him. He had a bounce this week and was at every practice. This is a setback for him. We have a bye week next week. We’ll keep managing it and move forward.”
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.