Decker sidelined for Wisconsin game

Austin Cumblad

Uh oh.

Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster just announced at his weekly Tuesday press conerence that star wide receiver Eric Decker will be kept out of Saturday’s game at Wisconsin.  The junior has been nursing a high ankle sprain since the third quarter against Northwestern on Nov. 1.  "Obviously, it’s a disappointment for us, for our team," Brewster said.  "But he’s just not healthy right now and we need to get him healthy."

Not to be alarmist, but this is a huge blow to the Gophers’ offense.  It’s done next to nothing since Decker went down.  Though Decker tried to tough it out the rest of the game against Northwestern and for the first quarter and a few minutes of the second against Michigan, when he hasn’t been at 100%, neither has Minnesota.  When he was healthy, it didn’t matter how many defensive backs opponents assigned to Decker, he still managed to get open.

Looking at the depth chart, it seems more young guys will be asked to fill the shoes of a big playmaker.  Just like true freshman Deleon Eskridge earning the starting running back job when junior Duane Bennett was lost for the season, true freshmen Brodrick Smith and Brandon Green are listed as starters along with junior Ben Kuznia at wide receiver on the depth chart.  Sophomore Ralph Spry, coming off a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules, will also surely be asked to do a lot against the Badgers.

The way I see it, whether the Gophers succeed or not will depend a lot on the offensive line, which has been struggling mightily as of late.  Why the offensive line, you ask?  Because to have a chance against Wisconsin, Minnesota needs two things: 1) A viable running game (which it has lacked in recent weeks) and 2) Time for sophomore quarterback Adam Weber to throw the ball (which it has lacked in recent weeks).  Actually, these have been keys for awhile but without Decker, they become exponentially more important.  The way Green has played the last couple weeks leads me to believe that these true freshmen receivers have mounds of potential, but do they have the hands and knack for getting open that Decker does?  There’s no way.  So the offensive line must create some holes for Eskridge to run through (Eskridge must also hit them) which will in turn open up the passing game and hopefully give Weber a little more time to find an open receiver.  The past two weeks, it seems as though Weber looks for someone to hit him as soon as the ball is snapped.  That paranoia has led to a significant dip in his efficiency.  He’ll have enough paranoia without Decker as an option, so hopefully the line can take care of him a little better.

Ultimately, this lenghty analysis leads to one conclusion: the Gophers are in for a tough weekend without Decker.  Let’s see how they handle it.