Three stars of the game: Northern Illinois

Saturday night began with a beautiful night and a hope that the Gophers could turn their season around. The night ended with Minnesota suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Northern Illinois Huskies. Three players stood out as game breakers and are the three stars of the game.

The first star of the game is an obvious choice and goes to Northern Illinois running back Chad Spann. Spann absolutely torched the Gophers defense throughout the game. He ended up with 223 yards up rushing and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. Spann averaged an amazing 14.9 yards per carry. Spann broke multiple huge runs including a 61-yard score that put the Huskies up 34-16 late in the fourth quarter. Spann continually gashed the Gophers' defense when he got to the outside and could use his speed to get past the line and linebackers. At the post-game press conference, Coach Brewster recognized Spann's performance by saying, "The rush yards that Spann got, you know, were certainly the determining factor for them." Although the focus before the game was on quarterback Chandler Harnish, Chad Spann stole the show and won the game for the Huskies.

The second star of the game was a standout player yet again for the Gophers and has been improving all year. Quarterback/wide receiver MarQueis Gray has become one of the focal points of the offense and is one of quarterback Adam Weber's favorite targets. Gray had an amazing game with eight catches for 117 yards. One of Gray's grabs was a 29-yard pass from Weber to the corner of the end zone, where Gray used his size and athleticism to snag the ball while keeping his feet in bounds. Weber found Gray on a variety of routes including short routes that gave Gray room to run, as well as routes down field that showcased Gray's speed and size. As a wide receiver, Gray is quickly becoming one of the biggest threats in the Big Ten at wide out. After Saturday's game, Gray has the third highest receiving yards per game in the conference with an amazing 82.0 receiving yards per contest. Although the Gophers did not come away with the win, the strides that Gray is making are extremely impressive.

The last star of the game was defensive back, Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois. Ward did not have an impressive game statistically, compiling only three tackles but he did make one of the biggest plays of the game by blocking Dan Orseske's punt late in the second quarter. Ward got to Orseske unblocked and had no trouble getting his hands on the ball. The Huskies then took control on the Gophers' 11-yard line and took three plays to get into the endzone with just three seconds left before halftime. The touchdown made the score 20-13 in favor of the Huskies going into halftime. Coach Brewster said of the play, "We give up a blocked punt and they end up scoring with three seconds to go at the end of the first half was a momentum changer…" Ward's blocked punt was a huge play in the game and gave the Huskies a lead that they wouldn't relinquish for the rest of the game.

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