Notebook: Minnesota likely to be without Gray against Iowa


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MarQueis Gray gave Iowa nightmares last season.

The Hawkeyes won’t have to relive them this Saturday.

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said in a teleconference on Tuesday that Gray, the senior quarterback who ran for a game-winning touchdown against Iowa last year, would probably miss the game in Kinnick Stadium because of an ankle injury. Sophomore passer Max Shortell will start in his place, Kill said.

But the Hawkeyes know they can’t expect 4-0 Minnesota to miss a beat. Shortell replaced Gray after the starter’s injury against Western Michigan on Sept. 15 and completed 10-of-17 passes for 188 yards and 3 touchdowns. In a start the next week, Shortell completed 16-of-30 attempts for 231 yards in a Gopher win.

“You lose your marquee player and your quarterback, and it doesn’t slow them down at all,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. “They go on to win the Western game and come back last week and win a big game as well … That’s an impressive thing.”

Gray passed for 193 yards and ran for another 62 against Iowa last season. Ferentz called him “a really strong runner” but said Iowa would have to watch for Shortell’s passing skill.

“He’s obviously a great player,” Micah Hyde said about Gray. “But they’re going to give us their best shot, like they have the past couple years. We’ve definitely got to be prepared for [Shortell’s] arm.”

Bullock ‘making progress,’ Garmon expected back

Ferentz said on Tuesday that running back Damon Bullock was “making progress” in his recovery from a head injury he suffered on Sept. 15, but he didn’t know yet if the sophomore will play against Minnesota. Ferentz also said he expected freshman runner Greg Garmon — who is recovering from an elbow injury — to return this weekend.

Both backs missed last week’s loss to Central Michigan. Former fullback Mark Weisman has turned in two star performances in their absence, but Ferentz said the Hawkeyes need more healthy ball carriers to complement him.

“The good news is in August we weren’t sure what we had, and right now, I think we have two guys who are really good prospects at that position,” Ferentz said, referring to Weisman and Bullock. “But history would say we’re probably going to need at least three guys.”

Vandenberg, Martin-Manley lament missed opportunity

Iowa faced a fourth-down-and-4 in the second quarter against Central Michigan. Quarterback James Vandenberg dropped back, and wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley sprinted up the seam unguarded. A reasonably accurate throw from Vandenberg would have been an easy touchdown.

But the senior quarterback, under pressure from a blitz, threw a short incompletion to receiver Keenan Davis.

Vandenberg and Martin-Manley said Tuesday they were frustrated by the failure to connect on the play. Their somewhat puzzling explanation: the Central Michigan coverage had just broken down too badly.

“It’s a tough situation, because it’s a completely busted coverage,” Vandenberg said. “It’s something you’re not taught to ever see … I’d love to say, ‘Just flip it out there,’ and in hindsight it seems so easy. But due to the route scheme, we couldn’t.”

Martin-Manley agreed.

“People on the outside look at it like, ‘My god, why didn’t he [throw it]?’ But the thing is, it was a busted coverage. I wasn’t really supposed to be that wide open. I didn’t run the exact route — I just went straight instead of breaking off to the corner. James didn’t know I was going to do that. That’s why he missed me.”

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