First-team Offense Impresses in First Gopher Scrimmage

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Aug. 10: Scrimmage Photo Gallery l Audio: Kill, Limegrover, Gray, Rallis

After one week of practice, the University of Minnesota football team played their first organized scrimmage of the 2012 season Friday morning at TCF Bank Stadium. The team was split offense versus defense with a make shift scoring criteria put in place by the Gopher coaching staff. After playing 16 series, the Gopher offense, which was sporting white tops with maroon pants, edged out the defense, who wore maroon-on-maroon, 43-40. The first-team offense proved to be efficient as they scored two touchdowns and a field goal in their three series.

The offense was granted points each time they scored a touchdown, made a point after attempt, field goal or acquired a first down. The defense was allotted points for scoring a touchdown, forcing turnovers and for stopping the offense on third and fourth down. On the contrary, each team would get points taken away for penalties and personal fouls.

On the offensive side of the ball, senior quarterback MarQueis Gray had an efficient day passing the ball as he went 8-for-11 with roughly 135 yards. Gray also contributed on the ground with a trio of runs, but a true yardage count is undetermined since each run was blown dead once a defender came within a few yards of Gray.

Go Gophers! MarQueis Gray
Go Gophers!
MarQueis Gray warming up before the scrimmage to TCF Bank Stadium.
Go Gophers!
A quartet of running backs saw action with the first team offense as each will likely be used throughout the 2012 season. Redshirt sophomore Donnell Kirkwood carried the ball a total of four times for 24 yards and scored a touchdown. Junior James Gillum recorded the most carries at the position with nine as he accumulated 30 yards and scored the offenses first touchdown on a one-yard carry. Sophomore David Cobb posted the longest run of the day as he burst for 68 yards in the 10th series of the day. Cobb had a total of five carries for 87 yards. Devon Wright also took a few carries with the first team as he accumulated 12 yards on the day.

Doubts heading into this season have been the receiving core, but Gray and company showcased an array of weapons during the scrimmage as each of the three first-team drives included big critical plays from the receiving core.

In the first series, freshman Andre McDonald made a 30-yard catch on third and long to prolong the Gophers' drive, which ended in a Gillum touchdown. AJ Barker, a redshirt junior, pulled in a 37-yard pass from Gray on the fifth drive of the scrimmage. Barker's catch catapulted the offense to another touchdown, this time from Kirkwood. In the first teamer's final series, tight end Drew Goodger grabbed a quick 10-yard out pass and rumbled for 15 more yards, which included Goodger hurdling over an oncoming defensive back. The drive would go on and end with a Jordan Wettstein 34-yard field goal.

Other scoring plays for the white jerseys include two passing touchdowns for freshman Philip Nelson and a 45-yard field goal by kicker Chris Hawthorne. Nelson's first touchdown was a 45-yard pass to junior transfer Isaac Fruechte with his second being a nine-yard fade to McDonald.

Defensively, the Gophers forced three turnovers. Harold Legania forced a fumble in the second series of the day as he stripped Max Shortell. In the very next series, sophomore defensive back Cedric Thompson recovered a Devon Wright fumble with the player who forced the fumble being unknown. The final takeaway was an interception by junior Kenny Watkins, who picked off Nelson during the 12th series.

The defense was also successful at putting pressure on the four Gopher quarterbacks as they recorded four sacks. Since defensive players are not allowed to tackle the quarterback only two sacks were definitive, and they were given to sophomore defensive end Michael Amaefula and redshirt sophomore Ben Perry.

Head coach Jerry Kill rotated a number of players at the kicker, punter and returner roles during the scrimmage as well.

Wettstein and Hawthorne were the lone players to attempt field goals and kickoffs. They each made their lone field goal attempts and also recorded one touchback each on kickoffs.

Four different punters were in the mix on Friday, including Dan Orseske, Peter Mortell, David Schwerman and Christian Eldred. Mortell, a redshirt freshman, posted the longest punt of the day as he bombed an 81-yarder for a touchback. Eldred, a sophomore from Melbourne, Australia, was the lone punter to pin a ball inside the 20 as he booted a 40-yard punt, which stopped at the 10-yard line.

Fifth-year senior Troy Stoudemire headed up the returning core while he was joined by Wright, Gillum and McDonald. No actual returns were marked, but each showcased a strong ability to catch the kicks and a burst of speed to help the Gophers with field position this fall.

Friday was the first of three schedule scrimmages at TCF Bank Stadium for Minnesota this fall. The next controlled scrimmage is slated for August 16 during the day while the last one is scheduled for August 18 under the lights.

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