Friday, August 31, 2012
Sloppy Gophers survive in third overtime
By Adam Rittenberg
It took three overtimes to bring out the best in MarQueis Gray and the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
After a sloppy performance, particularly from their senior quarterback, Minnesota made enough plays in all three phases in the extra sessions to beat UNLV 30-27 and survive a major scare on the road. The Gophers avoided losing to a Rebels squad coming off of a 2-10 season and gave coach Jerry Kill his first road win at the helm.
Before getting to Gray's odd night, some props for Minnesota's defense. The unit rescued the Gophers multiple times and showed tangible improvement. First, a line that has been largely ineffective for the past three seasons turned up the heat, as Ra'Shede Hageman, D.L. Wilhite, Ben Perry and others got involved. The secondary stepped up late, no one more so than sophomore safety Derrick Wells, who recorded two interceptions, including one in the end zone in the third overtime. Senior Jordan Wettstein, who had missed a short field-goal attempt early, connected from 32 yards out for the win.
Gray finished with a nice stat line (17-for-30 passing 268 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), but he had a nightmarish performance in regulation. The senior struggled with his accuracy and missed at least three wide-open receivers for touchdowns. Despite a boost from Donnell Kirkwood (81 yards) and James Gillum (51 yards, TD) in the run game, Minnesota's offense stalled after getting next to nothing from its leader.
But to Gray's credit, he didn't quit and came alive in overtime with two touchdown strikes to tight end John Rabe. Wide receiver A.J. Barker also had a breakout performance (three receptions, 101 yards).
Minnesota made numerous mistakes, including 11 penalties and a muffed punt by Troy Stoudermire that led to a UNLV score.
This wasn't a masterpiece, and for the most part, the Gophers should hope what happened in Vegas stays there. They won't win many more games playing like this.
But it's always easier to build off of a victory, and Minnesota's flight home will be a happy one.