Gophers offense limping along in Barker's absence

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2012 - 11:41 PM

The junior wide receiver seemed to have good rapport with QB Philip Nelson. His ankle injury three games ago has proved to be a devastating loss.

hide

Minnesota wide receiver A.J. Barker (82)

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

LINCOLN, NEB. - That must be some nasty ankle injury that A.J. Barker suffered last month. Because Philip Nelson is feeling plenty of pain from it, too.

Barker missed his third game because of an ankle injury so severe that he is still too hobbled to even practice. And the longer the junior walk-on cannot run, the more clear his importance to the Gophers quarterback becomes.

Barker and Nelson seemed to click right away when the freshman took over the signal-calling duties midway through the season, collecting eight receptions, 171 yards and three touchdowns in their first six quarters together. The Gophers offense was as effective as it has been all season, Nelson was being heralded as a teenage savant, and the Gophers were dreaming of upsets to come.

But Barker's last catch, a pretty 63-yard rainbow from Nelson, came with a late bump from a defensive back that traumatized the tendons in the back of his ankle. Though nobody knew it at the time, the season, and Nelson's immediate development, might have been just as injured as that ankle.

"This is definitely a learning experience," Nelson said after throwing for only 59 yards in Saturday's 38-14 loss to Nebraska. "Experiencing what we just went through is definitely going to help down the line."

So would getting Barker back, because Nelson hasn't been the same since. In 3 1/2 games since the DeLaSalle grad went down, Nelson has completed only 30 of 72 passes, thrown for only one touchdown and been intercepted twice (both Saturday). Certainly, facing defenses such as Michigan's and Nebraska's in that time has an effect, too, but Nelson's passing yardage numbers are stark: In six quarters with Barker: 395 yards. In 3 1/2 games without him: 279.

Saturday's game was the worst, though as coach Jerry Kill was quick to point out, Nelson was hardly the reason the Gophers lost. Passes were dropped, the running game was a nonstarter and the Huskers defensive line controlled the game.

"I don't think it has a lot to do with the quarterback," Kill said. "We got beat at the line of scrimmage. Period."

Both of Nelson's interceptions came on passes that went in and out of his receivers' hands; one that was snatched away when Andre McDonald juggled it, the other when Devin Crawford-Tufts couldn't hang on to a sideline pass. McDonald appeared irate with himself on the sidelines, and Nelson went over to console him.

"Andre is a very competitive type of guy. He's going to feel like it was on him, but it was on both of us," Nelson said. "I've got to be able to put it out in front of him better, not behind him, and he's got to make a play. It's both our fault."

  • related content

  • Chart: Missing A.J. Barker

    Saturday November 17, 2012

    Gophers freshman QB Philip Nelson made an early connection with receiver A.J. Barker -- and he clearly misses the injured receiver. Here are Nelson's numbers in the first half against...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - LP: A. Loup 4 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: J. Outman 6
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 1 FINAL
Detroit - WP: R. Porcello 2
Atlanta - LP: G. Schlosser 3 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. Valverde 4
Seattle - LP: T. Wilhelmsen 2 FINAL
Miami - WP: M. Dunn 3
St. Louis - LP: S. Maness 2 FINAL
Washington - WP: R. Soriano 3
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Gomez 2
NY Yankees - WP: P. Claiborne 5 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: H. Bell 1
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 8 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: Y. Ventura 3
Cincinnati - WP: H. Bailey 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: C. Villanueva 2
Chicago WSox - WP: E. Johnson 16 FINAL
Texas - LP: R. Ross Jr. 2
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Chavez 4
Philadelphia - WP: J. Diekman 10 FINAL
Colorado - LP: M. Belisle 9
San Francisco - WP: T. Lincecum 4 FINAL
San Diego - LP: R. Erlin 3
Arizona - LP: J. Collmenter 1 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: J. Wright 4
Baltimore - LP: B. Matusz 5 FINAL
Boston - WP: E. Mujica 6
Dallas 85 FINAL
San Antonio 90
Charlotte 88 FINAL
Miami 99
Washington 102 FINAL
Chicago 93
Portland 122 FINAL
Houston 120
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
NY Rangers 2
Detroit 1 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
San Jose 7
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers men's hockey season

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close