MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Adam Weber's career-high 51 attempts were far too many.
Though Minnesota missed many chances in Saturday's loss to Northwestern, a lack of balance on offense was a big problem. The Gophers rushed for only 68 yards, 53 of those by their sophomore quarterback.
Weber passed for 327 yards and a touchdown, but he had trouble finding a rhythm and his last-second interception was returned by the Wildcats for the winning score in the 24-17 decision that pushed the Gophers out of the national rankings.
``We're not Texas Tech,'' Weber said. ``We're not a team that we're going to throw the ball at you all the time and be successful doing that. We need to establish a running game. We were able to do that at times and we had a couple good drives, but it just seemed right when we got close ... we just couldn't execute. We couldn't put the ball in the end zone or put the ball through the uprights.
``Frustrating.''
hers (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten), a significant improvement over the 19 times he was picked off as a freshman. Despite continuing to beat his body up as he scrambles down the field, looking like he's been in a car wreck with scratches on his face and arms and playing through a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery, Weber has given the Gophers the dual threat they need to be successful in the spread offense.
But when the running attack is untracked, especially against a hard-hitting and formidable defense like Northwestern's, it's not enough. The Wildcats had wide receiver Eric Decker well covered, too, which made finding open targets trickier than usual.
The young offensive line has been constantly shuffling this season - mostly due to injuries, but also performance - and that's the first improvement Minnesota needs to finally make that New Year's Day bowl game a reality.
``We've got to be more physical to run the ball better,'' coach Tim Brewster said. ``We've got to do a better job of protecting the quarterback. We've got tremendous youth on our team. It's not an excuse. It is what it is. We're not going to be perfect.''
Though the Wildcats are a legitimate bowl team this season, the loss was a clear letdown after the first unbeaten October in the program's history since 2002.
ming Wisconsin and middling Iowa.
``We have a real, really realistic chance of winning our last three games, and that's what we're concentrating on,'' wide receiver Ben Kuznia said. ``Shoot, maybe we go a little bit more under the radar now and teams aren't looking for us as much. We don't mind either way. We're going to still play hard these last three games, and we're going to go and try to win 'em all.''

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