In a game that came down to the final drive Western Michigan University was defeated 28-23 by the Minnesota Golden Gophers thanks in large part to their backup quarterback.
When Minnesota starting quarterback MarQueis Gray left the game with an injury in the second quarter of a tightly contested game, it looked like it might not be the Gopher’s day. No one told that to their backup Max Shortell however and he sparked the Golden Gopher offense throwing two touchdown passes before halftime.
Shortell, more of a traditional drop-back passer than Gray, forced the WMU defense to adjust to a more pass oriented style, which took some time to do.
“He’s [Shortell] a big, strong guy and all of a sudden you just got to change the game plan a little and I’m not saying it didn’t take us a little bit to catch up it’s just they did some things really well,” said Head Coach Bill Cubit.
A key moment came about half-way through the fourth quarter when Minnesota lined up for a field goal only to shift the formation at the last minute looking like they would run an offensive play on fourth down. The move seemed to force Western Michigan into wasting a timeout that might have come in handy later in the game. What actually happened was some confusion on the field due to coaches on the sidelines yelling “Get out,” according to Cubit.
The Broncos had the ball with just over 1:30 left in the game and no timeouts. They were down by five and had a chance for a game-winning drive. WMU quarterback Alex Carder completed a pass to receiver Jaime Wilson on fourth down but Wilson was dragged down just shy of the first-down marker. The Broncos gave up the ball on downs and Minnesota only had to take a knee and win the game.
Freshman receiver Wilson had a stand out performance for WMU in Saturday’s loss including 10 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown.
“The good thing about him, he’s so mature. He goes out there and he catches ten balls against a Big Ten team. He shows a lot of maturity. He can catch the ball. He’s got good hands. So right now he’s been kind of a saving grace over there for a while until we get some guys back,”Cubit said.
Cubit was also impressed with the play of the offensive line as well as running back Dareyon Chance, who rushed for 144 yards.
Western Michigan will need more strong performances this Saturday when they face another tough opponent as the University of Connecticut comes to Waldo Stadium.
“We got our work cut out for us. Three of the first four weeks are big physical games,” Cubit said.
WMU will enter the game with a 1-2 record while Connecticut stands at 2-1.