Weber sacked early and often in home loss

Minnesota allowed the most sacks in a game since 1998 on Saturday.

Football vs. Illinois

Ian Larson

Football vs. Illinois

Marco LaNave

The Gophers set themselves back in several ways Saturday, perhaps most notably from the line of scrimmage. The Gophers allowed seven sacks in a 35-32 loss to Illinois on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. It was the most sacks allowed by Minnesota in 11 years, and it came against a team that entered the game with the fewest sacks in the Big Ten this season. Junior quarterback Adam Weber said itâÄôs difficult to assign blame for sacks to one or a few players. âÄúSacks mean [that] itâÄôs all 11 guys not really playing well,âÄù Weber said. The Illini had a conference-low 11 sacks in their first eight games this season but broke out on Saturday. Junior defensive end Clay Nurse, who made a career-high seven tackles, helped sack Weber five times and was credited with four sacks. In 28 career games before Saturday, Nurse had a total of two-and-a-half sacks. Weber said the Illini werenâÄôt bringing heavy blitzes, but they still gave the Gophers trouble. âÄúIn some of our protections, we struggled to pick them up, I think, because they do such a good job of hiding them and changing up when they blitz,âÄù Weber said. Weber completed 5-of-17 passes in the first half, missing several receivers when they were open and facing pressure when they werenâÄôt. âÄúHe had some time, but receivers need to get open, and itâÄôs not all on receivers, either âĦ itâÄôs on [the rest of] our offense, too,âÄù said junior fullback Jon Hoese, who scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Gophers head coach Tim Brewster said that WeberâÄôs success depends on the other 10 offensive players. âÄúA lot of times Adam had plenty of time in the pocket [to throw the football],âÄù Brewster said. âÄúWeâÄôve got to have guys separate and get open and present themselves to the quarterback.âÄù The last time the Gophers allowed seven sacks was a loss to Penn State on Oct. 10, 1998. Minnesota has allowed the most sacks in the Big Ten this season. The Gophers are one sack shy of last seasonâÄôs 30 sacks allowed, which was their highest total since they allowed 48 in 1998. Four of the five highest sack totals allowed by Minnesota this season have come in losses. On Saturday, sacks cost the Gophers points and possessions. By the time they were able to overcome them, they had dug too great of a hole. Each of the three first-half sacks led to a three-and-out possession. On MinnesotaâÄôs first offensive play, Weber was sacked by Illini defensive tackle Josh Brent. In the second quarter, the Gophers trailed 14-7 and faced first-and-20 at their 10-yard line. Weber was sacked by Brent and defensive end Whitney Mercilus. The crowd booed the 8-yard loss that set up second and 28 from the Minnesota 2. Weber then threw two straight incompletions. It was the last time in the game that the Gophers had the ball when they were within one score of Illinois, which scored on its next possession. When Minnesota had the ball again, Weber was sacked by Nurse on third-and-9 at the Minnesota 21. Then Illinois, with great field position off a short punt, scored again to open a 28-7 lead at halftime. The Gophers took the second-half kickoff to the Illinois 1-yard line. After a run went for no gain on first and goal, the Gophers tried a play-action pass, but Weber was tackled by Nurse at the Illinois 9. âÄúWe thought we had a really good [pass play] in that situation âĦ for exactly the type of [defense] they were going to play,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúIn that situation, weâÄôd like to be able to throw the ball in the fifth row of the bleachers and not take a sack.âÄù After another incompletion, the Gophers settled for a field goal. âÄúYou have to get seven points [there],âÄù Weber said. âÄúIf I throw that ball away, itâÄôd be third and [goal at the 1] âĦ shoot, we probably stick it in there.âÄù Later in the half, Weber took back-to-back sacks that pushed the Gophers from the Illinois 20-yard line to the 34. The Gophers converted the third-and-24 play when Weber completed a 24-yard pass to senior tight end Nick Tow-Arnett. The next play was a 10-yard touchdown pass to Hoese that made it 28-17. After Illinois extended its lead to 35-25, the Gophers started a drive at their 30-yard line with 5:10 remaining. On second and 10, Weber was sacked by Nurse and linebacker Nate Bussey. The Gophers punted after a third-down incompletion and didnâÄôt get the ball on offense again. âÄú[Sacks are] one of those stats that I think, when you lose, itâÄôs easy to look at, but thereâÄôs nothing to it after this game,âÄù Weber said. âÄúWhen it came down to crunch time, we had a chance to win the game, and we just werenâÄôt able to do it.âÄù