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.
By one pressbox count, Jerry Kill mentioned that "we're a young team" 11 times in his postgame press conference, a remarkable total for a nine-minute Q&A. And he's mostly right; the Gophers included nine seniors and 19 juniors on the 70-man traveling roster for the trip to Iowa.
One senior who didn't make the trip was particularly notable: MarQueis Gray, still out with a sore ankle and knee. Gray was somewhere in Minnesota during the game -- but he's also beginning to occupy a weird limbo.
Considering everyone knows what a long-term project rebuilding the Gophers is -- hence all the underclassman crowding the roster -- it's difficult for Gopher fans not to get impatient. Who could blame anyone for thinking, 'let's hurry up and get to the future' ? And while Max Shortell was only so-so on Saturday, I'm starting to hear a lot of people wonder if the Gophers are better off turning over the offense to him.
That's no offense to Gray, and it certainly doesn't reflect the coaches' thinking -- Jerry Kill and his assistants may talk about the long-term plan, but they're intent on winning the games they're playing now, too, and Gray gives them their best chance.
But Shortell has clearly, definitively improved since last season, and if that improvement continues at this pace, he may be turning into a good, steady Big Ten quarterback. And that's before the free-for-all competition opens next spring, with freshmen Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson in the mix.
So when Gray comes back, presumably once the season resumes Oct. 13, does it make sense to find room for Shortell, too? Sure seems so. Even Shortell sounded hopeful, answering (when pressed by interviewers) that "This coaching staff, they did a two-quarterback thing at Northern (Illinois). ... I could (give) MarQueis a break, or whatever they (want)."
It's a delicate situation once more. Shortell didn't play so well that restoring Gray to the starting lineup looks like a mistake. But he showed signs that he may be the Gophers' future. And who wants to wait that long?
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