Senior quarterback Adam Weber set a new Minnesota record for career touchdown passes as the Golden Gophers football team fell 32-21 to No. 18 USC.
"It has been an extremely emotional day. We have a teammate who is battling cancer in the hospital. When we left the hotel this morning, we got a text message from a very sick young man. The text message said, 'Shock the World. I love all you guys.' It was from young Connor Cosgrove," Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster said. "Our football team wanted to really do something special today and they poured their hearts and their efforts into doing something special. There is great disappointment that we didn't get the job done."
Weber, who threw for 224 yards and was 15-for-29, passed Bryan Cupito and Asad Abdul-Khaliq on the career touchdown list when he hit junior wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight with a 31-yard touchdown pass to give the Gophers a 14-13 lead early in the third quarter and add a late 22-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver MarQueis Gray to give the senior captain 57 career-touchdown passes and move him two in front of his two predecessors.
"It was one of those things that was bound to happen this season and it's a good thing. But I know at the end of the game it doesn't really mean much," Weber said. "I'm sure when I'm older I'll appreciate it more but right now losing is getting a little old. It's important keeping this group together and winning next week."
Minnesota (1-2) jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and put USC down for the first time this season when junior DeLeon Eskridge capped off a nine-play, 69-yard drive when he charged into the endzone from the one-yard line for his first touchdown of the season with 7:15 remaining in the first quarter. The lead would last only minutes though as USC junior running back Marc Tyler dove over the goal line from three yards out with 1:47 left in the first. Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley hit wide receiver Ronald Johnson with a 53-yard touchdown toss early in the second quarter to take over the lead for USC.
The Trojans' two-point conversion on Johnson's touchdown failed and allowed the Gophers to reclaim the lead on Weber's connection to McKnight midway through the third, but the Trojans would rattle off three-straight touchdowns including a 97-yard kickoff return by freshman Robert Woods following the Gophers touchdown and a 56-yard touchdown gallop by senior Allen Bradford to go up 32-14 midway through the fourth frame. Woods and Bradford shined for the Trojans with almost 300 net yards between the two. Woods paced USC with 155 all-purpose yards (33 receiving yards, 122 kick return yards, while Bradford's long touchdown run ran up his game totals to 131 yards on the ground.
Weber's connection to Gray with 11 seconds remaining the fourth quarter would cut USC's lead to 32-21, but the Trojans hauled in the onside kick attempt and secured the win. Gray would lead the Gophers receiving corps with 98 yards on four catches while Weber's career day ended with the senior finishing Saturday's game going 15-for-29 for 224 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
USC (3-0) tallied 408 total yards of offense but was limited to under 200 yards through the air by a Minnesota secondary that was bolstered by the return of senior free safety Kyle Theret, who forced one of three USC turnovers when he intercepted Barkley in the second half. Freshman strong safety James Manuel set up both of Weber's touchdown tosses by forcing Trojan turnovers in the second half. Manuel picked off Barkley in the third quarter for his first career interception before forcing and recovering a fumble by Bradford to set up the scoring finale late in the fourth quarter.