Shortell relieves Gray; Gophers to 3-0

Arguably the biggest question for Minnesota entering the season was whether the Gophers had any offensive weapons besides senior quarterback MarQueis Gray.

The Gophers showed Saturday they have plenty.

Despite losing Gray to a leg injury in the second quarter, Minnesota outlasted Western Michigan 28-23 to improve to 3-0 on the season. Max Shortell relieved Gray and fired three touchdown passes, two to emerging standout A.J. Barker, and got help from Donnell Kirkwood on the ground as the Gophers notched an important win.

The situation doesn't look good for Gray, who had to be taken to the locker room on a cart and had crutches on the sideline in the second half. His knee and ankle will be evaluated, and we'll have any updates on his status as they come in.

Shortell showed he can handle the offense, and engineered two touchdown drives at the end of the first half after Western Michigan reclaimed the lead at 10-7. The 6-foot-6, 237-pound Shortell completed 10-of-17 passes for 188 yards with the three scoring strikes and an interception. Barker had five catches, three of them touchdowns, for 101 yards, while Kirkwood added 110 rush yards on 23 carries.

Minnesota's defense wasn't as stifling as it had been in the first two games, but Michael Carter had an interception and Ra'Shede Hageman, who looked dominant again at times, nearly had another.

The Gophers gear up for their toughest non-league test next week against Syracuse before opening Big Ten play. Although Gray's status is a concern going forward, Minnesota is halfway to bowl eligibility and looks like it has enough to get back to the postseason.