Shortell gives U another weapon

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 4, 2011 - 11:39 PM

The freshman's poise after replacing MarQueis Gray leaves open the option of having Gray play some at WR.

hide

Gophers freshman quarterback Max Shortell’s first game action Saturday was a mixed bag: one touchdown pass to bring the Gophers close to USC, one interception that ended a chance at a game-winning drive.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Sometimes an injury to a player is a blessing in disguise for a team.

That might turn out to be the case after Gophers freshman Max Shortell got a chance to show his skills Saturday when starting quarterback MarQueis Gray went to the sidelines because of cramps in the fourth quarter. Gray was treated and could have returned to the game, but he didn't play the rest of the way in the Gophers' 19-17 loss at Southern California.

Shortell, who completed seven of 13 passes for 98 yards, one touchdown and one interception and also rushed twice for 10 yards, has given the Gophers a new offensive weapon.

A year ago as a wide receiver, Gray proved to be one of the best in the Big Ten when he caught 42 passes for 587 yards, an average of 14.0 yards per catch, and five touchdowns.

Now in the right situations, Gray can go back to his 2010 receiving position with Shortell at quarterback, thus posing a problem for any defense.

Despite his great debut performance, Shortell threw an interception with 53 seconds remaining that kept the Gophers from a possible victory.

The Gophers had the ball third-and-1 on their own 28 when Shortell was intercepted and USC took over on the Gophers 42-yard line. The way the Gophers were moving the ball at the time, they might have set up kicker Chris Hawthorne for a potential game-winning field goal, even though he had missed two first-half tries of 42 and 51 yards.

Coach Jerry Kill was obviously upset as he chased one of the officials as the game ended because it was pretty obvious in Kill's mind that Gophers wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight was interfered with by Southern California cornerback Torin Harris before Harris made his interception, a play that ended the Gophers' chance to score one of the biggest football upsets in the history of the school.

After the game, Kill said it was a good call. But he had no choice to say anything else or he would be subject to a penalty for complaining about the officiating. But the replay shows that interference could have been called, with Harris pushing McKnight as he tried to make the reception.

Should have won

Kill felt it was a game the Gophers should have won.

"We're certainly disappointed. We had an opportunity to win, and I felt like we should have won," Kill said Sunday. "We were a different team in the second half. We got better as the game went on, but we certainly had opening-game jitters. Our processes weren't going very fast early in the game. Our kids just struggled. I think they were a little bit nervous, and we played like it, and it got us behind.

"I'm proud of their performance in the second half. They came out and played the way they were taught. But we've got to do a better job off the bat, and I take full responsibility for that. But we lost the game a lot earlier than the fourth quarter."

The Gophers shut out the Trojans in the second half after trailing 19-3 at halftime.

About Shortell's performance, Kill said: "[Max] came in and was under control and was not nervous, and he did a nice job, there's no question. We missed a checkdown, and we had a couple of things I think Max would have liked to have done differently, but shoot, as coaches we all would have liked to have done some things differently. Besides a couple of checks and a couple of things where we could have got into better plays, I thought he did a really good job in the situation he was put in."

Kill also said the Gophers needed to get the ball more to running back Duane Bennett, who rushed 15 times for 53 yards, a 3.5-yard average.

Asked about the adjustments Kill and his staff made at halftime after not playing well in the first half, Kill said: "When you're struggling and you start to come unglued a little bit, you have to go back to your fundamentals and those kinds of things. What we tried to do is, on offense we probably had too much in for what we could do with the kids we have.

"So we cut down on some of the motions and shifts and tried to make it simpler for the offensive kids. On the defensive side of the ball, we had to make sure we continued to stop the run."

Kill praised Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley and receiver Robert Woods, who combined for 115 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.

"First of all, we played against a quarterback that is going to be one of the top five quarterbacks coming out [for the NFL draft] next year," Kill said. "A very accurate passer, very good at running their show. You could tell he had a lot of experience. He played at a different level. In our secondary, I think we settled down in the second half and played better football. We blew a coverage and gave them an easy score, and they made some plays in the first half. But in the second half I think we weren't as star-struck as much."

Kill said USC knew the Gophers were young up front, and they knew they were inexperienced at quarterback, and they brought the house.

"They did a lot of stunts and twists, and brought blitzes off the edge. They made it very difficult, had eight and nine in the box, which we anticipated. And I think our kids struggled early handling it. Again, as the game went on, we did a much better job with what they were doing to us."

Now Saturday, the Gophers will be a heavy favorite against New Mexico State, the kind of opponent they need after the struggle at USC. It will give Kill a chance to test some players he couldn't get into the tough game in Los Angeles.

Jottings

• New Mexico State, the Gophers' opponent Saturday, lost at home to Ohio University 44-24 while allowing 452 yards and gaining 368 yards. New Mexico State quarterback Andrew Manley threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns while receiver Todd Lee caught five passes for 140 yards and one touchdown. Aggies running back Kenny Turner contributed 41 yards rushing and 93 yards on seven receptions.

• Former Gophers athletic director McKinley Boston has been the New Mexico State athletic director since 2004, when he was appointed by former University of Minnesota vice president Michael V. Martin, a native of Crosby, Minn. Martin left New Mexico State in 2008 to become chancellor of LSU.

• The New Mexico State coach appointed by Boston in 2008 is DeWayne Walker, who played for the Gophers in 1980 and '81.

• After his USC team was shut out in the second half by the Gophers, coach Lane Kiffin said: "I never thought that would happen and I would be sitting here talking about it."

• Former Gophers quarterback Adam Weber went through waivers and was put on the Denver Broncos' practice squad.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets - LP: J. Familia 6 FINAL
Miami - WP: A. Ramos 9
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 7 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Boston - LP: B. Badenhop 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: G. Balfour 4
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 6 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4
Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: S. Maness 5
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Turner 4
Detroit 5 Top 7th Inning
Cleveland 1
Seattle 1 Top 9th Inning
Oakland 6
San Francisco - WP: J. Affeldt 4 FINAL
Colorado - LP: C. Friedrich 2
Arizona 1 Top 7th Inning
San Diego 3
San Francisco 4 Bottom 3rd Inning
Colorado 2
Washington - G. Gonzalez 7:10 PM
Los Angeles - R. Hernandez
Texas - C. Lewis 7:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 10 1:51
Calgary 18
Indiana 79 2nd OT 4:20
Chicago 79
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close