NDSU football: Bison focus on Gophers quarterbackBig, athletic Gray presents challenges as North Dakota State prepares for Minnesota
By: By Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications
FARGO — University of Minnesota quarterback Marqueis Gray is 6-foot-4 and somewhere between 235 and 245 pounds, depending on the roster. In other words, he’s like a defensive lineman under center.
So when North Dakota State lines up with the Gophers on Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium, it’s no secret who the No. 1 target will be for the Bison. Gray runs the show.
“We’ve got defensive ends smaller than him out there and he’s playing a skill position at quarterback,” said NDSU coach Craig Bohl. “He’s a big, strong guy that runs well.”
Gray set a team record last week for most yards rushing by a quarterback against Miami University (Ohio). He had 171 on 25 carries and leads the team averaging 109.3 yards in three games.
Gray did most of his damage running out of the shotgun formation. He either handed it off to a running back or took it himself. But Bohl cautioned that attack comes with a twist: Gray can also throw the ball.
He was 6 of 7 at one point against Miami before cooling off and finishing 11 of 21.
Learning on the job
A highly-touted quarterback recruit out of Indianapolis who was considered the top prospect in the state of Indiana in 2009, he played wide receiver as a sophomore last year. But a change in coaching staffs brought Gray back to his old position.
“You can see him gaining confidence,” Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said after the Miami game. “There is a lot he still needs to learn. It is a building year and people will need to be patient.”
Gray became the first Gopher quarterback to have back-to-back 100-yard games since Billy Cockerham did it in 1999. Kill brought out a familiar name to Gopher fans saying Gray must have looked like former quarterback Rickey Foggie.
“It’s tough to play a guy like that, a guy that can break tackles like that,” Miami safety Anthony Kokal said.
It’s also tough to prepare for him. The Bison scout team job mainly belongs to freshman quarterback Ryan Stanford, who is 6-2 and 195 pounds.
Bohl said Minnesota’s offensive scheme has some unique qualities to it, but the biggest problem would be if Gray just gets on a roll. Miami found that out.
“He was a very capable receiver last year so his athleticism certainly is at the level to compete in the Big Ten,” Bohl said. “Now you put that athleticism at quarterback and you’ve got a double whammy there.”