Player of the Week: Big Ten

Starting quarterback Philip Nelson was still out. So was starting tailback Donnell Kirkwood.

Minnesota backup quarterback Mitch Leidner certainly picked up the slack.

The redshirt freshman took on the roles of passer and runner in Jerry Kill's read-option offense and executed them to perfection against a good San Jose State squad. He threw for just 71 yards, but rumbled for a game-high 151 yards on the ground and tied the school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with four.

That's not a bad way to finish out a first career start.

"Mitch is a tough kid. He'll be a little sore tomorrow," Kill said Saturday. "It is good that we have the depth that we have. I appreciate the kid's efforts."

The Golden Gophers came into the contest as a slight favorite, likely because they were missing two key starters, but Leidner couldn't be stopped as he led his team to a 43-24 victory and the 4-0 start. It was the third time this season Minnesota scored at least 40 points, so the offense didn't appear to miss a beat.

Leidner made a statement on the game's second drive when he took the wheel and led the offense on a 10-play, 83-yard drive to give Minnesota the 7-0 lead. Leidner rushed four times for 58 yards just on that drive, and punched it in for another score two drives later.

The 6-foot-4 quarterback dragged defenders like a fullback at times and carried the ball 24 times in all, the most carries by a Minnesota quarterback since MarQueis Gray had 27 in 2011. Statistically, it was the Gophers' best individual rushing performance all season.

Nelson remains the starting quarterback, at least for now, but Leidner certainly has the fans talking. Kill now has two quarterbacks able to run his offense, and the Gophers showed they'll be just fine if Nelson needs some time to heal up in the future. Regardless of what's in store for Leidner down the road, it was a memorable weekend for the Lakeville, Minn., native.

Leidner earned Big Ten freshman of the week honors for his performance. Kill couldn't have asked for much more from Leidner. And that's why he's the Five-Star Player of the Week.