By Mike Gallagher
Finally Gophers fans got a glimpse of what life after Eric Decker will be like. After Decker left midway through the first quarter with what was diagnosed as a high ankle sprain, not surprisingly, things got no better. The Gophers stretched their scoreless stretch to 136 minutes and 23 seconds, before Marqueis Gray connected with Troy Stoudermire Jr. Gray, just in for mop up duty at the end of a lopsided 38-7 loss vs. Ohio State, looked good, hitting on 5 of 6 passes for 51 yards and one score. He also had 11 carries for 81 yards. He was the only bright spot in an otherwise pathetic effort which saw Minnesota lose for the 13th straight time to an AP top 25 team.
Worse news came down on Tuesday, with Decker’s All-American season getting cut short by what was no longer a high ankle sprain, rather a “foot injury.” With the only weapon on an otherwise horrendously below average offense done for the regular season, you have to wonder what the next move will be to bring some sense of improvement to this slapstick comedy routine called Gopher football.
Certainly the defense cannot be blamed, yes they gave up 38 points last week, but at the half it was only 7-0. Before the offense and special teams started putting the D in bad positions where only inept offense would not convert, the defense was the only thing keeping Minnesota in the game.
They only gave up 20 against Penn State the week before. Granted, Penn State’s offense is not elite, but they managed 35 vs. Michigan last week, and are the #12 team in the nation.
The offense is clearly where the problem lies, and after the coaching staff, the first one to shoulder the blame is always the man under center. Adam Weber, as much as he has accomplished in his three years here, is no exception.
People fell in love with Weber for obvious reasons. Firstly, the Gophers haven’t had a legitimate quarterback, EVER. Bryan Cupito is the Gophers all time leading passer yardage wise. Don’t worry, if I didn’t cover the team, I wouldn’t know who he is either.
Weber’s career numbers are far from spectacular, as he finished his freshman year 77th in the nation in passer rating and 58th his sophomore year.
However, that was an important show of improvement between those years. This made critics, myself included, believe that this was to be a breakout year for Weber. It hasn’t been. His last three games have been the worst stretch of his career. He is a combined 25-54 for 287 yards and five interceptions. That leaves him 103rd of 110 eligible FBS quarterbacks in quarterback rating. Over his last twelve games, he has gone over 60% in the completion category only twice.
Secondly, as the quarterback must take the blame, he is to accept credit for the success as well. The jump in wins from one to seven from freshman to sophomore year made it seem a top four finish in the Big Ten was possible. But at only 4-4 this year, the team will not be improving in the win category, and most likely will take a step backwards. That 4-4 record now leaves the Gophers at 12-21 overall with Weber under center, and 5-16 in the Big Ten.
Third, when he came in, he was a legitimate dual threat from the QB position. Having rushed for over 600 yards his freshman year while also throwing for almost 3,000, fans were drooling over what he would do to defenses once it all came together with the rest of the squad. His rushing numbers, however, have fallen each of the past two years, bottoming out at -35 yards this year.
Weber’s collapse can be analyzed for days upon days, but I’d prefer to focus on the rushing aspect. The Gophers offensive line has had it’s share of problems the last few years, since Brewster instituted the “spread offense”. When Weber took over in 2007, he was able to make up for a lot of the mistakes the offensive line may’ve made by creating plays with his feet. Thus resulted his, and the Gophers best offensive year under Brewster. He was even able to do that to an extent last year, but this year he has not made any sort of effort to do so. No injury has been reported to his legs or ankles over his career with the Gophers, so the sudden drop off in attempts to move the ball up field with his legs is mysterious. Without that aspect of his game, and without any sort of run game whatsoever from anyone on the Gophers, he is a sitting duck in the oft-collapsed pocket.
So with Eric Decker gone, Adam Weber not living up to the hype, and the Gophers floundering in another disappointing season, it’s time to make a change. The Gophers got an up close and personal look at what a true athletic talent can do last week when Terrelle Pryor put up 225+ passing yards and 100+ rushing yards against them. The Gophers may not have Pryor, but they have the man that looked an awful lot like him late in the game last week.
Marqueis Gray, it’s your time to take the reigns.
He has truly been Brewster’s best recruit, a 4-star QB out of high school, and to this point has had people wondering if he was going to pan out. But in limited time this year, he has shown his versatility and extra components he can add to this offense. Yes, he is extremely raw as a passer, as he had only attempted one pass at the college level before last week’s game. At the same time, he is very quick and gifted with his feet, something Weber is not. Those feet will, at the very least, give the defense something else to think about. Teams won’t be able to put six or seven in the box and be comfortable with their ability to stop the run, they’ll have to bring that other safety near the line much more often with Gray under center. This could open up some, dare I say, BIG PLAYS, words not usually used in the Gophers passing game.
Marqueis Gray is the future, but when the present isn’t amounting to anything, why wait for the future? Adam Weber has been a very good quarterback the last two years for the Gophers, but for whatever the real reason may be, can’t seem to find the touch this year. If Brewster does not pull him and he continues to perform at this level, do they plan on playing him next year? Especially without his favorite target Eric Decker, that is an extremely risky decision. Why throw another season down the drain with a guy that can’t get your program wins? At this stage in the season, there’s no reason not to go with your future to see where it stands.
With Gray under center, you’ll still likely make a bowl, and get him key reps and experience he can take into next year. Weber to Decker is no more, it’s time to usher in a new era.