Barker continues to shine when he gets hands on ball

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 15, 2012 - 8:22 PM

After little playing time the past two seasons, the redshirt junior receiver had three touchdown catches Saturday.

hide

Minnesota wide receiver A.J. Barker ran in for a 53 yard touchdown

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

There might have been a few people with stunned and impressed expressions at TCF Bank Stadium when A.J. Barker reeled in his third touchdown of the first half in Saturday's 28-23 victory over Western Michigan.

But Barker wasn't one of them.

"I'm probably one of the crazy people out there that did believe I could do that," said Barker, who joined the Gophers program in 2009 as a walk-on. "The quarterback just makes the reads, and they found me today."

Three times, that is, and via two quarterbacks. MarQueis Gray tossed Barker his first score, a 10-yard slant to give the Gophers their first lead of the game. Then, after Gray left the game with an ankle sprain, backup Max Shortell sent two more end zone passes his way, the first a 53-yard haul down the right sideline. Barker finished with five catches for 101 yards and those three TDs.

"A.J. has been nice since I've been here," running back Donnell Kirkwood said. "He's healthy, and we all knew what he could do if he was healthy."

But it was a performance that's been a long time coming for the redshirt junior, who after sitting out a season had minimal playing time and impact in each of the past two years. To add to the struggles, Barker -- a St. Paul native who went to DeLaSalle High School -- was plagued by hamstring injuries throughout last year.

A very raw receiving corps that was tagged as a potential weakness for the Gophers has proven, in the past three games, that it shouldn't be overlooked or underappreciated. Of course, Barker has believed he could help all along.

"I hadn't been given the opportunity to show what I can do in games, and I was just waiting for that," the 6-1, 191-pound Barker said. "Looking back on it, I think it turned out to be a positive. It allowed the chip on my shoulder to continue to grow, and I think it will keep growing."

Barker, also the team's main punt returner, had already made an impression this season -- against UNLV, he led the team with 101 receiving yards and last week had a 19-yard touchdown against New Hampshire. But he still might have caught the Western Michigan defense off guard on Saturday. After Devin Crawford-Tufts left early with an undisclosed injury, Barker emerged as the main target. And with Shortell at the helm, he got plenty of chances.

In Shortell's first series, he led a six-play drive for a touchdown that included three passes, the last of which was a 9-yard pass to a heavily covered Barker, who pulled away from his defender, turned and made the grab.

"Right now, with A.J. and all our receivers, they're running pretty good routes," coach Jerry Kill said. "That's a tremendously young crew that we're playing with right now and when [Crawford-Tufts] got hurt ... the next guy goes in. We're not real deep anyway. It's really, really good for us that A.J.'s doing so well."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Fla Southern 2 FINAL
Detroit 12
FIU 2 FINAL
Miami 7
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Golden State 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Phoenix 6:30 PM
Miami
LA Clippers 7:00 PM
Minnesota
New Orleans 7:30 PM
Dallas
Nashville 0 1st Prd 19:26
NY Rangers 0
Carolina 7:30 PM
Chicago
Montreal 9:00 PM
San Jose
Virginia 0 1st Half 15:59
Syracuse 2
Baylor 9 1st Half 14:26
Texas 6
Hampton 6:30 PM
Delaware State
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
Howard
Bethune-Cookman 6:30 PM
NC A&T
SE Louisiana 6:30 PM
Northwestern St
Central Arkansas 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Lamar 7:00 PM
McNeese State
Nicholls 7:00 PM
New Orleans
NC Central 7:00 PM
Savannah State
Incarnate Word 7:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
Texas Southern 7:30 PM
Alabama A&M
Prairie View 7:30 PM
Alabama State
Jackson State 7:30 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Oklahoma 8:00 PM
Iowa State
Grambling St 8:00 PM
Miss Valley St
Boston College 8:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Bethune-Cookman 54 2nd Half 5:53
NC A&T 50
Hampton 70 2nd Half 3:51
Delaware State 55
Norfolk State 56 2nd Half 6:00
Howard 47
NC Central 26 2nd Half
Savannah State 39
Texas Southern 37 1st Half 2:21
Alabama A&M 26
Prairie View 11 1st Half 4:45
Alabama State 20
Jackson State 5:30 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Grambling 12 1st Half 6:15
Miss Valley St 25
Tulsa 0 1st Half 17:18
Cincinnati 4
(1) Connecticut 12 1st Half 15:00
South Florida 10
UCF 8 1st Half 16:26
East Carolina 11
Central Conn St 6:00 PM
Bryant
Wagner 2 1st Half 17:31
Robert Morris 7
Sacred Heart 9 1st Half 15:50
Fairleigh Dickinson 10
St Francis-NY 0 1st Half 20:00
Long Island 0
Mount St Marys 2 1st Half 17:59
St Francis-PA 10
Temple 7:00 PM
Houston
Texas Tech 7:00 PM
(6) Baylor
Iowa State 7:00 PM
Kansas
SMU 7:00 PM
Memphis
Oklahoma 7:00 PM
Oklahoma St
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 the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close