Gray, Maresh stand out for Minnesota in Spring Game

A day after the âÄúTCF Bank StadiumâÄù letters were affixed to the broad brick side of the stadium, and a few hours after student tickets went on sale, the Gophers played an outdoor home game. Not at the new stadium, which isnâÄôt quite polished, but at a smaller St. Thomas venue for their annual spring game Saturday. Normally held at the Metrodome, the Gophers moved the game to St. Thomas in St. Paul in anticipation of their outdoor season, and on a 50-degree afternoon packed more than 7,000 people into the Division III stadium. Former head coach Glen Mason once held a spring game at the teamâÄôs practice facility, but didnâÄôt allow for much viewing. St. Thomas offered a larger outdoor venue, but even there fans filled the bleachers and had to line the track outside the field to watch the intrasquad scrimmage. âÄúItâÄôs a real big difference,âÄù sophomore Troy Stoudermire, who had a big day as a receiver and kick returner, said. âÄúPlaying inside just felt a little dull. Out here itâÄôs just open nature and you get to do whatever you want.âÄù The spring game is a game in some respects âÄî with referees, 12-minute quarters and a pep band âÄî but itâÄôs a mostly relaxed affair. The clock is running and the scoring system is questionable, with players floating between teams, and the nine-man referee team not throwing a single flag Saturday. To hammer the point home, a score was kept on the scoreboard and ended in a 17-17 tie, but the game was later considered just offense versus defense, making the final score simply 34 for the offense. But fans got a first look at much-hyped players like quarterback MarQueis Gray and linebacker Sam Maresh, who both played significant minutes. Gray, who played with the team last spring but couldnâÄôt play in the season because of academic issues, took the first snaps of the game and completed 8-of-10 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, that came against one of the nationâÄôs worst pass defenses from last season, and many were against the second-team defense, but Gray still outshined incumbent quarterback Adam Weber, who finished just 9-for-12 for 77 yards. Weber was the only player on the field wearing a red jersey, advertising that he shouldnâÄôt be hit after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. Brewster said after the game that, while Weber would be the clear No. 1 quarterback, the Gophers would have a package of plays drawn up for Gray each game next season. The 6-foot-4, 224-pound Gray is also a skilled receiver and the Gophers ran a play late in the scrimmage where Weber threw to Gray in the endzone. âÄúWith the amount of talent MarQueis has, his ceiling is so high,âÄù Weber said. âÄúHeâÄôs going to do a lot of special things for us, and IâÄôm excited to be on the field with him and watch him do what he can do, because he can stress the defense because he has a lot of weapons.âÄù Maresh, a linebacker from Champlin, Minn. who underwent surprise open-heart surgery in June and had to sit out the season, played in front of fans for the first time Saturday. He made six tackles and played with full consent. Brewster said Maresh, who also had a brief scare with a tumor in his leg that turned out to be nothing more than scar tissue, will carry the team flag out of the tunnel at the teamâÄôs home opener in the new stadium.