Gray returns, gets knocked out again with ankle injury

MarQueis Gray started Saturday’s game as a receiver and finished it on the sidelines.

Dane Mizutani

MarQueis Gray trotted on the field in the first quarter Saturday, broke out of the Gophers huddle and waited for the snap — all as a wide receiver.

Gray, who started the season at quarterback before he injured his ankle Sept. 15 against Western Michigan, snagged a 16-yard pass on his first play in nearly a month.

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said he never thought about starting Gray at quarterback on Saturday but said he planned to use him in different packages throughout the game.

Kill said the team’s game plan was to play Gray at quarterback and wide receiver. But after starting quarterback Max Shortell left the game late in the first quarter, Gray played exclusively at quarterback until suffering his own injury.

On his first drive of the game, Gray efficiently led the offense down the field and converted three critical third downs before capping the drive with a 25-yard touchdown scamper.

Shortell said he got “dinged up” and needed a couple of plays to “get back mentally.”

“MarQueis did a great job coming in to keep the offense rolling,” he said.

Not surprisingly, the Gophers’ offense reverted back to more of a read option attack with Gray in the game.

The Wildcats had no answer for the senior scrambler, who ran nine times for 86 yards.

But Gray’s struggles through the air hurt Minnesota. He threw an interception in the second quarter that killed Minnesota’s momentum and led to a Northwestern
touchdown.

Still, Gray kept the Gophers offense moving with his legs until late in the third quarter.

Then, on a designed quarterback run down the right sideline, Gray got hit out of bounds and limped off the field for the second time this year.

After the game, Kill said Gray had a low-ankle injury, but he didn’t give further details.

“MarQueis goes in and he looked good, moved around good, felt good, and then he gets hurt,” Kill said. “It was challenging times to say the least, but that’s part of the game.”

Running back Donnell Kirkwood said he wasn’t surprised with how well Gray played in his first game back.

He said after the game Gray was upset about the loss and the injury but didn’t show it.

“Same old ’Queis,” Kirkwood said. “He isn’t going to change on you at all. That’s why you love him.”

Notes

—Minnesota and Northwestern committed a combined 20 penalties Saturday.

—The Gophers were held without a sack for the second-straight week. They had 11 sacks in their first four games.

—Gray’s catch was his first reception in a game since Nov. 27, 2010.

—Minnesota burned two redshirts Saturday against the Wildcats as freshmen Rodrick Williams and Lincoln Plsek saw action.