When the Syracuse Orange visit the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday, they likely won't be lining up against the quarterback they were looking for.
Starting quarterback MarQueis Gray injured his ankle in the second quarter of Minny's 28-23 win over Western Michigan and is likely to be out for at least a couple weeks.
Gray was replaced by sophomore backup Max Shortell, who completed 10 of 17 passes for 188 yards, three TDs and one INT.
The move may or may not be good for the Orange as the 6'6" Shortell is much more of a drop-back QB who does well in a pass-oriented offense compared to Gray who's a mobile dual-threat.
"They’re both very good quarterbacks, and they’re both different in some aspects," SU’s Doug Marrone said today on the weekly Big East coaches conference call. "It’ll put a little pressure on us. We have to prepare for both until we hear differently."
"The throws [Shortell] makes, for a guy who hasn’t played in a lot of football games, is someone that you see is very confident. He’s very comfortable," Marrone said. There’s a couple of throws I saw where he’s throwing over a linebacker. You don’t see that often out of young quarterbacks."
If nothing else, it means that the Orange may not be able to rely on any gametape prior to Shortell's appearance to plan for what Minnesota's offense will be like.
The good news is that the Gophers' ground game won't be at full-strength. Gray threw for 398 yards and five touchdowns but he's also the team’s second-leading rusher with 234 yards on 45 carries and 2 TDs.
Minnesota will also probably play without their starting center Zach Mottla.
Over at The Daily Gopher, they were not only happy with Shortell in the WMU win but also wide receiver A.J. Barker, who caught 5 balls for 101 yards and three touchdowns. Barker might be the biggest beneficiary of the QB change and expect him to be a huge target on Saturday.
Funnily enough, TDG notes that Minnesota bemoaned the team's mental mistakes and poor special teams play. Where have I heard that before...
The U has launched what is clearly a pre-prepared marketing blitz for the Syracuse game. $10 single game tickets on sale right up until kickoff. This was on the scoreboard immediately following the game, I received an e-mail about it 5 minutes later, and it was on Twitter and Facebook right after the game too. They want this thing sold out.
TCF Stadium holds 50K and they got 45K for Western Michigan. Seems doable, especially when you include the 297 Syracuse fans who will be there.