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University of Minnesota Gophers’ top cornerbacks to show off skills in Monday’s Quick Lane Bowl

MINNEAPOLIS -- When the University of Minnesota Gophers fell to 5-7 with a 31-21 loss to Wisconsin on Nov. 28, senior cornerbacks Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray started preparing for the NFL.With the season ostensibly over, Boddy-Calhoun an...

MINNEAPOLIS - When the University of Minnesota Gophers fell to 5-7 with a 31-21 loss to Wisconsin on Nov. 28, senior cornerbacks Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray started preparing for the NFL.
With the season ostensibly over, Boddy-Calhoun anticipated one-on-one drills with wide receivers before the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Jan. 23. Murray’s mind wandered toward suiting up for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 30.
That’s on hold now because Boddy-Calhoun and Murray will wear maroon and gold one more time.
An unprecedented number of bowls (40) and inadequate amount of eligible teams (77 for 80 spots) prompted the NCAA to set Academic Progress Rates as the benchmark for the remaining three spots, which is why the Gophers (5-7) will play Central Michigan (7-5) in the Quick Lane Bowl on Monday in Detroit.
“You try to move forward and you think other things are about ready to happen in your life,” Murray said. “You’ve just got to retreat and just come back and get back in the right mind-set to compete one more time with this beautiful Gopher team.”
While NFL scouts will first dissect game tape to see to how Murray and Boddy-Calhoun stacked up against their best opponents - Texas Christian and Ohio State - the Quick Lane Bowl will provide another showcase.
The nationally televised game is the only college football game scheduled for late Monday afternoon, and the Chippewas appear ready to challenge the Gophers secondary.
Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush ranks 11th in the nation with 3,703 passing yards this season. He has completed 309 of 460 passes (67 percent) for 25 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
“He is very accurate,” said Murray. “He will put the ball on some people, so we have to make our windows tight.”
Rush has spread it around, with five receivers each totaling in excess of 500 yards.
“You always want a quarterback coming in here with a whole lot of confidence throwing the ball around - 300 yards a game,” Boddy-Calhoun said. “That’s always what we look for as cornerbacks.”
In what almost was his last college game, Boddy-Calhoun made a highlight-reel play. On Wisconsin’s first offensive play, he read a bubble screen from quarterback Joel Stave to wide receiver Jazz Peavy, intercepted the pass and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown.
“I was like, ‘Let me bait a bit,’ and when I saw the bubble, I just took off,” he said.
Boddy-Calhoun said that was an example of how he improved from last season. In the Badgers’ 34-24 win over Minnesota in 2014, Wisconsin successfully ran a number of short passes on Boddy-Calhoun.
“They were catching bubbles all on me,” said Boddy-Calhoun, who is listed at 5 feet 11, 188 pounds. “I was like, ‘I think they are going to come in here and try to do the same thing.’ ”
Boddy-Calhoun has been limited by a knee injury since September and sat out practices last week.
“I feel better right now already than I felt all season,” he said then. “It will be great by the time the bowl game comes.”
NFL scouts have frequented the Bierman-Nagurski Football Complex this season to watch the corners and other prospects, including senior linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, who also will play in the Shrine Game.
Gophers coach Tracy Claeys reserved his highest praise for Murray.
“He’s the best overall player that I’ve ever coached when you talk about how physical he is, how well he runs,” Claeys said. “He may make a mistake once, but you show him and he will correct it - just his mentality of he brings it every down.
“I’m excited for him and the opportunity that he is going to have (in the NFL),” Claeys said. “When it comes time for that time of the year and the draft, I expect that he will do awfully well.”

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