Chart: Five story lines for Gophers football

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 26, 2012 - 12:42 AM
Five story lines that could define the Gophers' season:

1 GRAY MATTER

MarQueis Gray wasn't happy with how he played last year, which makes the Gophers happy about this year. The unquestioned leader of the team looks like a far more confident passer, and more patient in the pocket, but now he must prove the improvement is real. Ramping his completion percentage above 50 percent would be a great start.

2 GET A BACKBONE

The Gophers were the second-worst Big Ten team at stopping the run, and the problem began right up the middle. Now they have two new defensive tackles, a new middle linebacker and two new safeties, all with the responsibility of bottling up the run. Show a little more containment, and perhaps Minnesota can cut down opponents' 44 percent third-down conversion rate.

3 SOMEBODY HELP HIM

Gray is the triggerman, but he can't move the ball by himself. Trouble is, the Gophers don't quite know who -- if anyone -- will emerge as an offensive force. Only Brandon Green has ever scored a TD among the receivers; only Donnell Kirkwood has ever gotten into the end zone among the tailbacks. Adding to that number, among a raft of candidates, is a priority.

4 FASTER IS BETTER

The Gophers lacked speed and experience in a number of defensive positions, so they shuffled their lineup to juice their quickness. Cornerbacks-turned-safeties Brock Vereen and Derrick Wells undoubtedly make the secondary quicker, and former safety James Manuel makes a swift linebacker. The Gophers hope they are as fast at learning a position as they are at running.

5 EXPECT MORE

Confidence was a problem after a rough start last year, when the Gophers dropped winnable nonconference games, then got steamrolled by their first three Big Ten opponents. It showed in particular in the first quarter, when they were outscored 106-38. These Gophers appear more confident, but are they still fragile? A fast, successful start, to the season and to each game, would help a lot.

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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 93 4th Qtr 6:54
Portland 99
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 1 3rd Prd 17:27
Vancouver 2
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73

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