Miller: U turns to its backup plan

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 17, 2012 - 7:49 AM

MarQueis Gray could be out for a month, but Max Shortell proved Saturday he is more than ready to fill in at quarterback.

hide

Gophers quarterback Max Shortell threw a touchdown pass to Drew Goodger in the third quarter to help beat Western Michigan 28-23 on Saturday.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

MarQueis Gray suffered a leg injury, stayed out of the Gophers' starting lineup for a couple of weeks, rested up during the bye week, and finished the season stronger and better than before.

That was in 2011. Might history repeat itself in 2012? Or will Max Shortell make that story line much more complicated?

Gray, the Gophers' starting quarterback, has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, coach Jerry Kill said Sunday, an injury that could keep him out of action for as long as a month. Bad as that news is, it's still a relief, Kill said, because doctors feared ligament damage to his left knee or even, initially, a broken bone.

"He got bent back, where his body was going one way" and his left leg another, Kill said. "His whole leg went completely numb."

An MRI seemed to rule out anything more serious, though athletic trainer Ed Lochrie planned further consultations over the weekend, just to double-check that the knee is OK, Kill said. And while it's too early to completely rule out Gray playing against Syracuse next Saturday night, Kill said, "with what we know and where he's at, we'll get Max ready to go and Philip [Nelson] ready to go, and go that direction until we're told differently."

High ankle sprains commonly sideline athletes for a month, and "I don't think anybody knows the degree [yet]," Kill said. Gray told the coach after the game that his injury didn't seem too serious.

"We'll see if he's swelled up," Kill said, "how he moves on Monday." But the coach pointed to Gray's timeline last year, when he suffered a serious case of turf toe during the nonconference season, as reason to believe that he might not be gone long.

"He's a tough, tough kid," Kill said. "Not very many play after a turf toe in two weeks. It's unheard of. So that tells you a little bit about how tough he is."

In that instance, Shortell filled in at Michigan, and looked like a freshman making his first start in front of a hostile audience of 111,000. He didn't drive the Gophers into Michigan territory until late in the third quarter of a 58-0 loss. He played the first three series the following week at Purdue, but Gray relieved him, and after a week off Shortell returned to his bullpen role.

Shortell hardly looked like that overmatched teenager Saturday. When he took over for the starter, he appeared to drive the Gophers down the field faster than the cart carried Gray to the locker room. He finished the day with 188 yards on 10-for-17 passing, with one interception.

"Most people that go to their second-team quarterback in situations like that don't go boom-boom and score," Kill said. "We don't with that game [without him]. It's very gratifying to see what Max did when he came in."

And what he can do during Gray's absence, too. What will Kill and his coaches do if Shortell continues to impress, if he directs the Gophers to a couple of victories in Gray's absence? That decision could be a month off. But Kill noted that Notre Dame, coached by his friend Brian Kelly, has used more than one quarterback this season, too.

"The way I was brought up, you don't look ahead," Kill said. "Where we're at right now, being 3-0, it's a good thing for our kids. I'm tremendously happy for them, but now we've got to go to the next game and move forward to that. And concentrate on that."

Injury update

Kill said cornerback Martez Shabazz, who didn't play Saturday, will miss a few weeks because of a dislocated toe.

"Shabazz is a guy we miss right now, because he was playing pretty well," the coach said. "We're OK, but we can't afford to have anybody else get damaged in the secondary."

Center Zach Mottla also is out because of an ankle injury and likely will miss another week, Kill said. But right guard Zac Epping -- "He's our best offensive lineman right now, period," Kill said -- moved over to fill in for Mottla, with Caleb Bak taking Epping's spot.

Receiver Devin Crawford-Tufts missed the latter part of Saturday's game because of severe cramps, but Kill said he's expected back against Syracuse.

Phil Miller • phil.miller@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Gophers-Western Michigan replay

    Sunday September 16, 2012

    The recap: Max Shortell jump-started a sluggish offense with three touchdown drives in relief of injured quarterback MarQueis Gray.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Carolina 6:00 PM
Columbus
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Detroit
Montreal 7:30 PM
Chicago
Arizona 8:00 PM
Edmonton
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

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 pm30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 am
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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Gophers do against Michigan?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close