Decker stellar as Gophers go to 3-0

Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster has been saying for weeks that he believes junior Eric Decker is one of the finest wide receivers in the country. With every game the Gophers play, he seems to have a more legitimate case. âÄúCan a guy play any better?âÄù Brewster asked rhetorically on Saturday after the Gophers 35-23 win over Montana State. âÄúI donâÄôt know what more the kid can do.âÄù ItâÄôs tough to come up with an answer. Decker hauled in nine catches on the afternoon for 157 yards, just 5 shy of a career high. He rushed three times for 26 yards. He made a remarkable play in the back corner of the end zone to keep his foot down for a 3-yard score. ItâÄôs no wonder Decker has been the favorite target of sophomore quarterback Adam Weber the last two seasons. A year ago, Decker snagged 67 balls from Weber, a single-season record at Minnesota. Decker led the team with nine touchdown grabs and 909 receiving yards as well. This year, heâÄôs on track to eclipse those numbers. Through three games, he already has 25 receptions, 332 yards and three touchdowns . That put Decker on pace to reel in 100 grabs, 12 touchdowns and 1,328 yards, all Gophers single-season bests. Minnesota heads to Ohio State in two weeks to start Big Ten play and can be sure that the Buckeyes will key on Decker; the Gophers can expect that to be the case with all conference opponents. But if defenses focus all their attention on Decker, it could clear the way for other receivers to make significant contributions. âÄúWhen you have a player that makes the defense think about him, thatâÄôs not a bad situation to be in,âÄù Weber said. âÄúItâÄôs a good one because it opens up for other guys to make plays. There are a lot of guys on this team that will make names for themselves this season that havenâÄôt yet.âÄù Weber concedes, however, that Decker is the go-to guy. âÄúWeâÄôre looking for anybody to step up, but obviously heâÄôs a person who has proven time and time again that heâÄôs the guy that can make the big catches or make the big plays.âÄù So Minnesota must do two things in the coming weeks: Look for more involvement from other receivers while still keeping its No. 1 receiver involved. To do so, the Gophers plan to keep Decker on the move, Brewster said. âÄúWhat we try to do is create matchups to our advantage by moving him around, never lining him up in the same place,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúYou see formations, motions and shifts creating the matchups that we like to see for Decker and never keeping him basically as a stationary target where teams can load up on him.âÄù Clearly, the matchup game has worked so far, but it will also be important for Minnesota to continue rushing the ball well to keep the passing game open. It turns out Decker can do that too. The Gophers have successfully utilized a wide receiver pitch play in their last two games and Decker has amassed 57 yards on just five rushes, a staggering 11.4 yard average carry. He even scampered for a touchdown against Bowling Green. âÄúJust mixing it up and not being a one style offense and being pretty versatile has helped us out,âÄù Decker said.