Well, the predictions from nearly all of the media were that the Gophers football team's record would all depend on how well MarQueis Gray plays. And if Gray got injured the Gophers would be certain to finish last in the Big Ten. There was nothing but concern Saturday when Gray suffered a high ankle sprain and also a slight knee injury with 4:37 left in the second quarter and the Gophers trailing Western Michigan 10-7.
Fortunately, X-rays showed no fracture, and more will be known Sunday after more examination. However, the odds are strong that Gray won't be physically OK to face Syracuse next Saturday night.
Also fortunate for the Gophers is that No. 2 quarterback Max Shortell had gotten some playing time against New Hampshire last week, when he played most of the fourth quarter and completed five of six passes for 72 yards and one touchdown.
When I spoke with Shortell last week after the New Hampshire win, he said he was happy as a sophomore to be a backup to Gray but was confident he'd be ready if anything happened to Gray.
And was he ever ready. On Saturday, Shortell led three drives that ended with touchdown passes after coming in for Gray. In 12:14 of game time he went 8-for-12 for 168 yards and moved the score from a 10-7 Gophers deficit to a 28-17 Gophers lead.
Yes, Western Michigan had spent the week working on a defense for Gray, and Shortell came in and tore their pass defense apart.
And Shortell was really pleased to be able to hit Drew Goodger, a very close friend, for a touchdown pass. They are both from the Kansas City area.
"Drew, I always played against him in baseball when I was younger and we've been really good buddies since then," Shortell said. "Ever since I knew he committed to Minnesota we've been in contact. We're really good buddies, and it was nice to hook up for a touchdown finally."
And yes Shortell was modest about his success, saying Gray would have had the chance to do the same thing.
"We had some things dialed up. MarQueis would have had a chance to do those, but I got in and got a chance to do some of those plays that we had in our back pocket," he said.
Shortell, who was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 22 quarterback in the 2011 class when Tim Brewster signed him out of Bishop Miege High School, went 26-for-54 with 309 yards passing, two touchdowns and two interceptions in eight games for the Gophers last season.
In his senior season in high school he completed 53 percent of his passes for 2,643 yards and 21 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. And as a junior he led Bishop Miege to a Kansas state championship.
High on Luck
Vikings running back Toby Gerhart played two years at Stanford when Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall draft choice who will face the Vikings on Sunday, was starting there.
"He's a heck of a player, and I think that is why everybody projected him No. 1 in the draft," Gerhart said.
Can Luck do a good job as a rookie starting quarterback in the NFL? "I think he can," Gerhart said. "He's smart enough, he has the physical tools to do it. Of course there's going to bumps along the way, but I think he can get it done."
Neshek in playoff push
On Friday , former Twins reliever and Park Center product Pat Neshek continued his tremendous season with Oakland. Neshek has appeared in 17 games since Aug. 3, pitching 14 1/3 innings and allowing only one run, good for a 0.63 ERA, with 15 strikeouts and six hits allowed. In Friday night's big win over Baltimore, Neshek came on in the seventh inning with Oakland leading 3-2 and got a double play after allowing a walk.
Recruits like the Gophers
The Gophers basketball team didn't get any commitments a week ago from three of the top players in the country for 2013 who were visiting campus. But all three -- Gavin Schilling from Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, Cedric Hankerson from Coral Reef High School in Miami and Nigel Hayes from Whitmer High School in Toledo -- indicated they were impressed with Minnesota and have the Gophers near the top of their college lists.
Also, former Gophers basketball coach Jim Dutcher is back living in Edina after spending a month with his son Brian, who is the associate head coach to Steve Fisher at San Diego State. Jim reported that his son's contract contains something that most assistant coaches don't have, a clause that says he will automatically move up to head coach when Fisher retires.
• The figures aren't available on the Western Michigan game, but a week ago at the New Hampshire game there were 15,327 servings of beer and wine sold at the stadium with 13,118 servings in the general seating area and 2,209 in the premium suites. The revenue from the sale was in the area of $111,000.
• The Yankees come to town this week for three games with no sellouts predicted for the first time in Target Field history. In fact, there are $25 tickets available in good sections.
• Connor Cosgrove is a recovering cancer patient, but Jerry Kill has Cosgrove listed on the Gophers roster and he takes part in all of the activities the players do, including training and meals. His father, Kevin Cosgrove, who was on the Gophers staff under Tim Brewster, is now an assistant at New Mexico under Bob Davies.
• One reason that the Gophers didn't schedule any of the Dakota schools is because while Tim Brewster was coach he thought there was nothing to gain if you beat them and a lot of criticism if you lost. In my opinion it made no sense playing a school like New Hampshire that didn't draw instead of one of the Dakota schools that would sell out the stadium. The Gophers' next meeting with a Dakota school is in 2015 against South Dakota State, with nothing further scheduled.
• It's interesting that Syracuse, the Gophers' opponent next Saturday night, played Stony Brook, the school where new University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler worked before coming here. The Syracuse game will be a prime-time game on the Big Ten Network.
• Brad Childress had this season remaining on his Vikings contract so whatever he earns from the Browns as offensive coordinator will be discounted from the pay he is owed by the Vikings. So he is really coaching for almost no pay this season.