On both offense and defense in 2009, Minnesota has generally been a model of inconsistency. Perhaps the GophersâÄô only stable unit has been special teams. When it struggled on Saturday against Illinois, you knew it was going to be an especially bad day.
Adam Weber doesnâÄôt buy into the stigma, but heâÄôs sure aware of it. âÄúThereâÄôs a belief out there that after a big game the Gophers tend to struggle,âÄù the junior quarterback said. âÄúWe donâÄôt believe that.âÄù But Minnesota (5-5 overall, 3-4 Big Ten) did nothing to erase that belief Saturday afternoon as the Gophers were unable to overcome a dismal first half and lost 35-32 to Illinois (3-6, 2-5) a week after an emotional Halloween victory over Michigan State.
It was homecoming 1981 âÄî MinnesotaâÄôs last in Memorial Stadium. Bob Stroup, a fullback for the Gophers, sustained a hit to the back of the helmet. Everything went dark. âÄúIt was like someone poured ink over my face,âÄù Stroup said. âÄúI stayed in the game. The first time I saw the next two plays was on film on Sunday.âÄù Nearly 1,000 miles away, Mike Webster was playing center for the Pittsburgh Steelers. âÄúIron MikeâÄù was a future Hall of Famer, renowned for playing through all sorts of injuries, including concussions. He played 150 straight games from 1976 to 1986.
It was Sunday or Monday âÄî heâÄôs not quite sure. Junior quarterback Adam Weber had two demoralizing road losses fresh in his mind, one to Penn State and one to Ohio State. In those two games he had a combined 213 yards, no touchdowns and three picks. By his own admittance, he was frustrated. But it was back to work for Weber. Michigan State was next. The Spartans had allowed 15 points or less in their past three games. It was going to be another tough test. Time to study film.
This wasnâÄôt how it was supposed to end for Eric Decker. An hour before kickoff Saturday, the standout wide receiver should have been on the field, preparing to help the Gophers move within a game of bowl eligibility. Already MinnesotaâÄôs career leader in receptions and receiving yards , the final four games of 2009 ought to have been a victory lap for the best wide receiver in Gophers history, a player already regarded as the best to don the No. 7 jersey at Minnesota.
IowaâÄôs run at perfection will have to continue without a key cog in its offense. Redshirt freshman running back Adam Robinson will likely miss the remainder of the regular season with a high left ankle sprain, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz announced Tuesday during his weekly teleconference. He sustained the injury during the HawkeyesâÄô last-second 15-13 victory over Michigan State on Saturday. âÄúThereâÄôs a chance we could get him back at the end, but a running back with a bad ankle âÄî itâÄôs not a good thing,âÄù Ferentz said. âÄúThereâÄôs not much you can do.âÄù
Senior wide receiver Eric Decker, who sprained his left foot in the first quarter Saturday against Ohio State, is out indefinitely, Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster announced Tuesday at his weekly press conference. âÄúWhat we hope is, we can possibly get Eric back for a bowl game, if that presents itself,âÄù Brewster said. Returning for a bowl game is the best-case scenario. Brewster said Decker is having the injury examined by several doctors and surgery may be necessary.
A 7-5 record can mean two very different things. ThereâÄôs 7-5 circa 2008: Coming off of a 1-11 season, Minnesota came flying out of the gates, cruised through a light non-conference schedule and won three of its first four Big Ten games (the loss was to then-No. 14 Ohio State, a team that nearly won the Fiesta Bowl).
Though Eric Decker extended his games-with-a-reception streak to 33 at Penn State on Saturday, the senior wide receiverâÄôs impact was minimized for the second straight week as the Nittany Lions stacked coverage and gave junior quarterback Adam Weber little time to find his favorite target. Decker recorded just one catch, a 42-yard strike down the middle of the field late in the third quarter.
A recipe for football disaster: One part offense that gains 138 yards and seven first downs and holds the ball for less than 20 minutes. One part defense that allows 464 yards and 21 first downs and stops the opposing offense just six times on third down. The final product: a 20-0 loss to No. 14 Penn State at Beaver Stadium on a wintry mid-October afternoon. âÄúGive credit where credit is due,âÄù Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster said. âÄúPenn State was better than we were.âÄù
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