As usual during game week, I have contacted a rival blogger to get to know our opponent better. Tom over at the Daily Gopher was kind enough to answer my questions about the Golden Gophers, including a revelation of their plan for Robbie Hummel. My answers can be found here:
T-Mill: What is your assessment of Kill so far? Are Minnesota's struggles a talent or coaching issue?
TDG: That is an easy question to answer. Minnesota's struggles are talent AND coaching. I'm not putting anything on Kill, the problem is we have a roster full of kids who were not properly coached over the last three years and the result is playing itself out on the field. Overall our talent level isn't what it needs to be but it also isn't as bad as it appears. You can add youth to the list of our problems too. At times during the Michigan game we had a total of eight freshmen on the field on offense. That is not good for us. Kill is trying to rebuild the program which means tearing it down before he can build it back up.
T-Mill: It seems like the quarterback situation is a mess. Should we worry much about the passing game, or are you encouraged by Purdue's failure to stop even mediocre quarterbacks?
TDG: The QB situation is not great and I'm not confident about any game regardless of the defense. The QB problems typically have very little to do with the opponent. Max Shortell is a true freshman who has actually been impressive at times, especially considering he is a true freshman. At times he is making good reads, checking down receivers and completing passes. At times you would never guess he is a true freshman, at other times he looks exactly like a true freshman. His future is bright, but this is a learning year for him. MarQueis Gray is a phenomenal athlete who can kill defenses with his legs, but he really struggles throwing the ball. What compounds our QB problems is that our offensive line is awful. These guys get no time or pocket so they need to make decisions before they are ready and things break down early and often. If we had a reliable offensive line I think both quarterbacks would be looking noticeably better.
T-Mill: Do you agree that the loser of this game likely gets the title of "Worst team in the Big Ten", or does Indiana have a say?
TDG: I think we own that this year. A win over Purdue might change that perception but we lost to New Mexico State who is possibly the worst team in D1 and we lost to an FCS team (for the third time in five years). The programs are in similar positions while having different situations. Kill is in year one of rebuilding so this type of season isn't completely unexpected. He should get this year as his honeymoon season, but he'll need to show an improved product next year.
T-Mill: What does Minnesota have to do in order to win on Saturday?
TDG: They need to play a consistent game doing the little things right. It is less about technical things or schemes, it comes down to playing hard, fast and consistent. This is a game that is not of of reach, Purdue has their own set of issues. But there cannot be any quit and they need to play free. I think if we score early and get a little bit of success on defense early then confidence can grow
enough to sneak out with a win.
T-Mill: Name me one player on each side of the ball we should fear and why?
TDG: MarQueis Gray is to be feared on offense, if he is healthy enough to play. He is heads and shoulders more talented than anyone else on our offense. Nobody else should be feared. Defensively? Same thing, nobody should really be feared. If they learn to trust each other to maintain their own responsibilities then they could play alright as a unit. But nobody individually has stood out as someone who is to be feared.
T-Mill: Finally, poor Robbie Hummel has suffered at the hands of Minnesota twice now. What is this year's plan?
TDG: Well, you'll see is coming when Purdue and Minnesota face off in basketball or football. So this time we might wait until women's volleyball travels to West Layfayette on the 22nd of this month. Beware! Honestly I love Hummel and even I couldn't bear to see him get injured again. I want to play the Boilermakers with him in the lineup, at full strength. And then I want to beat them. I'm thrilled with the Big Ten schedule makers who gave us Purdue just once this year and we get you at home (Ohio State at home is our Buckeye game too, YAY!). With the way the football season has turned, I cannot wait for basketball.