U's Gray owning up to those overthrows

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 5, 2012 - 6:48 AM

The Gophers quarterback didn't dodge blame, saying it would have been his fault had they lost to UNLV.

The Gophers' first 10 possessions of the season produced six punts, two turnovers, a missed field goal and just a single touchdown drive. There were a lot of culprits, from dumb penalties to poor field position, but one major weakness stood out in particular. Probably because he stands 6-5.

"If we had lost that game, it was because of me," MarQueis Gray said of the Gophers' 30-27 triple-overtime victory over UNLV. "Without me overthrowing those guys last week, we could have had tons more yards and more touchdowns."

In other words, accuracy was a problem. Accountability was not.

Gray owned his mistakes Tuesday, bluntly finding himself guilty of strangling the Gophers offense with bad throws and missed connections.

He could have fallen back on statistics that paint a more charitable picture of his difficulties; as coach Jerry Kill pointed out, Gray's 269 passing yards (and even his 234 in regulation) represent the second-most prolific day of his Gophers career. His 56.7 percent completion rate has been better only three times before.

And Gray could have shrugged off his misfires as irrelevant, given that he rallied the Gophers to victory in overtime. Instead, he blamed himself for the fact that Minnesota managed only seven points in the first 48 minutes Thursday.

"I missed like four more touchdowns through the air. I was just anxious out there," the senior quarterback said. "I've [thought] about it all week -- I see all those other teams putting up big points, and [without] those overthrown balls, we could have been up in that area."

Thinking about "that area" might have been part of the problem, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said.

"In all honesty, I think he wanted to go out and make a big play. He wanted to go out and have that kind of signature game right off the bat. That's always a [symptom] of a guy who is trying to do too much -- the overthrows," Limegrover said. "He wanted so badly to make big play after big play, his foot was on the accelerator the whole time and he had trouble easing off it."

Easing off is this week's adjustment. The Gophers have diagnosed Gray's problem --too much velocity, a product of opening night nerves -- and set out to dial back the anxiety level.

"There was so much buildup, that he needed a few things to go well for him early in the game," Limegrover said.

Instead, Gray threw an interception that ended the first drive, "and he immediately started pressing. There wasn't that bounce back, there wasn't that next-play mentality, and one bad play turns into five."

The Gophers were heartened, though, by how Gray reacted, both during and after the game. He corrected his problems in time to lead the Gophers on scoring drives on the final two possessions of regulation, and all three during overtime.

And he never showed fear or frustration.

"I stayed composed -- I mean, it was nothing I haven't been through before," Gray said. "I know that the team looks to me, and I can't be down on the sidelines."

"He was very even-keeled," Kill said. "I'm sure he got frustrated a couple of times, but you keep your composure. ... I didn't see anybody when the chips were down [saying], 'Oh, here we go again.' Last year, that's all I saw."

Wells honored

• Safety Derrick Wells was named defensive player of the week by the Football Writers Association of America, a national award named for former Gophers great Bronko Nagurski. Wells' eight tackles and two critical interceptions also won Big Ten honors.

• With the exception of receiver Jamel Harbison's torn knee ligament, Kill said the Gophers came through the UNLV game healthy.

• Kill and athletic director Norwood Teague plan to walk the Minnesota campus on Friday, handing out tickets and other items in hopes of increasing student attendance at Saturday's home opener against New Hampshire.

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