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Adam Weber: Axe would mean 'everything'

Adam Weber will leave Minnesota with several passing records and the distinction of being the only three-time captain in team history.

On the flip side, he'll also leave without as many wins as he'd like.

The clocking is ticking on Weber's college career, and the Minnesota senior quarterback knows it. His fifth and final season isn't going like he, or anyone associated with the program, had planned: the Gophers sit at 1-4 after dropping four consecutive home games, the last in heartbreaking fashion to Northwestern.

Barring an amazing turnaround, Weber won't lift the Big Ten championship trophy. But he still has the chance to hoist something almost as valuable: a giant axe that serves as the best rivalry hardware in college sports.

On Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium, Weber has one final chance to win Paul Bunyan's Axe.

"Being a fifth-year senior and the way the season's gone, this game would mean just about everything for me," Weber said. "I've dreamed about holding the axe for a long time. We've been close, and we've never been able to quite get it done.

"This game, we have a chance to do something very special."

Minnesota takes great pride in its four trophy games: the Gophers face Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan's Axe, Michigan for the Little Brown Jug, Iowa for the Floyd of Rosedale and Penn State for the Governor's Victory Bell. But the trophy case at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex is empty and has been that way since 2006, when Minnesota beat Iowa.

No piece of hardware means more to Minnesota players, coaches and fans than the Axe. The significance isn't lost on Weber, a Shoreview, Minn., native whose dad played at Minnesota and who chose the Gophers over Wisconsin in recruiting.

"It's very emotional," he said. "I had a chance to play Michigan only once and we lost, so I'll never get a chance to win the Jug. You come to a university like Minnesota with so much tradition and all the great rivalry games we play in, and to fall short and not win one of those when you only have four or five years to do it, it hurts.

"I feel very confident about this year, regardless of what’s happened the previous weeks. Any time you still have a chance or an opportunity, I feel good we can do something special."

At Tuesday's practice, Minnesota coach Tim Brewster had Weber and senior safety Kim Royston address the team.

Royston brings a truly unique perspective to the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry, as a Minneapolis native who played two years for Wisconsin before transferring to Minnesota. Royston, who continues to recover from a broken leg suffered in spring ball, had this to say in August about the Wisconsin game: "When we win that game and I'm the first one running across the field to grab that Axe, it's going to be so surreal. I think about it almost every day."

Weber directed his message Tuesday to his younger teammates.

"I just talked about how it's a lifelong memory," he said. "We're taking buses out there, so we'll be able to celebrate for a long time on that bus ride home, and the memories we can make will last a lifetime."

Weber expects a low-possession game Saturday, two offenses geared around the power run and controlling the clock. He knows Minnesota will have to seize any opportunity it gets to make big plays, and the Gophers can't lose their focus, especially in the second half.

"I'll do anything in my power to play a solid game and to keep guys focused and concentrated," Weber said. "And when the clock hits zero, hopefully we played a smart, solid football game so that we can run across the field and go grab that thing."