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 hates to lose, but he didn't exactly seem devastated by Saturday's 42-13 setback. And I don't blame him.
After all, it came just one day after "the best day of my life."
He left a Gophers team meeting Friday afternoon to rush to the hospital, where his girlfriend gave birth to MarShawn and MarZell Gray, twin boys who figure to keep him running around far more than Wisconsin's defense did. He witnessed the birth, spent time with his new family, and went home to get a little sleep for Saturday's game. He got nine hours, he claimed, but admitted that he woke up more than once.
Better get used to that, Daddy.
Coach Jerry Kill spent the week preparing two quarterbacks, figuring there was a chance that Gray's sons might arrive on game day instead. When Gray showed up Saturday morning, it removed any decision for him to make, Kill said.
But it wasn't the same Gray that the Gophers saw the past two weeks, the confident quarterback who could find receivers while on the run. Gray completed only six passes, directed only one drive that traveled more than 35 yards -- that one ended with a fake field goal for a touchdown -- and was probably more ineffective than he's been all year. (Though he did pick up 68 yards on the ground, absorbing a remarkable number of punishing hits for a guy with a bad back, an injury he said he sustained last week against Michigan State.)
His rough day was particularly noticeable in contrast to that of Russell Wilson, whose lone completion in 17 tries came on a long pass that Nick Toon got his hands on, but jarred loose when he hit the ground. That makes Wilson the fifth quarterback this season, by the way, to complete at least nine consecutive passes against the Gophers, and matches the 16 straight completions that Matt Barkley of USC put up.)
I wouldn't blame his play on MarShawn and MarZell, 11 total pounds of baby boy, though. Wisconsin's defense was put several tons of pressure on him.
"The phrase we use with these athletic quarterbacks is 'keep a guy inside the front,' " Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. "I know he ran around a few times, but we didn't want to let him get those big plays. ... We defended a lot and they weren't able to complete" their passes.
It would have been a terrific story for Gray to have won a rivalry game for his kids, but oh well. Maybe MarShawn or MarZell can get revenge on the Badgers themselves someday.
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