Success in the 2018 Gopher football may depend on the receiving corps. Wouldn’t it be nice if Eric Decker could come back for a few games this Fall? He’s got free time now that he’s retired from the NFL. Statistically Decker (or Ron Johnson) could be the greatest wide receiver the Gophers have ever had, with Eric holding the program record for career yards, and he also has the most receptions (career 277, single season record holder too for 84 grabs in 2008).
Which WR is best is a fun discussion I encourage you to have in the comments, but right now I’m going to transition to Eric’s best game in maroon and gold, October 4th 200
78 vs the Indiana Hoosiers at the Metrodome. It’s memorable because Decker’s 13 receptions despite injury won the game and gave Tim Brewster his first Big Ten victory.
Here is some of Rachel Blount’s recap of the game:
The Gophers had just taken the field to start Saturday’s fourth quarter when Adam Weber, in some apparent confusion, signaled for a timeout as the play clock hit zero. The snap came anyway, bouncing around the backfield while the television broadcast switched to a much prettier scene: computer simulations of the new TCF Bank Stadium being built a couple of miles away...
The junior from Cold Spring has become so valuable to his team that Decker sat out only one series after that fourth-quarter grab. Two Hoosiers converged on him, knocking him silly with a blow to the helmet. He staggered off the field, cleared his head and finished the game, surprising exactly none of his teammates.
”He’s a tough guy, and it was great to see him come back,” said Weber, who put nearly 60 percent of his completions into Decker’s hands Saturday. “Eric puts the team on his back and says, ‘Throw me the ball.’ He’ll find a way to get open. That’s a testament to a good player, a good wide receiver and a good competitor.”
Decker managed to hang onto the ball knowing he was about to be crunched by two defenders. The details were a little fuzzy, naturally, but he estimated he was knocked unconscious for a few seconds.
Maybe it was a knee that crashed into his head, or maybe a shoulder. Decker didn’t know; he weaved off the turf like a guy tanking a field sobriety test, then underwent a battery of cognitive tests on the sideline while the Gophers’ drive fizzled. When they got the ball back 4 minutes later, he slowly jogged back out.
”I was dizzy, and I have a headache,” said Decker, whose 190 receiving yards were the third-highest total in Gophers history. “I’ll be fine. I’m a little banged up, but that’s the nature of the game.
”I did ask to come back in. I try to do anything I can for the team, and I want to win just as bad as anyone. I wanted to be out there with the team.”...
Decker worried more about his quarterback’s health than his own. Weber hung tough under intense pressure and found Decker five times in the first quarter for 49 yards and four of his team’s six first downs. In the third, as Weber was being chased, he saw Decker slip behind cornerback Chris Adkins and hit him with a 53-yard strike that set up the winning field goal.
On the Gophers’ two scoring drives of the quarter, the pair accounted for 93 yards and four first downs. After Decker’s injury, he even absorbed a hit from one of his own -- wide receiver Ralph Spry crashed into him while going for a ball -- and still stayed in.
”I have so much admiration for that kid,” Brewster said. “The toughness he plays with play in and play out, I wanted to run out on the field myself and see if he was OK. He’s that important to our team.”
Woozy as he was, Decker stayed lucid enough to put the proper spin on this victory. The Gophers allowed many scoring opportunities to slip away and must improve to have a chance against better Big Ten competition.
If he clears a medical examination he expected to have late Saturday night, Decker is certain to be a target for defenses as well as for Weber. Decker admitted he relishes the situation and has told his coaches he wants the ball, wants to carry the Gophers as much as he can. They would be wise to keep giving him the opportunity -- and maybe a bottle of aspirin, just for good measure.
”I had a couple of concussions in high school,” Decker said. “Shoot, I just get up and keep going.”