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News, Notes, Tid-Bits and Quotes from Gophers Homecoming 21-13 Loss

10/13/2012, 8:15pm CDT
By U of M Athletic Communications

Northwestern [6-1, 2-1] 21, Minnesota [4-2, 0-2] 13
October 13, 2012   |  TCF Bank Stadium  |   Minneapolis, Minn.  |  Att. 49,651

• Minnesota was playing its 88th all-time game in the series with Northwestern. With the loss, the Gophers’ lead in the series slipped to 50-33-5.
• The Wildcats have won three straight against the Gophers, and five of the past six. Minnesota’s last win versus the Wildcats was a 35-24 victory in Evanston on Sept. 26, 2009.
• Today’s game marked the 18th time that Minnesota played host to Northwestern for Homecoming, with the teams being tied 8-8-2 in those contests.

• The Gophers have dropped three straight Homecoming games, including today’s loss and a 29-28 setback versus Northwestern during 2010.
• Minnesota is now 54-36-3 all-time in Homecoming contests.
• The 14 first-quarter points allowed by Minnesota marked the most surrendered in an opening stanza since Northwestern scored 21 during its 28-13 win in Evanston on Nov. 19, 2011.
• The Gophers fell to 11-14 in games played at TCF Bank Stadium, and are 10-8 since the start of the 2010 season.
• Six of head coach Jerry Kill’s seven wins at Minnesota have come at home.
• Kill’s career record in home games fell to 81-30 (.730).
• Minnesota’s defense held Northwestern to just 77 total yards and zero points in the second half. Northwestern, which entered the game averaging 432.5 yards and 32.8 points per game, was held to a season-low 21 points and 275 yards (second-lowest total this season).
• The Gophers failed to come up with an interception for the second-straight game after intercepting seven passes in the first four games this season.
• Minnesota was held without a sack for the second straight week. The Gophers recorded 11 sacks in the first four games.
• Eight Minnesota players had a reception in the game.

• Senior quarterback MarQueis Gray played in his first game since injuring his ankle versus Western Michigan on Sept. 15.
• Gray lined up at wide receiver in the first quarter, catching a 16-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Max Shortell. It was Gray’s first reception since catching three passes for 33 yards versus Iowa on Nov. 27, 2010.
• On his first possession at quarterback, Gray rushed for a 25-yard TD, his third scoring run of the season.
• Gray finished with nine rushes for 86 yards, moving past Shorty Almquist (1925-27) and Terry Jackson II (2001-03) into 25th place on the all-time rushing yardage list. For his career, Gray now has 323 attempts for 1,661 net yards.
• Shortell started his third straight game at QB, completing 9-of-19 passes for 103 yards.
• Freshman running back Rodrick Williams Jr. had his first career rushing attempts, carrying three times for 18 yards.
• Freshman wide receiver Andre McDonald had career-best receiving totals, leading the Gophers with four catches. McDonald finished with 33 yards receiving, after entering the game with one catch for seven yards.
• Junior wide receiver A.J. Barker led Minnesota with 49 receiving yards on three catches. Barker leads the Gophers with 22 catches for 406 yards and four TDs this season.
• Freshman tight end Lincoln Plsek caught his first career pass, covering nine yards.

• Senior linebacker Keanon Cooper led Minnesota with 10 tackles (six solo), including two for losses of 12 yards.
• Junior defensive back Brock Vereen recorded seven tackles (four solo) and a pass breakup.
• Senior linebacker Mike Rallis also had seven tackles (one solo).

• Senior Jordan Wettstein made field goals of 31 yards in the opening quarter and 38 yards in the third quarter, improving to 6-of-11 on field goal attempts this season.
• It was Wettstein’s second game this season with multiple field goals. He was 3-of-4 during the season-opening win at UNLV, but had been just 1-of-5 since that game.
• Freshman punter Peter Mortell took a fake field goal attempt and rushed for seven yards.

Minnesota Head Coach Jerry Kill

On mistakes made during the game…

“I have said all along, we have no margin for error, we’re a young team, all those kind of things. You put it all in perspective but when you play this game and you have teams that are similar, the team that makes the less mistakes at the end of the day wins. We out-gained them, we did a lot of good things, but we had bad snaps at critical times. You can’t blame the weather; they had the same weather. We had bad things happen at critical times and then we just couldn’t make a play. You’ve got to make a play at the end of the day sometimes and we couldn’t make a play. We were never able to overcome those two turnovers because the scored on both of them.”

On the impact of having to switch quarterbacks multiple times…

“It wasn’t purposefully. Max started the game, started to play, and he gets dinged on the head. He comes out and MarQueis goes in and he looked good, moved around good, felt good, and then he gets hurt and Max comes back in. I think that the big thing is the continuity. Olsen went out, Lenkiewicz, we’ve got to get some continuity. I think that hurts us offensively, certainly in situations that are critical. But that’s part of it, you can’t worry about things you can’t control. You play the kids that are in there and work hard. We had our chances, again, we just didn’t make a play.”

On MarQueis Gray’s injury…

“I think it’s a low ankle sprain. That’s what I’m told. You’re in the heat of the battle and you’ve got a trainer that just said he’s out, so we’re trying to hustle around. If something happens to Max, you’ve got to know what the next protocol is and so forth. It was challenging times to say the least, but that’s part of the game.”

Minnesota running back Donnell Kirkwood

Was it tough not being able to get in a rhythm?
“A little bit, but I’ve learned as a player that you just have to go to the next play. You have to flush the play before it if it wasn’t what you expected. Just keep playing.”

Some of your good runs got taken away
“That’s how the game goes sometimes, you can’t dwell on it. Sometimes it’s not what you want. Sometimes it’s a good call sometimes it’s a bad call, but you have to keep playing.”

Did you expect Rodrick Williams to get carries?
“Oh yeah we expected him to get carries, that was in the game plan. He’s a different kind of back, he’s a big kid. He’s fast for his size, he’s athletic, very athletic, he’s physical.”

Did you have to get a new helmet?
“They just gave me a new decal.”

Was that hit as hard as it looked?
“I couldn’t tell the difference. I didn’t want to take hits this week, I wanted to deliver the blow. Coach Kill challenged me on that.”

Does it feel like old times with you and MaQueis Gray, splitting the run game?
“I wasn’t even paying attention to it. I know he made the right decision.”

Were you surprised that he was back so soon after the injury?
“I wasn’t surprised at all. He practiced this week. It’s still probably bothering him but he doesn’t show it. I wasn’t surprised at all.”

Did you see his demeanor at all after the game?
“Same old 'Queis. He isn’t going to change on you at all. That’s why you love him.”

After a good start, now two losses, how do you gather yourselves and make sure it doesn’t snowball?
“Positive attitude, go out and practice harder than you did the week before. We have to delete the mental mistakes and costly mistakes that hurt us in the game.”

Minnesota linebacker Keanon Cooper

On how to turn momentum around after two losses:
“We just need to keep working and eliminate the mistakes we are making. We had a good game plan. It comes down to a couple of plays, and unfortunately they did not go in our favor.“

On lack of turnovers in the last two games:
“They will come, and we also need to go take them. It is more so a couple of plays throughout the games that did not go in our favor. Even without the turnovers we could have won the last two games.” 

Minnesota quarterback Max Shortell

On what happen when he had to come out of the game:
“I kind of got dinged up. MarQueis (Gray) came in, I just need a couple of plays to get back together mentally. MarQueis did a great job of coming in and keeping the ball rolling.”

On the last pass of the game:
“I have to give him a chance. I cannot over throw it like that. (Andre MacDonald) is a special athlete, and the ball went a lot further than I would have liked it to.”

On offense in the second half:
“The last couple weeks we have been moving the ball, just not consistently. We will miss a throw or miss a block. Especially this week, we have to learn to put drives together. We can not miss plays that will give us touchdowns.”

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