Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
MarQueis Gray is still learning, but it's coming awfully quickly now. One thing that needs work especially, he said Saturday: Communication.
Gray threw two interceptions Saturday, just the second time that's happened to him. And neither should have happened, he said.
"Just some missed communication," he said.
The first one came during the third quarter, with Minnesota trying to build on its 24-21 lead. On third and 12, the Gophers sent Da'Jon McKnight short along the left sidelines, and Eric Lair about 12 yards deeper.
Except Gray didn't know Lair was going so deep.
"I thought the safety was going to sprint out and Eric was going to sit [on the route], but he kept going," said Gray, whose pass to where he thought Lair was headed was easily grabbed by safety Trenton Robinson instead. "We just have to work on it this week."
Same for the second pick, on the game's final drive, when Gray anticipated McKnight breaking outside. He went inside instead, and Robinson had another interception.
Gray also was nearly picked off a third time, and it would have been bittersweet -- the ball bounced off the hands of safety Isaiah Lewis, a childhood friend of Gray's. "We joked about that at the end of the game. Isaiah and I have been playing together since junior high" back in Indianapolis, Gray said. "He's a great athlete. He was a running back in junior high -- he played everything."
But if the communicating part still needs work -- and it's encouraging that he knows what went wrong and how to fix it -- the physical part has to have the Gophers thrilled. Gray is turning into the quarterback they had hoped, versatile and unpredictable.
"He's got a good arm. He made plays and sometimes we couldn't tackle him, or we were right there and he made plays," said Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. "MarQueis Gray is a good football player, and that's a good football team."
They sort of go hand-in-hand these days, which is why his development is so positive. The interceptions were unfortunate, but Gray had thrown 72 passes without one, so it's not like he's making bad decision after bad decision.
"I'm pleased with his progress," coach Jerry Kill said. "I'm very proud of the job he did for us today."
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