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Breaking Down The Gophers: The Run Game Could Be a Problem For Purdue

TCU gashed Purdue’s defense with their run game, look for Minnesota to go with the same game plan.

Georgia Southern v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

I watched some Minnesota tape so you don’t have to, and what I saw from their run game makes me nervous.

Expect them to use some of the same concepts TCU employed to try and gut the Boilermaker defense. I’m sure Nick Holt has been focusing on stopping the inside run in practice, but it comes down to the Purdue players ability to execute.


You can see the missed tackle in the secondary clearly, and let’s lay it on the line, that was a horrible job of breaking down. No coach in America teaches the stop your feet and dive at ankles technique in the open field, but the line also got demolished on this play.

#58 Branson Deen is lined up outside the left tackle.

#46 Cornel Jones is lined up covering the B gap (gap between the DT and DE).

These two get worked on this play.

The TCU LT invites Deen inside, letting Deen move across his face. Tackles usually don’t want this to happen....unless they are running this play.

Jones in good shape. Deen has closed the B gap at least. Any run is going to have to go off tackle. Jones has to fill that lane.

Deen is no longer a participant in this play. TCU let him go inside and then sealed him to the inside.

Jones is outside, but he’s too far outside. TCU is pulling a guard around to pick him off. He can’t get sealed to the outside.

Jones is now sealed outside and the rest of the offensive line has created a wall, sealing off 4 defensive linemen with 3 offensive linemen.

Holt (nearest to the ball in the blue circle) does a decent job of sliding over but the defensive line being walled off by 3 offensive linemen leaves the right guard to engulf Holt. Purdue’s only hope at this point is Holt getting off the block, but he’s tiny and guard easily moves him out of the way.


The play is well blocked, but that’s going to happen. The main issue is Purdue’s 4 defensive linemen getting blocked by 3 TCU offensive linemen and both linebackers failing to get off the TCU blocks. Oh, and whatever the safety was attempting to do when he dove past the running back and slapped at his shoe strings.


This is a similar concept to the play TCU used to gash Purdue. Minnesota is running it out of a power formation, but they’re inviting the defensive end inside, sealing off the defensive line, and kicking out the linebacker. It’s the same idea.

Just like TCU, Minnesota invites the defensive end inside, and then seals him. Instead of a pulling guard hunting down the linebacker, the Gophers use their tight end, who helped push the end inside and then moved on to the linebacker.

Fresno, unlike Purdue, does a decent job of getting off blocks. As the backside linebacker (orange triangle) beats the guard. You’ll also notice the safety (red triangle) stepping up to try and fill the hole.

Fresno’s front side linebacker (purple triangle) manages to get off his block, and the safety (red triangle) doesn’t whiff (unlike Purdue). The play is still good for 5 yards, but they manage to keep the Minnesota runner out of the end zone.


Look for Minnesota to run this play, and plays with similar concepts to take advantage of Purdue’s young defensive ends. Purdue’s linebackers are going to have to get off blocks and the safeties can’t dive at ankles because Purdue’s line will get sealed off several times on Saturday.


On this long run, Purdue’s defensive tackle gets escorted out of the hole, the linebacker over pursues and gets burned by the cutback, and once again, the secondary can’t make a tackle.

TCU victimized Purdue’s defensive tackles all game. I’ll confess, after Nevada I was begging Nick Holt to play more defensive tackles. Now I see why he didn’t. Purdue has 1 healthy, functional defense tackle. The other guys on the roster just aren’t good right now.

On this play, Purdue has Lawrence Johnson (blue box) at nose tackle and Giovanni Reviere (green box) a largish defensive end, playing 3 the technique defensive tackle.

Cornell Jones has the purple triangle and Ben Holt has the orange triangle.

TCU ran the stretch play to death. On this play they threaten the stretch with the running back, but he’s always looking to cut back into the giant seam between the defensive tackles. The defensive tackles should be working in tandem, but they are stretched way too far apart.

Luckily, it appears Jones is in a good spot to plug the hole and Johnson is crashing down the line after being totally ignored by the TCU linemen.

It appears Purdue is in decent shape to limit this play to a short gain.

Johnson (blue box) is still crashing down the line, in hopes of closing the gap.

Reviere (green box) is still pushed too far to the outside, but he too is trying to recover.

Jones (pink triangle), well, I’m not sure what he’s doing. My only assumption is that he’s keying on the fullback because instead of filling the gap between the defensive tackles, he’s stacked behind Reviere.

Ben Holt (orange triange) is getting blocking by a guard.

Once again TCU is blocking Purdue’s 4 defensive linemen with 3 offensive linemen.

TCU’s running back dials up a burst of speed and it’s all over for the Johnson, Reviere, Jones trio.

Johnson takes out Reviere, and Jones is out of position and can only make a weak diving attempt as the TCU back blows past.

Holt is currently being eaten by a guard.

Notice the two TCU linemen (blue circle) wandering around down the field looking for someone to block. That’s a sure sign that the other team has no respect for your defensive line.

With the Johnson, Reviere, Jones trio all on the ground, 3 new Purdue challengers step up to try and take down the running back.

Holt (orange triangle) is still trying to disengage from his blocker. In theory he should be athletic enough to shed the guard this far down the field.

#2, Kenneth Major (purple triangle) is now in the picture after hustling over from his corner back position to get into the play.

#27, Navon Mosley (red triangle)* is being totally ignored by both offensive lineman, who are focused on squishing Holt. He should be in position to make the stop.

*I can’t see the safeties number, but I’m pretty sure it’s Mosley, since you see the other safety flash into the picture in the next clip. If it’s not Navon, my apologies.

The TCU running back hits the gas, and once again splits 2 defenders.

Holt (orange triangle) is getting crushed by an offensive lineman.

Major (purple triangle) is attempting to....tickle the ball carrier...I’m not sure, but that’s not how I would go about trying to tackle someone running past me, but full credit for hustling into the play.

Mosley (red triangle) is our last hope. It looks like he’s got a decent angle to limit the damage already inflicted on this run.

Welp, that’s not ideal.


This play was a combination of poor positioning and poor tackling. The defensive tackles got pulled apart, the linebacker didn’t fill the gap, the other linebacker couldn’t get off a block, the corner offered a weak slap as the running back blew by him and the safety, well, I’m not even sure what he’s doing once again, but it’s not tackling.

Minnesota Attacking Defensive Tackles

Minnesota likes to operate from tighter formations than TCU, but they still get after your defensive tackles. This play in particular worries me from a Purdue perspective. Fresno does a decent job of making a tackle at the 2nd level, but Purdue, as seen above, doesn’t exactly excel at that skill.

Minnesota loves to bring their slot receiver (blue) in motion and use him as an extra blocker on the edge to get a numerical advantage up front. On this play he is assigned to the linebacker (purple triangle)

It’s hard to tell with the mass of bodies, but Minnesota has defeated the Fresno State defensive tackles.

The defensive tackle (green box) has been escorted up the field. When the offensive line lets you take the inside angle, it means they want you to take the inside angle. They don’t even have to block him, they just make sure he keeps heading the wrong direction.

They blow the other defensive tackle (blue circle) out of the hole with the double team. They have an extra lineman to get that job done because they’re using the wide receiver to kick out the linebacker.

The linebacker (purple triangle) beats the block, but the wide receiver slows him down enough to make him a step late. That’s the wide receivers job on this play. They’re not looking for pancake blocks, they just need the linebacker to slow down a step.

You will notice that the Fresno safety (orange triangle) is coming down hard. He’s unblocked and has to make the tackle.

Oh, look, the safety (orange triangle) makes the tackle. That’s the difference between a 5 yard run and the running back popping out the other end for a big game.


All I’m looking for out of Purdue’s defensive tackles is to stay somewhat in the play and make the reads more difficult for the running back. Minnesota is going to run right at them and try to either get them out of position, or double team them out of the play.

It’s the defensive tackles job to keep the linebackers and safeties clean so they can make tackles. When the linebackers and safeties have an opportunity to make tackles, they have to wrap up and get the Gopher running backs on the ground.

Minnesota is going to challenge Purdue to make tackles at the second level and I’m not confident in the Boilermakers ability to do that consistently enough to win the game.


Minnesota is going to make Purdue prove they can stop the run with their front 6 or 7 (depending on the defense). If Purdue has to commit safeties into the box to stop the run, the Gophers will play action and beat Purdue over the top.

Purdue’s linebackers and defensive tackles are going to have to play much better against Minnesota than they played against TCU for the Boilermakers to have a chance. If Purdue can’t stop Minnesota from gaining 5 yards a carry. The Gophers will be more than happy to keep Purdue’s offense on the sideline along with their questionable defense while they grind out yards. If this happens Purdue’s defense will be done by the 2nd half and this game will get ugly. 5 yard runs will start turning into 30 yard runs like they did against TCU.

Note: I didn’t mention the in-line option TCU used to kill Purdue’s defensive tackles because I don’t see that in Minnesota’s play book. However, if Minnesota has that wrinkle, it’s going to be big trouble for Purdue.

TCU left whichever defensive tackle was playing next to Watt unblocked, and ran the option off in-line instead of outside the tackle. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Minnesota at least try that a few times. Purdue didn’t stop it once against TCU.