Minnesota’s record holder Weber relishes final days in Big Ten

Jonah Rosenblum

Considering his hometown of Shoreview, Minn., it’s not surprising that Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber played a little pond hockey growing up.

Still, the rink never had the same appeal as the gridiron did, though he continues to get some guff from friends on the hockey team.

“Hockey, it’s a fun sport, but it’s nothing like football,” he said. “Football is a sport that just kind of made sense to me.”

He’s carried that knack for the game into a reputation as one of the most experienced quarterbacks at the collegiate level. He’ll cement that claim Saturday as he makes his 43rd start for the Golden Gophers, tying injured Houston quarterback Case Keenum for the active NCAA lead at the position.

“It doesn’t happen every day, ” Northwestern defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz said. “I have respect for great competitors and he is one, but it is unusual in that respect. To play for four straight years like that is pretty impressive.”

The Wildcats are familiar with Weber’s skills. In three starts against NU, he has thrown for 854 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Last year, he led Minnesota to a 35-24 win at Ryan Field, completing 15-of-26 passes with two touchdowns and an interception.

“He’s a great quarterback,” junior defensive end Kevin Watt said. “We’ve played against him for the past three years, and when you’re in a game with someone that experienced, you know he knows how to manage a Big Ten game.”

Weber made an immediate impact in Minneapolis, throwing for 2,895 yards and 24 touchdowns his redshirt freshman year. He kept that torrid pace his sophomore season, but struggled in his junior year, throwing 15 interceptions against just 13 touchdowns. His legacy, and starting job, were suddenly in doubt.

Weber again won the spot after spring practice for this season, and now he’s out to prove that he has the talent to back up his experience.

“That’s how I’m looking at this season, it’s another opportunity to get up and prove everyone wrong,” Weber said. “We’ve got a lot of doubters this year, but that’s great motivation.”

Every superhero has his sidekick, and for three years Weber often turned to first team All-Big Ten receiver Eric Decker.Decker, now in the NFL, tore up the Cats secondary the last couple years, compiling 15 catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns in the previous two matchups.

“It’s tough to see him go, but we knew we were only going to have him for so long,” Weber said. “With Eric gone, the ball’s going to be distributed to everybody.”

Decker wasn’t the only departure affecting Weber following the 2009 season. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch left to coach in the NFL and was replaced by Jeff Horton, marking the third offensive coordinator in three years for the Gophers.

“My hat’s off to him in the way that he’s adjusted.” Hankwitz said. “He had to change things and he was still able to be very effective.”

Weber, already the school-record holder in numerous passing categories, is off to a promising start to his senior year. In the first four games, he has thrown for 1,005 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions, and has the highest pass efficiency rating of his career.

“He’s got a great arm,” Hankwitz said. “He’s a nightmare to face.”

That nightmare will end soon for opposing defenses, a reality that Weber said is tough to grasp.

“I have one more opportunity to go out there and play in the Big Ten,” Weber said. “All those things you dream about as a kid, I still get one more season in fantasy world.”

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