Big opportunity slipped away with loss

The Wolverines looked ripe for the picking, but the Gophers suffered a loss that "will sting for a long, long time."

If ever there was a time when Michigan was vulnerable, this was it. If ever there was a day when the Gophers could pound their chest — and the Wolverines — this was the day.

Instead, Minnesota closed its history book 0-12 against Michigan in the Metrodome with a 29-6 defeat. It was the second straight loss for the Gophers, who could be watching the wheels fall off of what was shaping up to be a remarkably successful season.

"It's very, very frustrating," quarterback Adam Weber said. "This will sting for a long, long time. This was one of those games we thought we could have."

Receiver Eric Decker, Weber's favorite target, tried fighting through an ankle injury he suffered last week against Northwestern. Decker, though, couldn't last the first half, retreating to the bench where he watched the Gophers' offense stall for one first down and 46 total yards before halftime.

Minnesota had 41 yards of penalties in the first half and punted seven times, leaving it with a net total of just five yards. Without his top target, Weber was sacked four times and threw for just 105 yards and an interception. The Gophers were held without an offensive touchdown for just the second time since Tim Brewster took over as coach. Both instances came in Michigan games.

"We've made improvements as a football team,'' Brewster said. "But obviously, we have a ways to go yet. We have to continue to improve."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously, there is no way to put a prettier dress or more positive spin on the ballgame. We just didn't play well. Give Michigan credit. They came in here and did a nice job. They were more physical than we were. We never got anything going offensively." — Gophers coach Tim Brewster

NOTES

  • WR Eric Decker tried to play after spraining his ankle Nov. 1 against Northwestern. He hadn't even make it to the half, when he was ruled out for the remainder of the day.

  • RB Eric Stephens, a four-star running back recruit out of Texas, has changed his verbal commitment from the Gophers to Texas Tech.

    GAME BALL GOES TO: RB DeLeon Elkridge — The running game has been more down than up this season, but Eskridge averaged more than seven yards per carry. On a day when little went right for the Gophers, that's good enough.

    KEEP AN EYE ON: The schedule — It wasn't long ago when the Gophers were 7-1 and ranked in the top 25. They have since lost two straight, and now the games against Wisconsin and Iowa look much more difficult than they did a few weeks ago. Suddenly, the Gophers might be challenged to win another game the rest of the regular season.

    LOOKING GOOD: With Eric Decker ruled out before the half, QB Adam Weber did his best to spread the ball around. Weber completed passes to nine different receivers, but none of them could match Decker in productivity.

  • Tramaine Brock forced a fumble that Lee Campbell recovered for the only turnover produced by Minnesota's defense.

    STILL NEEDS WORK: The Gophers went three-and-out on their first five possessions, despite the fact Michigan entered ranked last in the Big Ten in points allowed (30.9 per game) and 10th in total defense (393.6).

  • Since WR Eric Decker injured his ankle against Northwestern on Nov. 1, Minnesota's offense has no touchdowns and six points. That's bad news, because Decker may not be fully healthy the rest of the season.

  • Backup QB Nick Sheridan, who had struggled in most every appearance this season, completed 18-of-30 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown. Michigan's running game, meanwhile, ran for 232 yards on 42 carries.

    SEASON RECAP

    Minnesota 31, Northern Illinois 27 — Duane Bennett scored on a one-yard plunge with 22 seconds left to send the Gophers to a season-opening victory. Bennett scored a pair of touchdowns on the day and helped Minnesota avoid losing despite choking away an 11-point second-half lead.

    Minnesota 42, Bowling Green 17 — QB Adam Weber threw for 233 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, and the Gophers put the game away with a 21-point avalanche in the fourth quarter. Minnesota turned four BG turnovers in the second half into touchdowns, blowing open what had been a tight game.

    Minnesota 35, Montana State 23 — Eric Decker caught nine passes for 154 yards and a score, DeLeon Eskridge became the first freshman in 22 years to rush for at least three touchdowns and the Gophers improved to 3-0 with the victory over the Bobcats.

    Minnesota 37, Florida Atlantic 3 — Freshman DeLeon Eskridge rushed for 78 yards and two scores, the Gophers rushed for 206 yards as a team and the defense kept FAU out of the end zone to improve to 4-0 this year. Minnesota limited FAU to 276 total yards one season after the Owls scored 42 points and racked up nearly 600 yards of offense against the Gophers.

    Ohio State 34, Minnesota 21 — For the first time this year, the Gophers lost the turnover battle, and ultimately the game. The Gophers turned the ball over three times, leading to exactly half of the Buckeyes' points (17 of 34). Freshman DeLeon Eskridge had 76 yards on 18 carries and Adam Weber threw for 187 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the loss.

    Minnesota 16, Indiana 7 — But for a breakdown in protection that led to a 77-yard TD pass, the Gophers' defense was stout. Adam Weber threw for 274 yards without an interception, completing 13 passes to Eric Decker. Joel Monroe kicked three field goals in the second half.

    Minnesota 27, Illinois 20 — Illinois lost two fumbles inside its own 10-yard line that turned into Minnesota touchdowns, as former Illini All-Big Ten TE Tim Brewster earned the biggest win of his short head-coaching career during his alma mater's homecoming. Illini QB Juice Williams threw for 462 yards and rushed for 41.

    Minnesota 17, Purdue 6 — The defense knocked Purdue starting QB Curtis Painter out of the game, then limited the Boilers to 226 yards of offense and forced four turnovers in a game the defense dominated. QB Adam Weber accounted for 276 total yards and two scores, and the Gophers improved to 7-1 for the first time since 2002.

    Northwestern 24, Minnesota 17 — The Wildcats' Brendan Smith intercepted a deflection and raced 48 yards for the game-winning score with 12 seconds left, stunning the Gophers and ending their three-game winning streak. The Wildcats were playing without their regular starters at both quarterback and tailback, but backup QB Mike Kafka ran for 217 yards while directing Northwestern's speed option.

    Michigan 29, Minnesota 6: The Gophers struggled without top target Eric Decker, sidelined by an ankle injury in falling to 0-12 against Michigan in the Metrodome. Michigan ran for 232 yards on the Gophers' defense and backup QB Nick Sheridan threw for more than 200 as Michigan ended a five-game losing streak with its third win of the year.


  • Gopher Illustrated Top Stories