Gray could play Saturday as Gophers return from bye

Minnesota may play two quarterbacks Saturday against Northwestern.

Samuel Gordon

Several Gophers players were so distraught after their 31-13 loss at Iowa on Sept. 29 that they studied game film as soon as they got back to Minneapolis.

Minnesota’s bye week, which by many accounts was successful, afforded the team some time to regroup, heal and prepare for the rest of the season.

Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said MarQueis Gray — Minnesota’s starting quarterback who’s been hampered by a high-ankle sprain since Sept. 15 — practiced Sunday for the first time since the injury.

“I pushed him a little bit, and I thought he responded okay,” Kill said. “If we were playing tomorrow, he wouldn’t be ready to play. But we’ll see how things progress.”

Kill said Gray practiced at “about 60 to 70 percent” Tuesday and ran noticeably better than he did Sunday.

He gave no indication whether Gray would be available for the game against Northwestern. He said the coaching staff is “cautiously optimistic that he can be available in some situations, possibly.”

Sophomore Max Shortell started the past two games and is preparing to start again Saturday. He threw three picks and was inaccurate against Iowa, but he said he’s moved on.

“I got a chance to relax and kind of refocus after losing to Iowa,” Shortell said. “This year is completely different in my comfortability level.”

There’s a realistic chance Gray could see some action Saturday even if it’s just for a series or two. The Red Rocket seemed to be ready for that.

“I’m not quite sure on what the game plan is yet. It’ll probably be something with a two-quarterback system,” Shortell said.

Shortell said it would give him a break and behoove the offense as a whole if Gray can play.

“MarQueis can step in if he’s ready and make some plays,” Shortell said. “That would certainly benefit our offense.”

Kill also said starting center Zach Mottla is practicing at full speed, and starting left guard Tommy Olson would practice Tuesday.

Safety Brock Vereen, who was limited against Iowa with a knee injury, said the bye week was crucial in helping him and his teammates heal, and he’ll be ready to go Saturday.

Kill said he’d re-evaluate the injury situation, including Gray’s status, at practice throughout the remainder of the week before making any decisions.

“Until we go through a series of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practices, I can’t tell you how that’s going to work,” Kill said.

“Again, I wish I had a crystal ball — I’d sleep a lot better — but I don’t have a crystal ball.”

 

-Dane Mizutani contributed to this report.