BY PHIL MILLER
The Gophers committed two turnovers in their season opener, two too many, according to coach Jerry Kill. "We just don't have that margin for error," Kill said of MarQueis Gray's interception on the Gophers' first drive of the game, and Troy Stoudermire's fumbled punt in the fourth quarter. "We can't do those things and win. Now, we got away with it (last week), but we don't have that margin for error."
Coincidentally, the interception and fumble were both recovered by UNLV linebacker Tim Hasson, who had a great night for the Rebel defense. The Gophers won't face him this week against New Hampshire, but they will face a Wildcats defense that forced two interceptions against Holy Cross last week.
Can Gray keep the ball out of Wildcats defenders' hands? Matt Limegrover expects him to. The interception against UNLV was a mistake he can learn from, Limegrover said.
Gray looked to his left on the play, and threw a pass that didn't have much zip on it. "He didn't make the best decision," said Limegrover, the Gophers' offensive coordinator. "He had a better decision to make. But you have to give their kid (linebacker Tani Maka, who tipped the pass to Hasson) credit -- he made a great play and broke to the ball."
Gray's mistake was a split-second of hesitation as he decided to pass, Limegrover said. "He would have liked to hit that thing a little bit earlier. He just waited a fraction of a second" too long, the coach analyzed. "His eyes stayed on it just a little too long. He needs to understand, that thing's got to get out a little bit quicker."
But lost in the postgame critique, which largely blamed Gray for the offense's ineffectiveness until the final eight minutes and overtime, were the obstacles the senior quarterback faced, Limegrover said. "If anything, we had some protection issues," said Limegrover, who also coaches the offensive line. "It wasn't like he was sitting there with nobody in his face."
- Have any questions about the Gophers as they prepare for Saturday's home opener? Join us at noon today, for my first online chat of the season. We'll discuss Gray, his receivers, the tailbacks, the defense, Minnesota's non-conference schedule, the new beer gardens at TCF Bank Stadium, Bobby Valentine's future in Boston, Utah's chances against Utah State, anything you want. Anything but how I did at the tables in Las Vegas last week -- I'm told that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Just go to startribune.com to take part. See you there.