Quarterback Gray's romp started with gray matter

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2012 - 5:34 AM

Sure, the QB needed speed and endurance, but the Gophers' 75-yard TD play began in the mind.

What was the most impressive part of MarQueis Gray's 75-yard touchdown romp Saturday?

The foot speed he displayed in outrunning three members of the New Hampshire secondary? The physical condition that enabled him to keep from tiring as the yards piled up? The acting ability needed to sell the fake to the tailback? How about the ability to multi-task -- he peeked at the scoreboard as he ran, to keep track of his pursuers?

All were remarkable displays of the talent that earned Gray the job as the Gophers' quarterback. But Gray's coaches were delighted by a different physical attribute: his mind.

"That was a great read," coach Jerry Kill said. "He's taking what the defense gives him."

And that's where the Gophers' quarterback is making his biggest strides. The 75-yard score was not only the longest play Gray has ever been a part of at Minnesota, it was largely due to a split-second decision on his part -- not to mention some precise execution by his teammates, right guard Zac Epping and right tackle Josh Campion in particular. It's a play that a far less experienced Gray arguably couldn't have made at this time a year ago.

The touchdown came on the first play of the Gophers' fifth drive. New Hampshire had just scored on a 76-yard touchdown march of its own to pull to within 9-7, and "I was very concerned at that point," Kill said.

In the coaches' booth, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover had noticed on previous possessions that Wildcat defensive end Randi Vines had been trying to "crash" the backfield, heading toward the quarterback rather than engaging his man, Campion. Meanwhile, the Gophers had stuck almost exclusively to standard handoffs on their running plays; four different tailbacks already had run the ball. So on first down at the Gophers' 25, Limegrover called an option handoff, giving Gray a choice between two plays.

"We had been giving the ball to the running back to see what [Vines] did. But I guess they felt the time was right to call that play," Gray explained. As he came to the line of scrimmage, with K.J. Maye lined up 4 yards behind him, Gray kept his eye on Vines. Campion, though, wasn't watching the man in front of him; he and Epping were making their own read, watching where defensive tackle Jimmy Vailas lined up. That read turned out to be critical, too.

"If he lined up as a 3-technique [closer to Epping], then me and Josh would have double-teamed him up to the backer," Epping explained. "But since he was on the nose [in front of center Zach Mottla], I just came over and blocked him on my own."

When the ball was snapped, the Gophers' receivers stayed outside, faking a screen pass that drew the safeties a step or two away from the middle of the field. Meanwhile, the entire offensive line move to the left. Epping stepped forward, hit Vailas and moved him further left, while Campion froze briefly, allowing Vines to run behind him toward Gray and Maye -- just as the Gophers had hoped.

"It's a handoff to K.J., but if the defensive end crashes [toward him], I pull the ball and run. And that's exactly what he did," Gray said. "If he waits, or goes to me, then K.J. keeps it. But he was headed to K.J., so I took the ball back, and sprinted for my life."

First, he allowed Vines to fly past, biting on the fake to Maye.

"Good play-action -- he tried to tackle the running back," Gray said. "If he doesn't, I get cussed out."

With the ball tucked away, Gray stepped forward into the hole created by Epping's block. Linebacker Alan Buzbee stepped to his right to make a tackle -- and that's when Campion, unengaged after allowing Vines to run by, suddenly reversed direction, moved to his right and knocked Buzbee out of the play. Suddenly, Gray was all alone.

"That was the most space I've ever seen. I was like, 'Wow, just don't get caught.' That's all I was thinking," Gray said of his sprint upfield. He checked the scoreboard to see if anyone was gaining, and when he saw three Wildcats coming, "I tried to lengthen my stride."

He made it easily, setting off a celebration on the Gophers' sideline. And among the coaches, too. Gray, it's obvious, has learned a lot.

"If he doesn't make the right decision, then it's not a very good play," Kill said. "That's why we talk about the quarterback being critical. There's a lot of decision-making."

  • GOPHERS FOOTBALL

    Up next: 11 a.m. Saturday vs.

    Western Michigan • TV: BTN

    (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close