Again, much thanks to Rockwell. I wanted to continue this series by following Adam Weber in a huge home matchup against #8 Cali. Weber is an intriguing player because his veteran status and athleticism make one expect him to succeed more than he ever does. Things I was watching for against Cali - How would he respond to the speed of the Golden Bears? Would the coaching staff use rollouts to showcase his playmaking ability? Would he stop staring at Eric Decker like an 8th grader going through the first stages of unrequited love?
Penalty to start the first drive followed by an angled out route toward the sideline, which Weber misses badly. As I've pointed out time and time again, these are low percentage throws which Weber has been missing all year. The OC Jedd Fisch apparently reads this site because we don't see this route more than 1-2 times the rest of the game. Thank God. Weber comes back with a QB draw, only to be tripped up and sacked. On 3rd down, the hook and ladder results in 5 yards. Time to punt!
Offensive holding to start the second drive. On first and long, Weber is nailed because of bad blocking, but completes a five yard pass anyways. The whole "Cal Bear defender smashing into the backfield unimpeded" will be a reoccurring theme today. On third down, a little dump screen pass is dropped. Punter needed on Isle 3.
Fisch has figured out that Cal can stop his running game easily, so he takes a page from last year's spread and puts Weber in the shotgun. The junior QB responds by tossing two pretty passes for good yardage, a comeback route to Stoudemire and a sit down route. After getting sacked on a three step drop, Weber rolls out on his own accord and Decker makes a leaping touchdown catch while getting hammered in HD.
While at the bar, we discussed whether hitting a home run or scoring a touchdown was better. Every guy remembers if they did either (I scored a bunch of touchdowns in JV football while playing wide receiver, but I only hit one home run, 8th grade city league) and I think the consensus was that a touchdown might be just a bit more awesome. Thoughts? This of course stems from Decker and his two sport starring.
Flush from the success of a touchdown drive, the Gophers run a handoff to Decker, who looks to throw back to Weber, but it isn't there. Michigan ran a throwback play for years and the ball would always end up in the hands of comically slow white quarterback who would lope for 40 yards unimpeded. Run for 0 yards, incomplete slant. Kick it away.
Back in the I Form, the Gophers get their first decent runs, but Weber is hamstrung by bad blocking (Jeff Wills, I'm looking at you) and a drop (Stoudemire). Wills getting beat by everyone is a reoccurring theme and I'm sure the coaches know this if I do. But you gotta play someone, even if it's an non-aggressive, semi-useless mountain of a man. Punt.
California's own issues with penalties give Mini great field position and Weber wings one into the endzone, drawing a PI. After Brandon Green makes a circus grab (he's going to be a star), Decker waltzes into the endzone for a wide open pitch and catch with Decker. Touchdown, so easy.
1 yard run, fullback swing pass for three, blitzer comes clean for a sack. Punt. Disgusting opening possession. But a the punt bounces off a Cal players face and Mini recovers. After a two yard pass to Decker, the announcer points out that Fisch is calling "manbeater" plays designed to take advantage of man matchups. Except California is running a zone defense. Well then. An inside screen picks up a first down and Minnesota is poised to take the lead, but Hayo Technology fumbles after a beautiful 11 yard run.
The Gophers are running on first down from the I-Form almost every possession. There is no push and no lanes. Weber is faced with 2nd and long and California brings the house; he escapes three would be sackers only to be tripped up by a fourth. Another inside screen does little and the punter comes out again. Weber never wants to throw the ball away, which is a huge liability. 3rd and 8 is a lot different than 3rd and 17, but his mindset of scrambler gets in the way sometimes. Forcier does it too.
More of The Rivalry Watching You...
Embarking on their best drive of the way, Weber sets up under center in the I Form and precedes to go 4-4 for 45 yards. Driving the Gophers behind a suddenly protective offensive line, he completes short and deep crosses to Decker. +1 points to the coaches for calling crossing routes against a zone. Decker finishes the drive with a sweet toss to Gray for a TD. 21-21. Woah.
After ANOTHER Gopher stop, Weber jams a ball into traffic that miraculously finds Decker. After a phantom PI call on a great throw by Weber (+1 my man), the drive bogs down because there is no running game to speak of. Punt.
Down one touchdown, Weber gets pressured and gives the ball to the other team. No really, I don't want it. You have it. He likes this feeling of giving so much that he does it two more times, sealing the game nicely for Cal.
Stats: 21-32, 226 yards, 2 TD's, 3 INT's, 3 sacks...7-10 QB hurries by Cal, mostly on blitzers coming clean..
Notes: Weber didn't throw the ball away when he needed to, choosing to whip it into traffic...Whenever he got out of the pocket, good or at least better things happened. I would assume the coaches noticed that and will design plays accordingly...The coaches didn't allow Weber to focus on Decker by running numerous trick plays and calling screens. This is a positive change...65% of plays were run under center, which is the mark of Fisch's new non-spread offense...Weber has been hamstrung by the lack of run blocking, which led to 2nd and longs and only 37 total rushing yards. That is anemic...
Conclusion: Let's take a look at our preseason analysis of Weber...
Mechanics don't really explain his bad decision making at the end of last year, but Weber seemed pretty careless with the ball at times, thinking he could jam passes into any opening.
That sounds about right. When given time, he tore apart the 2nd level of California's defense. But when rushed by the fast Bears defense, the results were obvious.
Minnesota has some obvious moves to make. Fisch needs to add an extra running back to block, because every Big Ten defense will throw the house at Weber now. The vanilla dives out of the I-Form, so ineffective all year, need to either be abandoned or altered - Maybe some off tackle out of the shotgun? Adam Weber is a talented quarterback, able to make throws on the run. But until he curbs his self-destructive tendencies, Minnesota will suffer.