I won’t make any bold proclamations about Purdue’s offense dominating the game this week. I’ll settle for, “won’t keep the Purdue defense from winning the game.” Minnesota has one of the weirdest defensive profiles in the nation. Purdue has the offensive profile of an air raid offense, minus the points.
Something has to give on Saturday. The Purdue offense hasn’t pushed the ball down the field. Minnesota has given up nothing but big plays, but has otherwise been solid, which makes no damn sense. I anticipate O’Connell starting tomorrow to try and exploit Minnesota’s issues on defense. If he can avoid throwing 2+ interceptions, I think it’s enough to win the game against the befuddling Gophers and their sinking boat.
Scoring Offense vs Scoring Defense (Points Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 26 (87th)
Minnesota Defense: 21 (53rd)
If you showed me these stats after Brohm’s inaugural season, I would have laughed and said you must be mistaken, but here we are again, struggling to score points with a coach paid based on his ability to score points. The good news is that Minnesota’s defense hasn’t been great at keeping teams off the scoreboard. A shutout win against a baaad Colorado team skews these numbers.
The real story is Tanner Morgan. He was supposed to be good but he was horibadawful last week in their loss to Bowling Green. I’m talking Rob Henry playing with a degloved finger bad. Purdue can score somewhere between 24-30 points and still win this game. That works with their 26 point season average. BOILER UP (and lower expectations).
Total Offense vs Total Defense (Yards Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 406 (64th)
Minnesota Defense: 273 (14th)
I told you this was weird, Minnesota doesn’t give up a ton of yards, but they give up points. Some of that has to do with turnovers giving the opponent short fields to work with. When a team only has to drive 20 yards to score, it helps the yards per game while hurting the points per game average (if that makes sense).
If Purdue gets short fields off Gopher turnovers, they have to convert them into touchdowns and bury a reeling Minnesota team who has seen a promising season explode in their hands.
3rd Down Conversion Percentage vs 3rd Down Conversion Defense
Purdue Offense: 45% (41st)
Minnesota Defense: 29% (18th)
Another solid stat for the Gopher defense and a cause for concern. O’Connell is more of a high risk, high reward QB, as opposed to Plummer’s steady, low risk, low reward, methodical attack.
Without a running game, it’s up to O’Connell to make enough decent plays in the passing game between big plays to keep the offense on the field.
Rushing Offense vs Rushing Defense (Yards Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 92 (119th)
Minnesota Defense: 77 (12th)
Minnesota has been good at stopping the run, but jokes on them, Purdue won’t run the ball, so it doesn’t matter. I’m a huge running game proponent. It makes the game much easier on offense.
Purdue shouldn’t run the ball (I separated this sentence to make sure no one misses it).
They’re terrible at it. If they try, Minnesota is going to eat it up. Purdue’s run game is irreparably broken and a week of “working on it” ain’t going to fix anything unless they recruited a new offensive line and devised and entire new scheme.
Passing Offense vs Passing Defense (Yards Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 314 (15th)
Minnesota Defense: 196 (45th)
Here we go, let’s pass the ball, then pass the ball, and then pass the ball again. Let’s stop pretending we want to try to reach any semblance of balance and let it rip. Minnesota has given up some big plays in the passing game and if O’Connell gets the start, he might be able to exploit it. If Plummer gets the start, he has to be more accurate in the short game and stop staring directly at his primary read. Defenses are catching on and he’s going to get one of his receivers killed (again).
Yards Per Passing Completion vs Yards Allowed Per Completion
Purdue Offense: 10.5 (107th)
Minnesota Defense: 13
As I showed y’all in my stat review of the Illinois game, this is a Jack Plummer stat. O’Connell attacks down the field. I expect this number to go up against a Minnesota defense who is in the bottom 1⁄3 of teams in terms of giving up chunks of yards. If Plummer is at the helm, he’s got to look past the line of scrimmage and work the ball into the open intermediate areas of the field teams are daring him to exploit.
Either way, we need to get the Minnesota safeties interested in the intermediate passing game to open them up for deep stuff with either quarterback.
Sacks Allowed vs Defensive Sacks (Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 2.5 (89th)
Minnesota Defense: 2.25 (62nd)
The stat is a bit misleading, I’ve been impressed with Purdue’s pass protection considering the other team knows they are passing and can pin their ears back and get after the quarterback on every down. Shout out to Greg Long. I was skeptical about his move to left tackle, but he’s held down the fort remarkably well. I don’t think Minnesota’s defense poses a huge threat with their pass rush. That’s good, because if it’s AOC at QB, you know exactly where he’s going to be in the pocket, and he’s not moving off that spot unless he’s forcibly removed by a defender.
Tackles For Loss Allowed vs Tackles for Loss (Per Game)
Purdue Offense: 6 (87th)
Minnesota Defense: 5 (95th)
Please go back and reread the “don’t run the ball, ever” part of this article. Purdue doesn’t run the ball much, but when they do, they struggle to get back to the line of scrimmage. They should stop trying to run it and try and fix the run game, yet again, in the offseason. I didn’t anticipate giving up on the run game 4 games into the season, but it’s the only thing that makes sense at this point. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of madness. I’m lobbying for a 0 run attempted game, followed by Brohm looking surprised at the press conference after the game and telling everyone Purdue has to make a concerted effort to run the ball while crossing his fingers behind his back.
Later he’ll retire to his office and pay homage to his Mike Leach shrine.
Passing Efficiency vs Passing Efficiency Defense
Purdue Offense: 143.9 (53rd)
Minnesota Defense: 123.52 (59th)
This is what I’m concerned about in an O’Connell led offense. Can he be efficient enough to keep the offense on the field in between big plays? In some ways, Plummer makes the most sense for a team without a running game, because like any air raid team (lets stop pretending at this point, Purdue has almost identical season stats to Mississippi State) the short passing game is a substitute for the running game. AOC is going to have to make good choices and hit the short routes because he can’t run, and the running backs can’t run, and at some point, you’re not going top complete a 10+ yard pass in a set of 3 downs.
Red Zone Offense vs Red Zone Defense (% of Scores Inside the Red Zone)
Purdue Offense: 82% (81st) 17 red zone attempts, 2 rushing TDs, 7 Pass TDs, 5 FGs, 3 misses
Minnesota Defense: 80% (56th) 5 red zone attempts, 3 rushing TDS, 0 Pass TDs, 1 FG, 1 stop
Through 4 games, the Minnesota defense has only faced 5 red zone attempts. That’s crazy. 2 of the rushing touchdowns came against Bowling Green last week. Ohio State put up 45 points against the Gophers and only had 1 red zone attempt (ending in a field goal). Otherwise they bombed away from the outside with big plays.
At the same time, Purdue is bad in the red zone because the field shrinks and the passing game gets more difficult. AOC can’t force bad throws into the end zone. I normally abhor red zone field goals, but against this Minnesota team, they might be enough to carry the day.
My Take Away
This is a demoralized Minnesota squad limping into West Lafayette. Tanner Morgan has been one of the most disappointing players in the nation. P.J. Fleck is having to protect his veteran signal caller because he can’t stop throwing the ball to the other team. If Purdue can jump them early, I think they fold. I watched the Bowling Green game, and buddy, that team didn’t look like they had any interest in winning the game.
I think a change in quarterbacks unlocks some things in the passing game. I know I said Purdue should only run the ball if the fate of the world hinges on them running the ball, but maybe a more explosive passing game opens up the...you know what, I can’t do it....just don’t run it. The run blocking hurts my soul.
The weird thing is, I’ve been down on this Purdue team, but a win over a down trodden Minnesota team puts Purdue at 4-1. Offer me 4-1 before the start of the season and I’d take it. It hasn’t been pretty, but if they keep finding a way to win, it doesn’t matter.
I think they find a way to win.