Jerry Kill was impressed he played hurt, so give him credit for toughness, if not accuracy.
I hope MarQueis Gray learned something this weekend:
Never have more than one kid the night before a big game.
Friday night, Gray, the Gophers quarterback, became the father of twins. Saturday afternoon, Gray failed to produce an offensive touchdown for either of his children. Wisconsin edged Minnesota 42-13 at TCF Bank Stadium in a game that should make Gray appreciate changing diapers.
Sports history is filled with moments of inspiration, in which athletes win one for the Gipper or hit a homer for a sick kid. Next time around, Gray might want to dedicate a game to his children when someone other than Wisconsin is coming to town.
"I recorded it a little bit," Gray said of the births. "It wasn't that bad, as what I thought it would be."
Gray didn't answer that question correctly. A football player should say he has to study the film before he can comment.
Childbirth can be gruesome, but, then, compared to watching game film of the Badgers' eighth consecutive victory in the battle for the axe, childbirth might look like a Disney movie.
"To see two kids when the doctor pulled them out -- she had a C-section -- was a great feeling," Gray said.
Gray could have used a few more double reverses Saturday. Playing with an injured back and after a restless night, Gray completed six of 14 passes for 51 yards and no touchdowns. His longest completion went for 12 yards. He also rushed 19 times for 68 yards.
After seven games of mediocrity, Gray had improved the past two weeks, leading the Gophers to an upset of Iowa and a close loss at Michigan State. Saturday, he regressed.
Maybe he's a running quarterback who is never going to look smooth when his team needs him to complete passes. Maybe he faced a stout defense. Maybe he didn't get any sleep.
"I think in his situation, he's got a lot on his plate right now," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. "We were concerned whether he was going to play or not. He played hurt today, and to be honest with you, I'm encouraged by that."
Gray left team meetings Friday to be with his girlfriend. He was in the delivery room for the births of MarShawn and MarZell.
Even given the circumstances, Gray seemed to be playing a different position than his counterpart, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson. Gray is bigger, stronger and faster; Wilson is more accurate and poised.
In the first half, Wilson completed all 13 of his passes for 162 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions; Gray completed four of nine passes for 36 yards and one interception.
If a 29-point game can have a turning point, that interception was it.
The Gophers had cut the Wisconsin lead to 21-6 on a fake field goal in which holder Adam Lueck flipped the ball between his legs to kicker Jordan Wettstein, who broke two tackles on his way to a touchdown. In keeping with the Gophers tradition of maintaining low expectations, Wettstein then missed the extra point.
The Gophers defense held, and Gray faced second-and-7 at the Minnesota 49. Gray rolled left, and the play design allowed tight end John Rabe to break open deep down the middle.
A good pass could have produced a touchdown, or a first down deep in Wisconsin territory. Gray threw soft and short, the Badgers intercepted, and the competitive portion of the daily entertainment came to an abrupt end. "I should have put more zip on the ball," Gray said.
The Gophers produced two touchdowns: one on a fake kick, another on a kickoff return. The offense was weaker than skim milk.
Give Gray credit for toughness if not accuracy. "It's just an injury," he said of his back. "I'm not going to let it hold me down on the sidelines. I want to be here for my team."
Or maybe he's already learned an important lesson of fatherhood: Sometimes you just have to pretend you're doing something important so you can get out of the house.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org
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