Jerry Kill got an idea of MarQueis Gray's availability for next Saturday before yesterday's game even started.
"We walked out the tunnel together. I started jogging," the Gophers' coach said. "I'm 51, and he couldn't keep up with me."
That's an indication, the Gophers' coach said, of how sore the senior quarterback's left ankle and knee remain, a week after being injured against Western Michigan. And it makes his call for next Saturday's Big Ten opener at Iowa an easy one.
"I don't anticipate him playing next week. It would be a minor miracle if he was ready to play," Kill said. "I can't control the healing process, but right now, I'm not real optimistic (about) how quick that's going to come along."
That means a second start for Max Shortell, the sophomore quarterback who guided the 4-0 Gophers to a 17-10 victory over Syracuse in Minnesota's non-conference finale. Shortell passed for 231 yards with no interceptions against the Orange, and Kill said he was impressed with the sophomore's ability to read defenses and change plays at the line of scrimmage.
He'll begin preparations today for the 2-2 Hawkeyes, taking snaps with backup Philip Nelson. The Gophers have a bye week after their trip to Iowa, giving Gray an extra week to heal.
"I've seen things happen where guys bounce back pretty quick," Kill said, "but right now, we'll move along as we did the past week."
Kill also said:
-- He considered changing place-kickers after Jordan Wettstein missed two first-half field goals, but decided that the misfires weren't entirely Wettstein's fault. Rather than hurt his confidence, Kill chose to give Wettstein another chance, and the senior nailed a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
-- Left guard Tommy Olson suffered a sprained ankle, and receiver Marcus Jones developed a hip pointer during Saturday's game, but neither injury is believed to be particularly serious. Jones even returned to action after being examined by the team's athletic trainers.
-- Linebacker Lamonte Edwards, who suffered a concussion a week ago, didn't pass the trainers' baseline concussion test Saturday, and was held out of the game.
-- Wide receiver Andre McDonald had to avoid contact as a result of tests conducted while he was briefly hospitalized last week, but Kill sounded optimistic that the freshman would be cleared to resume practicing within a day or two.
-- Saturday's atmosphere in the stadium was the best he's experienced at Minnesota. "If you didn't have fun last night," he said, "you must not like fun."