Gray says toe feeling much better

The bye week apparently has been good for quarterback MarQueis

Gray’s beaten up toe and the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ battered

psyche.

Gray said on Wednesday that his injured left big toe feels 100

percent and that he will be ready to go when the Gophers (1-5, 0-2

Big Ten) face Nebraska next week.

”My toe’s not bothering me anymore,” Gray said. ”I feel

confident about it. Now that we’ve got this bye week, I’m looking

forward to getting it fully healed for the Nebraska game.”

Gray was injured in a victory over Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 17. As

a quarterback who relies on making plays with his legs almost as

much as he does with his arm, the injury set him back quite a bit.

Gray split time with freshman Max Shortell in a loss to North

Dakota State, missed a 58-0 loss to Michigan two weeks ago and did

not start against Purdue last week.

Gray did play in the 45-17 loss to the Boilermakers, but was

just 8 for 20 for 104 yards and an interception. Now that he’s

finally healthy, and has a week to work on his timing with his

receivers, Gray hopes it will make a difference going forward for

the reeling program that has been embarrassed three weeks in a

row.

”I thought this bye week couldn’t come at a better time,” Gray

said. ”It gives us a chance to start focusing on the second half

of the season … and start focusing on Nebraska.”

He is the leading rusher on the team, but has completed just

48.5 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and two

interceptions. His struggles in the passing game have led some to

call for new coach Jerry Kill to make Shortell the starter and

start building for the future.

But Kill said Wednesday that Shortell is starting to hit the

wall in his first season of college ball and that Gray remains his

starting quarterback.

”Max is wore out,” Kill said. ”He was tired last week. It’s

wear and tear on those kids, certainly a freshman who has to do all

this stuff, go to class, learn how to play quarterback and we’re

making him take every rep to get him better.”

The quarterbacks aren’t the only players who needed a break. The

Gophers have been dominated in three straight games, including

getting outscored 103-17 in their first two Big Ten games.

”We enjoy playing this game, whether it’s practice or a game,”

linebacker Mike Rallis said. ”We come out here and work hard every

time we get a chance.”

For the most part, Kill said he has liked how his players have

responded to adversity of dealing with a coach who has missed

practice time with seizures and the embarrassingly lopsided defeats

on game day.

”The kids have been good and it ain’t easy. Believe me, it’s

not easy at all,” Kill said of the rebuilding process. ”It’s

tough on (the media), double tough on the coach and triple that for

the kid. They put a lot into it and it’s hard to see the light at

the end of the tunnel.”

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