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Gophers' quarterback Croft to leave program

Minnesota quarterback Demry Croft (11) rushes with the ball as Wisconsin linebacker Leon Jacobs (32) makes a tackle in the first half of their game Saturday, Nov. 25, at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. It was confirmed Sunday, Nov. 26, that Croft, a redshirt sophomore, was leaving the program. Jesse Johnson / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS—After starting the final six games this season, Minnesota quarterback Demry Croft will leave the football program, a school official said Sunday night, Nov. 26.

"Demry asked Coach (P.J.) Fleck for his release after (Saturday's) game, and coach will grant him that release," spokesman Paul Rovnak texted the Pioneer Press.

Croft made his request once the Gophers lost 31-0 to fifth-ranked Wisconsin in the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe at TCF Bank Stadium. Croft, who has two years of eligibility remaining, could seek a transfer to another school.

Croft, a redshirt sophomore from Rockford, Ill., completed 41 percent of his passes for 674 yards and threw four touchdown passes and seven interceptions in nine games this season. He rushed 79 times for 161 yards and four touchdowns.

On Saturday, Nov. 25, against the Badgers, Croft went 3 for 9 for 40 yards without a TD or interception. He rushed 11 times for minus-9 yards, which included two sacks.

After battling senior Conor Rhoda for the job, Croft started the second half of the season. He showed flashes of strong play with three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter against Michigan State on Oct. 14 and set a school QB rushing record with 183 yards against Nebraska on Nov. 11.

But with an inexperienced receiving corps that struggled to get open and dropped passes, Croft didn't complete more than nine passes nor throw for more than 139 yards in any of those six games.

After being named "co-starters" during fall camp, Rhoda earned the starting job with a strong leadership and few mistakes in a 48-14 win over Oregon State on Sept. 9. Rhoda, of Eagan and Cretin-Derham Hall, started the first three games of Big Ten play.

After Rhoda was named starter, Croft was suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed reason. He was out for three weeks, including the bye, and sat out a fourth game, Oct. 7 against Purdue. He then returned to play when Rhoda's mistakes added up in the second half of a 30-27 loss to the Spartans on Oct. 14.

Croft did not attend the team's season-ending banquet Sunday because he had already set in motion his departure from the program.