By Mike Gallagher
Unlike The Question Mark shown above, I believe I do have the answer. Adam Weber must be a loyal reader of my articles, and the one last week must’ve be so enraging that he set out to prove me wrong. But seriously, on first glance, doesn’t that seem like the only possible explanation?
Well, as much as I wish that were true, I’m not that delusional. I am, however, delusional enough to not back off the rather harsh article I wrote targeting Weber last week.
Don’t get me wrong, Weber had a truly spectacular performance last Saturday, throwing for 416 yards and five touchdowns. But there were a lot of factors playing in his favor for this game.
First, and most obviously, Michigan State is surrendering 245 yards a game in the air, good, or bad, for 95th in the nation. They gave up 300 yards and two scores to Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, 243 and four scores to Scott Tolzien of Wisconsin, 291 and two scores to Mike Kafka of Northwestern, and 328 and three scores to Central Michigan’s Dan Lefevour. Lefevour and Clausen are obviously very good quarterbacks, but Kafka and Tolzien have been extremely average this year.
Secondly, Michigan State had the first look at a Gopher team without Eric Decker. Every other team knew what to game plan for when Decker was in the lineup, take him away and you’ll stop the entire offense. Game planning for a team without it’s star player can be a good thing because that’s one less weapon you have to stop, but at the same time, the new look can be confusing. It can also be hard to predict what exactly the team will do without it’s star player, will it stick to passing or will the running game be more of a factor. The mystery of the situation can be difficult for a defense because you just don’t know what to expect.
The third possible factor could be the emotional one for the Gophers. Decker being lost for the regular season, and having given so much to this program, could’ve sparked a fire in the guys looking to step in for him and for Weber to prove Decker hasn’t made him who he is today. This may’ve led to guys such as Duane Bennett, who had 42 receiving yards on the year, rack up the 121 he did. Da’jon Mcknight might’ve felt the same way, his uninspiring three career catches heading into the game quickly was exceeded, as he went off for four and 98 yards. The emotional factor can be big for tight knit groups, the win-one-for-the-gipper attitude can carry a team, if only for a week.
All those points aside, I did look like a fool this week, and give credit where it is due, it was an impressive performance by Weber and his supporting cast. Even if the emotional aspect was part of it, that’s ok, because the guys asked to carry a bigger load last week did their job and stepped up.
The one semi-legitimate theory that has been tossed around about Weber is the idea that he was zeroing in one Decker too much on passing plays and would try to force it to him, therefore cutting down his options and making the offense extremely predictable. The thought that having Decker out of the lineup got Weber out of tunnel-vision mode is not ludicrous, in fact it makes a lot of sense not only on the field, but off the field as well. The two are roommates, best friends, and obviously want what’s best for one another, so maybe Weber, after being around Decker so much, was just subconsciously always looking to Decker.
I do not subscribe to that theory, but of all the ones I have heard, that seems the most plausible. I tend to think that it actually is more a combination of the first three points I gave, and that with the emotional aspect not playing as big of a factor this week and Illinois being able to get a look at how not to stop Weber, this week may be a little rougher go than the last was.
That being said, we won’t learn a whole lot about who the real Adam Weber is either of these next two weeks. Illinois is coming off it’s first Big Ten win, and while it was a decent one over a severely overrated Michigan team, don’t expect them to come into TCF and pose too much of a threat to the Gophers becoming bowl eligible. Then there’s South Dakota State…so yeah, like I was saying, not much opposition.
Well done by Weber and company this week, but let’s not fly off the handle saying he’s a changed man and he’s a god of quarterbacking. He had a good game in which a lot of things were going his way, let’s see him do it these next two weeks against teams he should beat, then go into Kinnick Stadium and put up a solid performance.
When he does those things, I’ll be back on the bandwagon. Because any starting Big Ten quarterback shouldn’t have a problem accomplishing that.