Decker takes it on the chin

Banged-up senior wide receiver expects to play next Saturday.

Decker takes it on the chin

Marco LaNave

Senior wide receiver Eric Decker did all he could to bring about a Gophers victory against No. 8 California on Saturday. It nearly cost him his body, as he survived a scary hit on the GophersâÄô first score, and then sat out the last few series of the game as a precaution against worsening an ankle injury. When asked after SaturdayâÄôs 35-21 loss if he would play next week at Northwestern, Decker said, âÄúDefinitely.âÄù âÄú[My] ankleâÄôs fine, just got it rolled up a little bit, didnâÄôt want to risk it too much,âÄù said Decker, who has 27 of the teamâÄôs 61 receptions and 415 of the GophersâÄô 700 receiving yards through three games . For Decker, who has the option of a baseball career âÄî he has been selected in the last two MLB drafts âÄî the physical beatings of football will not deter him. âÄúHey, thatâÄôs why I love this game,âÄù Decker said. âÄúItâÄôs just Saturdays and having the opportunity like we did today, those are memories that canâÄôt be filled in any other arena.âÄù Decker had his bell rung on the first play of the second quarter, when junior quarterback Adam Weber threw to him near the goal line. Decker managed to place one foot in-bounds, but, as he fell toward the end zone, Bears safety Sean Cattouse delivered a hard hit that left Decker on the ground for several minutes, and opened a cut on his chin that had to be stitched on the sideline. âÄúI got one, I donâÄôt know if it was to the head or the stomach,âÄù Decker said. âÄúMade the play, that was the biggest thing, you know. I felt fine afterwards, obviously got some stitches from it, but IâÄôll take a touchdown over stitches.âÄù It was a tense moment for his teammates, though. âÄúNot knowing what the injury was at the time, thinking it was probably really serious, that he hung onto the ball âÄî very, very impressive,âÄù Weber said. âÄúI was just happy that I didnâÄôt kill him on that play.âÄù Head coach Tim Brewster thought the play warranted a penalty on CaliforniaâÄôs Cattouse. âÄúI thought that [the referees] missed a call there,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúAs I looked at the replay, you know, it looked to me like a helmet-to-helmet contact, and, you know, they didnâÄôt call it.âÄù Brewster settled for the chance to have Decker on the field again. âÄúHeâÄôs as tough a kid as there is in the country,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúThis was a big football game for him, and he went out and performed, just like he always does.âÄù That performance was an eight-reception game, with three touchdowns, including the game-tying score on his second career passing touchdown, a 7-yard completion to true freshman backup quarterback MarQueis Gray . Decker also managed to put his name on a couple of entries in the Gophers record book . His 26-yard second-quarter touchdown catch was career reception No. 198, which tied him with Ron Johnson (1998-2001) for the most by a Gopher. Decker passed Johnson with a 12-yard touchdown reception late in the first half, and finished the game with 204 in his career. With 119 receiving yards Saturday, Decker achieved his fourth consecutive 100-yard receiving game , a new record for a Gophers receiver. Tutu Atwell (1996), Ryan Thelwell (1996), and Ron Johnson (2000) each had streaks of three 100-yard games. Decker now has eight career games with 100 receiving yards, tying him with Johnson for third on the Gophers all-time list. Atwell and Thelwell had 11 and nine career 100-yard games, respectively. In his senior season, Decker, who is second in the nation in receiving yards, prefers not to think about his standing among the nationâÄôs top wide receivers. âÄúTo be honest, my mindset is always IâÄôm number two, and IâÄôm trying to work to be number one,âÄù Decker said.