Shortell, U offense stuck at the start against Hawkeyes

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 30, 2012 - 1:11 AM

An anemic first half put the Gophers in a huge hole, with quarterback Max Shortell taking the blame for inaccurate throws.

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Minnesota quarterback Max Shortell was sacked by the Iowa defense in the 2nd half.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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IOWA CITY - He hunched over on his hands and knees, panting heavily and cursing himself. If there was a moment that summed up Max Shortell's day, that was it -- throwing an interception, his third of the day, then racing 40 yards to catch Christian Kirksey and keep him from scoring.

And missing the tackle.

Shortell stayed down for a few moments, his anger growing. Even pounded the turf a couple of times.

"I was just kind of frustrated in myself," the Gophers quarterback said, mostly for the costly turnover. "And for forcing myself to run that far," he added with a smirk.

So he hasn't lost his sense of humor.

But the sophomore, making his second start in a row in place of the injured MarQueis Gray, couldn't provide a game-changing play or two, at least in the positive direction. On a day when the Gophers running game was getting nowhere -- Shortell's 46 rushing yards were the team high -- they needed their quarterback to keep drives alive, and the big plays never came.

The loss was hardly all his fault, not when he connected with 10 receivers and had four completions of 17 yards or longer. Yet the Gophers punted away six of their first 11 possessions, and they turned the ball over four other times.

"I missed some throws, definitely," said Shortell, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 197 yards, but with only 32 yards coming before halftime. Iowa had 328 yards of offense at the half, while the Gophers had 75.

"Sometimes when you stall as an offense, it's hard to get back in a rhythm. That was one of the main problems in our offense, we couldn't get back in rhythm," Shortell said. "It took us until the second half to start getting first downs on a regular basis."

And by then, it was too late.

Now the Gophers take a week off, and Shortell's role becomes less obvious. Gray's sore left ankle and knee will have had almost a month to heal by the time the team faces Northwestern at home on Oct. 13.

Shortell hasn't exactly seized the job in Gray's absence, but he has had several good moments, such as the smoothly executed play-action to the left, rollout to the right and bullet pass to Isaac Fruechte in the right corner of the end zone, a 9-yard touchdown that was the Gophers' highlight on Saturday.

Kill didn't want to discuss who will quarterback the Gophers against Northwestern, but Shortell said he could envision a scenario in which both players take snaps.

"This coaching staff, they did a two-quarterback thing at Northern [Illinois]," he said. "I can tell you from today, you get tired out there. I could go in there for whatever they plan -- giving MarQueis a break, or whatever they [want]."

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