Weber back on track?The ball bounced off tight end Nick Tow-Arnett’s chest and into the air, landing right in the hands of running back Duane Bennett. As Bennett raced the final 35 yards for a 59-yard touchdown pass, Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber had to smile and shrug. For perhaps the first time in what he calls a frustrating season, the ball finally bounced his way.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The ball bounced off tight end Nick Tow-Arnett’s chest and into the air, landing right in the hands of running back Duane Bennett.
As Bennett raced the final 35 yards for a 59-yard touchdown pass, Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber had to smile and shrug. For perhaps the first time in what he calls a frustrating season, the ball finally bounced his way.
Weber broke out of a season-long slump in Saturday’s 42-34 victory over Michigan State, throwing for 416 yards and five touchdowns to help the Gophers snap a two-game losing skid.
“So many times I’ve seen that ball bounce into the other team’s hands and they probably run it back for a touchdown or something,” Weber said Tuesday. “So it was one of those things where, when the ball starts rolling your way, it really is rolling your way. It was pretty fun to stand back there and watch Duane run.”
After going three straight weeks without a TD pass, and with star receiver Eric Decker sidelined with a foot injury, Weber earned Big Ten offensive player of the week honors and posted career highs in yards passing and TD passes.
“I’m ecstatic that our offense is back on track and Web’s back on track,” defensive tackle Garrett Brown said.
The Gophers stumbled into TCF Bank Stadium to face the Spartans on the heels of two humbling losses at Penn State and Ohio State by a combined score of 58-7. Weber completed just 20 of 45 passes for 213 yards with three interceptions in those two games, leading some to wonder if coach Tim Brewster was going to make a change.
But Brewster stuck by his junior leader, and it paid off against the Spartans. Weber threw touchdown passes of 62 and 37 yards in the first two minutes to get the Gophers rolling, then used a little bit of luck on the 59-yarder to Bennett — via Tow-Arnett — to seal the win.
“He played a great football game from all aspects,” Brewster said. “Tremendous leadership, threw the ball extremely well.”
Weber put up the biggest numbers of his career with his main target and close friend Decker on watching from the bench. Decker was injured last week against Ohio State and will miss the rest of his senior season.
Decker owns most of the school’s receiving records that are worth having and was the no-doubt, go-to guy in this offense.
On Saturday, Weber spread the ball around to six different receivers. Tow-Arnett had eight catches for 81 yards and receiver Da’Jon McKnight had four catches for 98 yards. Weber’s numbers could have been even bigger, but Troy Stoudermire dropped what would have been a sure touchdown.
“It was great for our confidence just to go out there and make some plays,” Tow-Arnett said. “We just have to build on that and realize that Deck’s going to be out and make the same plays next week.”
Still, the Gophers (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) racked up season highs for points, total offense and passing offense. The last time Minnesota threw for more than 400 yards in a game was in 1995 against Michigan State. The big day moved the passing offense from No. 89 to No. 69 in the country.
Weber, who still has one year of eligibility remaining, surpassed Bryan Cupito to become Minnesota’s career leader in yards passing midway through the fourth quarter.
The Gophers will need more performances like that one as they chase a bowl bid. Minnesota hosts Illinois on Saturday and South Dakota State next week before ending the season at No. 8 Iowa.
“It felt good, especially with how the season’s been going,” Weber said. “It’s been an up-and-down, frustrating season. But I keep it in perspective and realize it’s one game. It was a very fun game, one of those game where everything seemed to be going right. But now it’s on to the next one.”