The picture clears for Gray

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 11, 2011 - 12:37 PM

The Gophers QB's three touchdown passes last weekend said a lot about how far he has come.


The Gophers' MarQueis Gray has been making big strides at quarterback in the last couple weeks.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Three touchdowns.

For the Gophers, Da'Jon McKnight's three scoring catches last Saturday at Michigan State represented more than only 18 points, more than a way to scare one of the Big Ten's best defenses. They were also a demonstration of several distinct skills that MarQueis Gray is developing during his first season as the Gophers' quarterback, and three enormous reasons for optimism about Gray's future.

"He was 100 times better in that game than I've ever seen him before," said Bryan Cupito, who went through a similar evolution as the Gophers starting QB in 2005 and '06. "It took until the middle of my first year before I was comfortable, too, and I was a quarterback my [freshman and sophomore] years, so he's really had to learn it quickly."

And if the game with the Spartans was Gray's midterm -- he completed 19 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs -- he's got a decent shot at acing the final. Not too bad, considering Gophers fandom was ready to flunk him out after the season's first month.

"The fans can see what they want to see. Sometimes they don't look through an objective lens," offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. "That poor kid, he's trying to get experience while playing behind six different offensive line combinations, with injuries at the wide receiver position. It's not like we have a team stacked with great players and he's been holding us back. You have to judge him in the moment -- this is where he is now, and it's concrete progress from where he's been."

He's had to adjust to all that plus, Cupito believes, dealing with how "everything happens so much faster at this level. In practice, you're not getting hit, you take your time, make your reads. On the field, you know you're going to get hit, [and] you know you have two-three seconds to make a decision. It's a huge adjustment."

And one that, judging by his three scores Saturday, he is making. Let's examine the trio of passes, and the improvement exhibited by each.

• • •

 Touchdown No. 1: judgment and composure. Gray looks for a receiver, then scrambles to his left, jumps back to avoid a tackle, and lays a 10-yard pass on McKnight's hands. The receiver breaks three tackles and races 64 yards to the end zone.

"He couldn't do that a month ago," Limegrover said. "One of the best part of his development is, when things broke down at Michigan State, he didn't just tuck it and run. He's calmer, seeing the field better. He's looking to see how long he can extend the play, find a better option."

When Gray jumped away from the missed tackle, he had a small running lane to his right and could have simply cut that way and taken a small gain. "But his awareness now can lead to big plays. If he just says, 'OK, I've got a guy in my face, I'm going to tuck it and run,' maybe we get six or seven yards and we don't score on that drive. And maybe we get beat 48-0 -- that's the way the game is these days. But he held in there, found Da'Jon, and our whole team got energized by that play."

• • •

Touchdown No. 2: touch and confidence. Gray executes a planned play, dropping back, looking to his right, then throwing a fade pass high and deep to McKnight in the back corner of the end zone for a 13-yard score.

"He knew right from the snap that's where he wanted to go, and he put it where only Da'Jon could reach it. Great catch," Limegrover said. "His accuracy isn't always right there perfectly every time, but developmentally, he's where you would expect him to be with his experience. And he's letting it go with more fearlessness."

• • •

Touchdown No. 3: patience and awareness. Gray drops back and spots McKnight headed toward a safety who's trying to cover more than one player. Recognizing that McKnight could find open space behind the safety, he waits a beat, then hits the receiver in the back of the end zone.

"We took both inside receivers vertical on short post [routes], then wheeled the H-back [toward the middle]. One [defender] fell off on John Rabe, so the safety was kind of in limbo," Limegrover said. "Because [Gray] held it just a bit longer, and we were able to protect just a little bit longer, Da'Jon came open. That was an example of us being good teammates for once -- the line helped MarQueis find a guy who made a good decision, and he put the ball on him. We just haven't had enough of that this year."

But that game gave the Gophers hope that they will see plenty more.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Cincinnati - LP: J. Broxton 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson 2
Minnesota - LP: T. May 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: M. Gonzalez 9
NY Yankees - WP: C. Capuano 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3
Philadelphia - LP: J. Diekman 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 4
Boston - WP: A. Ranaudo 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: C. Archer 4
Miami - LP: C. Hatcher 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: D. Carpenter 5
Cleveland - WP: D. Salazar 6 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 7 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: S. Carroll 1
Texas - WP: S. Baker 13 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: N. Ramirez 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: P. Neshek 2
Colorado - LP: R. Brothers 2 FINAL
Arizona - WP: B. Ziegler 5
Oakland - LP: J. Lester 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 4
Los Angeles - LP: K. Correia 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 3
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 8 FINAL
Seattle - LP: F. Hernandez 3
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong 13
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
Arizona 58
Penn State 7:30 AM
Troy 11:00 AM
(7) UCLA 11:00 AM
Western Mich 11:00 AM
(5) Ohio State 11:00 AM
Appalachian St 11:00 AM
Ga Southern 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 2:00 PM
West Virginia 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 2:30 PM
Marshall 2:30 PM
UC Davis 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
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
Houston 3 FINAL
Sporting Kansas City 1
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota 71 FINAL
Phoenix 85
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 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




question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question