Max Shortell woke up a Gopher offense that was falling asleep Saturday morning.
Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray was sent to the locker room with an apparent ankle injury with four minutes remaining in the first half, and the sophomore led the Gophers on their two most impressive drives of the game. Shortell first completed three passes for 66 yards, including a 9-yard scoring pass to A.J. Barker in the left corner of the end zone, then followed it with a 53-yard touchdown pass to Barker with 30 seconds to play in the half.
The result was a 21-10 halftime lead for Minnesota over Western Michigan.
Barker has three touchdowns in the first half, the first one a 10-yard slant pass from Gray in the first quarter. That made Barker the 11th player in school history to catch three touchdown passes in a half. Da'Jon McKnight equaled the feat at Michigan State last November.
Shortell finished the half 5-for-6 for 125 yards. The Broncos' only touchdown, a 6-yard run by tailback Dareyon Chance, was set up by Gray's fumble on the Minnesota 18.
The Gophers' offense seemed to stagnate after a decent first drive was short-circuited by a missed 38-yard field goal. The only score in the first five possessions came after a Michael Carter interception gave Minnesota the ball on Western Michigan's 8 yard line. The Gophers punted away two other drives and lost the ball on Gray's fumble.
Broncos quarterback Alex Carder is only 11-of-23 for 81 yards at halftime.