Things did not go well last week for Minnesota. Our friends over at the The Daily Gopher even called it one of the worst losses in program history, but teams have a history of bouncing back against Purdue, especially Minnesota. Ryan Burns of Gopher Illustrated was also not happy, and he answered my questions about what went wrong earlier this week:
T-Mill: Are you guys okay? What happened against Bowling Green?
Ryan: An absolute disaster on offense. Minnesota’s passing game looked as bad as I’ve seen in years against a MAC defense, and that’s a major reason for concern. PJ Fleck never likes to “open it up” offensively in the non-conference, and it finally came back to bite him on Saturday. Even with the game in limbo for most of the game, quarterback Tanner Morgan only attempted 13 passes. Morgan had one of the worst games of his career, which also didn’t help, but he needs more from his offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach Mike Sanford. The long developing passing concepts as the Gophers struggled to keep Morgan upright didn’t help anything. The offensive line also struggled against smaller and more agile Falcon defenders, which I don’t think anyone saw coming. It was a complete system failure offensively, and there’s going to be a lot of pressure on Sanford to deliver against Purdue before Minnesota heads into their bye week.
The defense was really good for the second straight week, but Minnesota’s special teams continue to be an “L”. A muffed punt, two alignment penalties on PAT/FG with going at the long-snapper, roughing the kicker and so on. That’s nothing new though.
T-Mill: Minnesota’s run game seems to have not missed much of a beat without Mo Ibrahim. Is Treyson Potts basically his clone?
Ryan: Minnesota’s run game should be good regardless of the back, as when this offensive line wants to show up, they can be one of the top offensive lines in the Big Ten. We’ve seen them play up to the opponent against Ohio State and Colorado, and also down to their opponent in Miami (Ohio) and Bowling Green. I’d guess we’d see a better effort this weekend against Purdue.
Mo Ibrahim was fantastic and arguably the best back in the Big Ten, but Treyson Potts is very solid. While Ibrahim wants to stick between the tackles, Potts is more likely to bounce it outside to green and try to get his yardage there. The Gophers will ride him for 25 carries in this game, while also mixing in true freshman Mar’Keise Irving and sophomore Bryce Williams. Irving has proved to be a nice compliment the last two weeks, while you’ll see Williams more on pass protection situations.
T-Mill: The defense has been pretty stout so far. How does that match up against a struggling Purdue offense?
Ryan: They were plagued by big plays against Ohio State and Miami of Ohio, but now that they’ve nixed that, they’ve been very solid. It starts up front though. Minnesota’s defensive line has turned it up a few notches the past two weeks and are generating interior pressure with guys like DeAngelo Carter, and also getting good EDGE pressure from Thomas Rush and Boye Mafe. Minnesota’s stopped the run very well the last two weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see what Minnesota’s defensive coordinator Joe Rossi has dialed up for Jeff Brohm.
T-Mill: Purdue’s own defense has been surprisingly good so far. How do they match up against such a run game?
Ryan: Depends which Minnesota offense shows up in West Lafayette. Minnesota put up 30+ points in each of their first three games, and then laid an egg against Bowling Green this past weekend. They lost their best receiver on the first play of the game in Chris Autman-Bell, as he tweaked an ankle, but PJ Fleck said on Monday that Autman-Bell practiced on Sunday, so that’s promising for his availability this weekend. Minnesota needs their passing game to get off the ground and compliment the running game.
T-Mill: Does this game end in negative points with both offenses struggling?
Ryan: Recent history would tell you there’s a lot of points in this game, but to your point, it feels like the first one to 24-28 points wins. Purdue is beat up in the skill positions, and I have questions about their offensive line holding up against Minnesota’s defensive line. But Minnesota also just threw up an “air ball” against Bowling Green, and this Boilermaker defense is much improved, plus Karlaftis is 100% health-wise. Fleck has been able to pull it out the last three years against Brohm, but this thing comes down to Minnesota’s offense. If they show up through the air, I feel good about the Gophers chances with how battered Purdue’s skill position guys are. If they don’t, we could see a repeat of the Purdue game from last week where the under will hit hard.