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Minnesota at Purdue Preview

What's that? Purdue can win a football game? A BIG TEN football game?

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Purdue beat a Big Ten team in Ross-Ade Stadium was November 24, 2012. That seems like forever ago now:

  • President Obama had just won a second term
  • My son was still in utero
  • Tom Crean was coaching a top-ranked basketball team
  • The Movement still had four members
  • Danny Hope was still coaching the Boilermakers

Since then Purdue has gone 0-8 at home against the Big Ten by the following scores:

Nebraska 44-7

Ohio State 56-0

Iowa 38-14

Illinois 20-16

Iowa 24-10

Michigan State 45-31

Wisconsin 34-16

Northwestern 38-14

Of those eight games the only one where it felt like Purdue had a real chance of winning was the 20-16 loss to Illinois, which came against a team that had lost 20 straight Big Ten games overall. In only three of those games did Purdue even have a lead (Illinois, the second Iowa game, and a 3-0 lead vs. Wisconsin).

Why am I pointing out all of this? Well, for one major reason that is worthy of all caps hyperbole:


Before the year I thought the Minnesota game was very winnable, even as many predicted the Gophers were a top 25 team. It turns out I was right about they are a one-dimensional offense at best that lost their best facet, and as a result they have struggled greatly to even reach 3-2. Sure, they have a winning record, but they easily could be 0-5:

  • The season-opening loss at home to TCU 23-17 actually looks very good.
  • The Gophers followed that up with a 23-20 overtime win at Colorado State when former Boiler Dalyn Dawkins fumbled on the Rams' possession in overtime. This was after a wild finish that saw the Gophers score with 55 seconds left to take a 20-17 lead only to give up a last second 37 yard field goal. Also, Colorado State is 2-3.
  • They were in an epic strugglefuck against Kent State, winning 10-7 without scoring in the second half. The only points surrendered were an 80 yard fumble-six. Kent State is also 2-3 and was blown out 52-3 by fellow B1G team Illinois.
  • Not to me undone in fighting with MAC teams, the gophers beat Ohio 27-24, but needed a TD with 30 seconds left for the win after a 78 yard drive in 2 minutes. Ohio is at least 4-1.
  • Last week Minnesota was completely shut out by Northwestern 27-0. The Gophers didn't even get inside the Northwestern 30. Yes, the Northwestern defense is excellent, but that is 2013 Purdue bad.

Remember, this is a team Purdue played extremely well last year when they were better and the Boilers were worse. I would even argue we gave the game away. This is an excellent opportunity to actually win and game and build some much-needed momentum for the second half of 2015. Yeah, Purdue probably won't go to a bowl sitting a 2-4 after Saturday, but maybe they can give a few teams hell on the way and get a couple more wins.

2014 Record: 8-5, 5-3 Big Ten

Bowl Result: Lost Citrus Bowl 33-17 to Missouri

Blog Representation: The Daily Gopher

Series with Purdue: Minnesota leads 35-32-3

Last Purdue win: 45-17 at Purdue on 10/8/11

Last Minnesota win: 39-38 at Minnesota on 10/18/14

Who to Watch on Offense:

Mitch Leidner - QB - As of now, Leidner is playing. He has been ineffective in leading the offense, however, and last week he was even replaced by freshman Demry Croft. Leidner is only throwing for 190 yards per game and has four TDs against three interceptions. What's worse is his running game. Last year he was effective with David Cobb on the read option. This year he only has 108 yards and a TD rushing through five games. Part of this comes from an offensive line that has been horrid. The Gophers have given up 31 tackles for loss. The Gophers also start very, very slow, as they have 3 points total in the first quarters of all five games thus far. It should also be noted that Leidner complete just 9 passes against Purdue last season, but he ran for 84 yards.

KJ Maye - WR - Maye has been the one consistent playmaker for the Gophers with 21 receptions for 254 yards and 3 TDs. That's good for 8th in the Big Ten in terms of receptions. Last season he only had one catch against Purdue, but it was a 37 yard TD.

Rodney Smith - RB - What kept Minnesota going last year against the Boilers was 194 yards and a TD on 35 carries from David Cobb. Well, Cobb is safely off to the NFL with the Titans. Smith is his replacement and he has been decent with 395 yards and a TD. The Gophers have just four rushing TDs, however, and only 8 TDs total as a team in five games. By comparison, freshman Markell Jones for Purdue has 6 by himself and five on the ground.

Drew Wolitarsky - WR - If Minnesota is passing they are almost certainly going to Maye or Wolitarsky, who has 18 receptions for 223 yards and a TD. This is actually a varied passing game after last season when Maxx Williams was their leading receiver with 36 receptions for 569 yards and 8 TDs. Instead of having one target on almost every play the Gophers have two now! Of course, the ground game is not nearly as good.

Who to Watch on Defense:

The Gophers are a dismal 127th in the nation in scoring at 15.4 points per game, better than only Hawaii (Who has been shut out twice). Purdue is not great, but at 28.4 per game we look like a high-flying air raid team at 70th. That does not mean a two touchdown win, however, because the Gophers are still pretty good on defense. They are 36th nationally in scoring at only 20.2 points per game given up and they are 23rd against the pass. Fortunately for us, they are 73rd against the run at 157.8 yards per game given up. They also do not have a great pass rush and have only three interceptions as a team.

Cody Poock - LB - The team's leading tackler has 36 stops on the season and a forced fumble.

Jack Lynn - LB - Lynn has been decent at getting into the backfield with four tackles for loss.

Overall there are not a lot of standout players on this defense, but it is a good, solid team unit. Any team that holds TCU to 23 points when the Horned Frogs have scored 70, 56, 55, and 50 in their other four games has to be good. The Gopher defense will keep them in it all afternoon.

Who to Watch on Special Teams:

Ryan Santoso - K - Santoso is 7 of 9 on field goals and beat Purdue with a 50+ kick last season. With our own Paul Griggs struggling and this being a game that will likely be close it is likely a huge advantage to have Santoso.

Game Outlook:

This has to be a win for Purdue.

Here we are, 29 games into the Hazell era and I think we have all had it with the moral victories and the blowouts. This is an excellent chance to actually go out and win a game because Minnesota is not good on offense by any stretch. It is one thing to get shutout by Northwestern. It is something else to only score 10 points against Kent State and barely survive there. The Boilermakers have a favorable home schedule to finish the year on a high note after three close calls against Bowling Green, Marshall, and Michigan State in the first part of the season. Yes, a bowl seems far-fetched, but Purdue has not officially been eliminated yet and the fight shown last week against one of the best teams in the country has renewed optimism. Now is the time to actually build on it by going out and winning a game. After that, who knows what can happen in the second half of the year?

Purdue should be able to run a bit here. D.J. Knox has been a little banged up, but man, Markell Jones is looking very, very good so far. Let those two carry the load and let David Blough keep playing smart, solid football at quarterback and the offense can generate a few points. Defensively it is simple: let Frankie Williams and Anthony Brown handle Maye and Wolitarsky and the other 9 guys can handle Leidner and Smith on the ground.

We should be deeply concerned if the Gophers break out of their offensive funk, especially if they score early. This is a team whose lone first quarter points on the year were a field goal against Kent State. Purdue's defense is not great, but when given a chance to be rested they have done okay. This might be the game where the offense can actually get them a lead and we can open up a few things. If we make Leidner throw and play from behind I am confident that he cannot beat us.