Gophers and Wildcats: Two teams, four QBs, many headaches

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 9, 2012 - 10:31 PM

The Gophers don't know/aren't saying if MarQueis Gray will play Saturday, throwing a dose of uncertainty right back at Northwestern.

MarQueis Gray is about "60 to 70 percent" healed, has returned to practice with his teammates and might even play Saturday against Northwestern.

But that's just between us, OK? Please don't tell the Wildcats.

"They're going to have to find time to [prepare] for both quarterbacks," said Tracy Claeys, the Gophers defensive coordinator. "Just like we are."

Yes, Northwestern will present a similar keep-them-guessing quandary when the 5-1 Wildcats visit TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, because they frequently shift starting quarterback Kain Colter to receiver, using sophomore Trevor Siemian to throw the ball.

The Gophers offer the same two-QB dilemma for Northwestern's defense this week, but for a different reason: Gray, Minnesota's senior starter, is slowly returning to form after spraining his left knee and left ankle Sept. 15 against Western Michigan. Gray took snaps for the first time since the injury on Sunday, and wasn't as sore a day later as the Gophers had feared. He was back on the field with a new knee brace on Tuesday, and practiced a little harder -- showing that he's roughly "60 to 70 percent" of the player he was before the injury, Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. The Gophers hope he will continue to improve, and especially become more confident in his knee's stability, as the week goes on.

So will he play, or will it be backup Max Shortell, who led the Gophers to victories over Western Michigan and Syracuse, and a loss at Iowa, during Gray's absence?

"If we were playing tomorrow, he wouldn't be ready," said Kill, who noted a slight limp in Gray's movement. "But we'll see how things progress. I would say we're cautiously optimistic that he can be available for some situations."

That might mean starting him and monitoring his condition, ready to switch to Shortell at the first sign of lingering soreness. It might mean giving Gray a series or two here and there, working him in slowly after nearly a month of being idle. It could mean sending him in on short-yardage situations, forcing the Wildcats to account for a huge, but elusive, ball-carrier in the backfield. Or it could mean playing Shortell, making Gray the emergency backup, and giving him another week to get healthy and in shape again.

Game-plan that, Wildcats.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you what we're going to do," Kill said -- partly out of gamesmanship but mostly because he seems genuinely uncertain about whether Gray will be healthy enough. "You have a kid that hasn't played in three weeks, hasn't run for three weeks. I don't know what his stamina is going to be."

Northwestern needs some stamina just to get ready; their coach believes the uncertainty gives the Gophers an edge. "I've been real impressed by how Max has stepped in there. MarQueis is a great player. He's a difference-maker," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "They are different, so the challenge is on us. It's a great advantage for the Gophers, but we'll be prepared for both."

As far as Shortell is concerned, he's the quarterback until he's told otherwise. "It's tough to say [whether] MarQueis is going to be healthy, but being the backup, you have to focus like you're going to play every week," the sophomore said. "You have to game-plan like you're going to be the guy. On that note, it's like any other week."

It's not like any other for Claeys, who said it's rare for a team to put two quarterbacks in the game at once, as Northwestern does, and let the defense try to puzzle out who will take the snap and what he'll do with it. Colter has thrown 68 passes, Siemian 120, but Colter also has run the ball 64 times and caught 14 passes.

Versatility means unpredictability. Defensive coaches hate that. "Right now, I just want them to be honest [prepared] on the snap of the ball," Claeys said. "We'll address, 'Hey, he's there, he's over there,' on game day. We're working on the calls, on what they like to do no matter who's the quarterback."

They know that challenge is coming. The Wildcats don't know what the Gophers will do, because Kill himself doesn't know.

Or does he? Is it possible Gray already has reclaimed his starting spot, or been definitively ruled out for Saturday, and the coach is telling a game-week fib?

"I would never do that," Kill joked with reporters, "because you guys would prosecute me."

  • related content

  • Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray

  • GOPHERS Up next: 11 a.m. Saturday vs. No. 24 Northwestern • TCF Bank Stadium • TV: ESPN2 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
Orlando
New York 6:00 PM
Indiana
Denver 7:00 PM
Memphis
Chicago 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Montreal 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Winnipeg 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Boston 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Arizona 6:30 PM
Toronto
Dallas 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Detroit 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Columbus 6:30 PM
Florida
Nashville 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Minnesota 8:00 PM
Calgary
Buffalo 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Anaheim 9:00 PM
San Jose
DePaul 1:00 PM
Providence
Michigan State 5:00 PM
Rutgers
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Army
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Youngstown St 6:00 PM
Detroit
East Tenn St 6:00 PM
Furman
Saint Louis 6:00 PM
George Mason
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Jacksonville
High Point 6:00 PM
Liberty
Central Conn St 6:00 PM
Long Island
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Dayton 6:00 PM
Massachusetts
Chattanooga 6:00 PM
Mercer
Wofford 6:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
Maryland 6:00 PM
Ohio State
FIU 6:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fair-Dickinson 6:00 PM
Robert Morris
Mount St Marys 6:00 PM
St Francis-NY
Bryant 6:00 PM
St Francis-PA
Northern Ky 6:00 PM
Stetson
Coll of Charleston 6:00 PM
Towson
Western Carolina 6:00 PM
Va Military
Sacred Heart 6:00 PM
Wagner
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
North Florida
Appalachian St 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Holy Cross 6:30 PM
Loyola-Maryland
Eastern Ill 6:30 PM
UT Martin
Jacksonville St 7:00 PM
Belmont
Connecticut 7:00 PM
Cincinnati
Rider 7:00 PM
Saint Peters
SIU Edwardsville 7:00 PM
SE Missouri St
Marshall 7:00 PM
Southern Miss
Tenn Tech 7:00 PM
Tennessee St
Middle Tennessee 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ill-Chicago 7:00 PM
Milwaukee
Weber State 7:00 PM
North Dakota
Denver 7:00 PM
North Dakota St
IUPU-Ft Wayne 7:00 PM
South Dakota
Louisiana 7:05 PM
South Alabama
Georgia State 7:15 PM
Texas-Arlington
Ark-Little Rock 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
ULM 7:30 PM
Troy
Portland 8:00 PM
Gonzaga
Kentucky 8:00 PM
Missouri
Eastern Ky 8:00 PM
Murray State
UAB 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
UMKC 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Chicago State 8:05 PM
Utah Valley U
Colorado 8:30 PM
USC
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
Hawaii 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Pepperdine 9:00 PM
Pacific
Santa Clara 9:00 PM
San Diego
Utah 9:00 PM
UCLA
UC Santa Barbara 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Montana 9:05 PM
Portland State
Montana State 9:05 PM
Sacramento St
Long Beach State 9:30 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Loyola Marymount 9:30 PM
St Marys-CA
San Francisco 10:00 PM
BYU
California 10:00 PM
Washington St
Louisiana 11:00 AM
South Alabama
Saint Josephs 11:30 AM
Saint Louis
Appalachian St 4:00 PM
Georgia Southern
Niagara 4:00 PM
Saint Peters
Old Dominion 5:00 PM
FIU
Southern Miss 5:00 PM
Marshall
Georgia State 5:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Ark-Little Rock 5:05 PM
Arkansas State
ULM 5:15 PM
Troy
Pittsburgh 5:30 PM
(17) Duke
(6) Tennessee 6:00 PM
(10) Kentucky
(24) Oklahoma 6:00 PM
(14) Texas
Nebraska Omaha 6:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
UC-Riverside 6:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Army 6:00 PM
Boston U
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Nicholls
Charlotte 6:00 PM
Florida Atlantic
Towson 6:00 PM
Delaware
Hofstra 6:00 PM
Northeastern
New Hampshire 6:00 PM
Maine
Albany 6:00 PM
Vermont
Hartford 6:00 PM
Stony Brook
UNC-Wilmington 6:00 PM
William & Mary
Clemson 6:00 PM
Wake Forest
Alabama 6:00 PM
(1) South Carolina
(23) Syracuse 6:00 PM
(8) Louisville
Missouri 6:00 PM
Florida
Iona 6:00 PM
Fairfield
Manhattan 6:00 PM
Marist
NC State 6:00 PM
Virginia
(4) Notre Dame 6:00 PM
Virginia Tech
(22) Rutgers 6:00 PM
Purdue
(5) Maryland 6:00 PM
Michigan
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
Cleveland State
Wright State 6:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
USC Upstate
North Florida 6:00 PM
Kennesaw St
Stetson 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Loyola-Maryland 6:05 PM
Holy Cross
Lamar 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Fla Gulf Coast 6:30 PM
Lipscomb
Vanderbilt 7:00 PM
(18) Miss State
IUPUI 7:00 PM
Western Ill
Abilene Christian 7:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Incarnate Word 7:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
McNeese State 7:00 PM
SE Louisiana
Oral Roberts 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
Louisiana Tech 7:00 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 7:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
UAB
Auburn 7:00 PM
Arkansas
Grand Canyon 7:00 PM
UMKC
Illinois 7:00 PM
(15) Nebraska
(20) Iowa 7:00 PM
Northwestern
Utah Valley U 7:05 PM
Chicago State
Green Bay 7:05 PM
Valparaiso
Ole Miss 8:00 PM
LSU
Portland State 8:00 PM
Montana
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Montana State
North Dakota 8:00 PM
Weber State
Ohio State 8:00 PM
Wisconsin
Northern Colorado 8:00 PM
Idaho State
BYU 9:00 PM
San Francisco
St Marys-CA 9:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Pacific 9:00 PM
Pepperdine
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
San Diego 9:00 PM
Santa Clara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
Long Beach St 10:59 PM
Hawaii
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: Which of these teams is the most frustrating to watch right now?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close