Friday, September 11, 2009

Uffdah! The Ugly Truth About Adam Weber

We've talked a bit about Air Force and what they're bringing to the table, but what do we need from the Maroon and Gold to get a win Saturday? For one, let's start with a lot better effort than we got against Syracuse. There's going to be an electric atmosphere tomorrow night, and here's hoping the boys can channel that into playin well instead of getting distracted or overconfident. I harped (and I still believe rightfully so) on a number of problems that we saw from the Gophers last week. Some of those can and I think will improve, but one of them (i.e the guy lining up under center), maybe not so much.

But first let's talk about what can and should be better. As much as I hated all of the false start penalties, the Gophers offensive line actually did pretty well last week. They kept Adam Weber pretty clean in the pocket, and the running game improved as the game wore on, especially when Duane Bennett had his hands on the ball. I think the false starts stop this week, as we're at home, and the line now has those first game jitters out of the way and should have a better understanding of how the new offense should work in-game. If Matt Stommes can't go because of his ankle injury, that's a blow, but Dom Alford did seem to do pretty well in relief, so hopefully that continues. If the Gophs can do a better job of establishing the run and Bennett can get his mojo risin', I like Minnesota's chances.

Like the O-line, the defense just got better and better as last week's game wore on. They made the proper half-time adjustments with the Wildcat and defended the Orange very, very well. If they can hold Air Force to just 20 as they did with Syracuse, then Minnesota should win, but that's going to be a much tougher task. Starting corner Marcus Sherels didn't practice again Wednesday, and even if he can go he's going to be limited on that ankle. That definitely hurts the Gophs at a key perimeter spot against the option, as Sherels wasn't just a vet but also a pretty solid tackler. Ryan Collado, the spotlight is on you! No pressure, or anything.

Eric Decker can and will continue to be Eric Decker. He's our Superman, and considering my doubts of Weber's ability to change, he's going to have to be all season long for the team to be good, because he's going to be seeing the ball more than any receiver in the country. I'm sure the Falcons 3-4 defense is going to throw every kind of coverage it can think of at Decker, and yet I'm still sure ED is going to be the leading receiver, top 100 yards, and score at least one touchdown because when he's healthy, that's just what he does.

Finally we have Weber. Look people, we need to face the facts that Adam Weber is what he is, and what he is is not very good. His 2nd team All-Big Ten performance last year was won by default in a season that was one of the worst in Big Ten history for quarterbacks, and was garnered from stats he put up in the first seven weeks of the season. Don't believe me? Here's his numbers for the first seven games of 2008, in which the Gophers won six, and all six wins were against teams with losing records. Also keep in mind that a yards per attempt over 7 and a QB rating over 100 are good for a college QB:
Attemps: 209
Completion %: 67.9
Yards: 1612
Yards Per Attempt: 7.71
TD: 9
INT: 2
QB Rating: 102.7

Those numbers are what won him second team all-conference honors, and if he had played at that clip all year, he'd have been every bit deserving. But he didn't. Not even close. Here are his numbers for the last seven games he's played which include the last five regular season games of 2008, the Insight Bowl loss to Kansas, and last week's dreadful performance against Syracuse. In those last seven the Gophers have gone 2-5, with the two wins against Purdue and Syracuse.
Comp: 132
Att: 243
Comp %: 54.3
Yards: 1397
YPA: 5.75
TD: 7
INT: 7
QB Rating: 67.1

Ugh, or as we'd say in Minnesota "Uffdah!" That's ugly, right there. Early last season when Minnesota played almost primarily cupcakes (excluding Ohio State, who destroyed us, and Illinois, who wasn't a cupcake but WAS overrated. Especially their D) Weber was great. When the schedule got tougher and opposing defenses had more tape to figure him out, well yeah not so much. And if you haven't heard, the schedule this year is MUCH tougher than last, and despite having open receivers all game long last Saturday, Weber had misfire after misfire. Yes, he put it together when he had to in the 4th quarter, but as Jer and I have said, he was making throws to his first read EVERY time, and because he had been so locked in on Decker (and because Syracuse's D isn't great) his guys were open. I also know Decker was hurt for part of the second half of last season and that the running game stunk, but doesn't that just expose Weber for what he is?

I appreciate Adam Weber as being the guy who bridged the gap between an old regime and a new one, and as a local kid who plays his heart out. But people, if you're a team with New Year's Day bowl aspirations, or ANY bowl aspirations at all, as I believe the Gophers to be, you CANNOT be starting a QB with a QB rating under 70, a 1-1 TD to INT ratio, and a completion % barely above 50. Especially when that guy is a THIRD YEAR STARTER!!! Unless you have a devastating rushing attack or a top-ranked defense, you can't get away with starting a guy with those kind of numbers and expect to be successful. You just can't. And yet the Gophers have.

Last year they had no choice. This year, they have the most talented backup in the conference, and maybe the country, in MarQueis Gray. Gray couldn't possibly do any worse throwing the ball than Weber has, and he's much, MUCH more dangerous with his feet than Weber can ever hope to be. If we don't see a drastic improvement from Weber this week, Coach Brewster needs to do what Ohio State coach Jim Tressel did last year after the second game of their season: Tressel, who is about as conservative as they come, made the tough but correct decision to bench incumbent but ineffective starter Todd Boeckman in favor of the much more talented freshmen Terrelle Pryor. I'm not saying putting Gray in will lead the Gophers to the a BCS game like it did for the Buckeyes, but if Weber doesn't make some pretty signficant strides this week, then we'll be much better off, both for this season and for the future of the program, by replacing him with the much more talented Gray. Gray gives us a better chance to win right now, and it will make him that much better for the years to come by starting him now.

So this will be Weber's week to put up or shut up: Either he proves he's the QB we saw in the first seven games of last season, or he should go on the bench. If he doesn't, you can kiss our New Year's Day Bowl hopes, and perhaps our hopes at any bowl this season, goodbye.

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