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Jon Krawczynski / Associated Press, Published September 04 2012

Gophers' Gray hopes to rebound from subpar opener

MINNEAPOLIS – The passes that didn’t sail 10 feet over a wide open receiver’s head fluttered and wobbled out of MarQueis Gray’s hand like he was a nervous freshman making his first collegiate start.

On a Minnesota offense full of fresh-faced youngsters, the senior quarterback looked shakier than any of them in the season opener against UNLV. If the Golden Gophers are going to improve in coach Jerry Kill’s second year on the job, Gray knows it has to start with him.

“I didn’t feel like I played my best game and I felt like if we would’ve lost that game it would’ve been because of me,” Gray said on Tuesday. “It was good to see those guys stepped up and we all turned it on in overtime and it was just a sigh of relief to know that we came out with a win.”

The Gophers survived, 30-27 in triple overtime, thanks in large part to Gray settling down and throwing two big touchdowns to John Rabe. He finished 17 of 30 for 269 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, solid numbers that belie the difficulty he had in regulation.

Gray’s young receivers had little trouble getting open against UNLV’s lackluster secondary, but Gray continually overshot targets like Isaac Fruechte, Andre McDonald and Rabe on plays that had touchdowns written all over them.

“I had a couple overthrown balls, mainly just because I was anxious to be back out there,” Gray said. “Not being hesitant or not scared at all, just more of that anxiousness kicking in.”

Kill downplayed the rough start, chalking it up to a lack of timing and shaking the rust off in his first game of the season.

“When you have people wide open, you certainly want to execute those throws,” Kill said. “Film doesn’t lie. You go in and you teach from those films and say, ‘These are the things we have to do.’”

Coaches are working with Gray this week in advance of the home opener against New Hampshire on giving his receivers a better chance to make a play on the ball down the field. Kill said they’re emphasizing not overthrowing passes down the field because an underthrown ball could still give the receiver a chance to jump over a smaller defensive back to make the catch or draw a pass interference penalty.