Quarterback Controversy for the Minnesota Gophers?

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Fans of the Minnesota Golden Gopher football team knew two things entering the season.

1) The Jerry Kill era would get off to a rocky start as he cleaned up the mess that Tim Brewster left in Dinkytown.

2) The team would be centered around dual-threat quarterback Marqueis Grey.

But after the Gophers shockingly solid season opening performance in their 19-17 loss at USC on Saturday, those certainties of August may now be the fallacies of September.

Their two point loss on the road against heavily favored number 25 ranked USC will give Gopher fans a glimmer of hope that the underperforming Brewster era may now be further away from the program than previously perceived.

While the pass defense struggled against the Trojan ariel attack of Matt Barkely to Robert Woods– connecting 17 times for 177 yards and 3 scores– an overmatched run defense stood strong and gave an uplifting performance.

While the Gopher defense left southern California with a satisfying performance, the offensive side of the ball seems to now have more question marks than answers.

One of those questions is what to do with an evident quarterback controversy.

Grey left the game after the third quarter due to cramps. He left with the Gophers trailing 19-10, and gave way to freshman quarterback Max Shortell.

On the day Grey– who spent much of the last two seasons battling for time at the wide receiver possition— only attempted 12 passes in three  quarters on Saturday. His seven completions covered only 94 yards.

Grey had a mediocre performance in the running game. He gained 49 yards on 16 carries against the Trojan defense. Not quite the stunning dual-threat performance that Gopher fans had hoped for in game one of Grey under center. Albeit against a much more athletic Trojan defense.

Shortell came in and took advantage of his opportunity, and made the most of his moment in the sun.

Taking over at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Shawnee Mission, Kansas native connected on 7 of 13 throws for 98 yards. But it was his orchestration of an 83 yard drive, which was capped off with a 12- yard touchdown pass to Brandon Green, that is making many people in Minnesota at least wonder if Shortell should get the start next week against New Mexico State.

Shortell definitely lacks the explosive athletic ability of Grey. But there was no question that the Gopher offense ran significantly more efficient with Shortell leading the huddle on Saturday.

Although Shortell was picked off in the Gophers attempt at a go-ahead scoring drive late in the fourth quarter. The controversy talk will continue as the week goes on.

Here are some interesting quotes that will either fuel the controversy talk, or put it to bed for now.

Shortell:

“My job is to back up MarQueis and give him a break when necessary. It just so happened this was an extended break.”

Grey:

“Max did an outstanding job. The team has confidence in him and he put the team in a position to win.

Head coach Jerry Kill on KFAN 100.3 this morning (via the KFAN twitter page):

“Both QB’s did some good things, maybe we’ll have to play both of them down the line, I don’t know yet.”

It will be a tough decision for coach Kill over the next few days, and over the duration of the season.

An up hill battle is what Kill knew he was in for when he took the Minnesota head coaching position. But a quarterback controversy was one thing he couldn’t have imagined he would have to deal with after game one.

-Brett Cloutier

Brett is a contributor to The Sports Bank as a beat writer for most Minnesota based teams. You can follow him on Twitter @brettcloutier.

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