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Gray battling through back injury

MINNEAPOLIS — There was "no question" University of Minnesota junior quarterback MarQueis Gray played tentatively because of a back injury in last week's 42-13 loss against Wisconsin, Gophers football coach Jerry Kill said at Tuesday's news conference.

Gray, who suffered the injury when he was hit in the back in a 31-24 loss at Michigan State on Nov. 5, will be evaluated during practice as the Gophers prepare for Saturday's game at Northwestern.

After throwing for a career-best 295 yards and three touchdowns against the Spartans, Gray had his worst passing performance of the season, completing 6 of 14 passes for 51 yards with an interception against the Badgers.

"He was able to practice (last week), but not at full speed," Kill said. "The timing (is off) in those situations when you haven't played. It's not like (Green Bay's) Aaron Rogers, where you've played quarterback for a long, long time. (Gray) is still learning it. Any missed opportunities in reps are always important. He took reps during the week, but he didn't take as many as he had been taking. I think that just threw the timing off a little bit."

Kill said Gray ran "pretty hard" as the game progressed against Wisconsin. Gray led the team in rushing with 19 carries for 68 yards.

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"I think it was a deal where he had to get a feel for how far he could push himself," Kill said. "I was pleased with the toughness he showed because he's playing with a very difficult situation. Any time you get hit in the back like he has, it's a tough injury. It's like a hip pointer. It's something that sometimes lingers. So we hope that he can move around fairly good today."

Gray also had to deal with the emotion of becoming a father of twin boys, MarZell and MarShawn, on Friday night.

"I've known him for the short time here — he handles things pretty well," Kill said. "He's a pretty mature young man. Does he have a lot on his plate? Yes, he does. But to this point, he's dealt with it very good. That was not a factor in the football game."

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