MarQueis Gray is back. Too bad he's only the second-most effective ground-gainer on the field.
Northwestern tailback Venric Mark has battered the Gophers' defense in the same manner that Iowa's Mark Weisman did two weeks ago, and the result is a 21-10 Northwestern lead over Minnesota at halftime.
Mark scored his first touchdown just 11 seconds into the game on a 27-yard run (after Gopher kick returner Lamonte Edwards fumbled the opening kickoff), set up Kain Colter's 2-yard touchdown plunge on the next drive with a 47-yard run, then ran untouched on a 48-yard scoring romp in the second quarter, finishing the half with 151 yards on only 11 carries, just short of Weisman's 165-yard first half for Iowa.
Max Shortell started the game as Minnesota's quarterback, and led a 76-yard drive on the Gophers' first possession that ended with a 31-yard field goal by Jordan Wettstein. Gray surprised the Wildcats by lining up at wide receiver during that drive, gaining 16 yards on a sideline pass.
But when Shortell suffered a minor injury on the second drive, Gray took over, and played the rest of the half. He did more than that, too: The senior quarterback energized the Gophers' offense with his running ability, including a 25-yard scoring run that briefly pulled Minnesota within three points.
The half ended with steady rain falling, sending many fans among the two-thirds-full stadium crowd heading for cover.