U offense seemed to run out of gas

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 7, 2011 - 11:41 AM

The Gophers couldn't maintain their momentum once the fourth quarter came.


Quarterback MarQueis Gray was tackled for a loss by Michigan State’s Max Bullough (40) and Anthony Rashad White, one of a few plays that went wrong during the fourth quarter.

Holding the lead after three quarters Saturday was a pleasant change for the Gophers, who hadn't accomplished that feat yet this season. But the goal is to be ahead after four quarters, and the Gophers missed that opportunity by wearing down, or simply losing effectiveness, in the final period.

A week earlier, they owned the fourth quarter, holding the ball for all but 95 seconds to score a pair of touchdowns and rally past Iowa. But in East Lansing, Mich., on Saturday, the Gophers had four possessions and failed to score, enabling Michigan State to do the rallying, finally holding on for a 31-24 victory.

Gophers coach Jerry Kill suggested that fatigue might have played a role in his team's fourth-quarter fizzle, particularly after playing such a physical opponent.

"We did something today we've never done -- we snapped the ball 74 times to their 62," Kill said. "Offensively, we haven't done that. So maybe there's a reason we ran out of gas a little bit."

The Gophers held the ball as long or longer than Michigan State in all four quarters, finishing with 34:28 of possession time. But whatever the reason, their production waned in the final period, after they built a 24-21 lead after three.

It didn't help that their field position, a handicap all day, was particularly bad in the fourth quarter. Their four drives started on their own 28-, 14-, 6- and 10-yard lines.

"The biggest thing -- it's on top of my head and I can't get it out right now -- is field position," Kill said after a game in which the Gophers' average drive began 77.5 yards from the end zone and the Spartans' began 61.1 yards away. "Field position just killed us."

So did their inability to move. The Gophers had a pair of three-and-outs. They got to midfield on a drive before turning the ball over on downs. And given a final chance to drive for a tying score, they moved into Spartans territory in eight plays, including a 24-yard reception to tight end John Rabe, before being undone by a mixup on receiver Da'Jon McKnight's route, resulting in an interception.

"I was very confident. I thought we were going to get it to overtime," Kill said of the two-minute drill. "I was confident until the last play."

That play was snapped with 15 seconds remaining and the Gophers 45 yards away from the end zone. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover called a medium-length pass to McKnight, hoping to pick up roughly half the distance.

"I thought we would get two shots [at a touchdown]. We could run the Hail Mary at the end, but we had 15 seconds," Kill said. "We had two shots, and I wish we'd have taken one at the end, but we had the four-vertical [receivers] concept, so I thought we could get closer and take a closer shot."

But McKnight turned toward the middle, just as quarterback MarQueis Gray anticipated his cut outside. Safety Trenton Robinson took advantage with his second interception of the day.

"MarQueis thought he was going to peel outside," Kill said. "They made a good play."

Michigan State had made a few others in the quarter. Gray enjoyed the best passing day of his career (19-for-32 for 295 yards), but in the fourth quarter he was only 5-for-13 for 61 yards. By comparison, Kirk Cousins went 4-for-5 for 27 yards in the fourth quarter.

The Gophers' running game slowed at the end, too. They ran 10 times for 42 yards, but two of those were Gray scrambles, picking up 19 and 11 yards. When Gray handed off, the numbers were four carries for 10 yards.

"We've just got to do a better job of finishing," Gray said. "It's a matter of a couple of plays."

True, and the Gophers still had plenty to feel good about. They converted seven of 15 third downs, their second-best percentage of the year and the first time all season they have been more successful at it than their opponents.

"Those [receivers], they're the reason we kept the ball moving along," Gray said. "They were finding open gaps. As I was sprinting around, they were doing a great job of finding space."

Phil Miller • phil.miller@startribune.com

  • GOPHERS FOOTBALL Up next: 2:30 p.m. Saturday vs. No. 16 Wisconsin TCF Bank Stadium • TV: BTN (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Houston 23 FINAL
Pittsburgh 30
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 98 FINAL
Cleveland 107
New Orleans 88 FINAL
Washington 84
Milwaukee 120 FINAL
New York 107
Philadelphia 88 FINAL
Brooklyn 99
Charlotte 114 FINAL
Atlanta 117
Sacramento 99 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Memphis 103 FINAL
Dallas 108
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Arkansas State 7:00 PM
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
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




question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question