The Purdue Boilermakers will take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in hopes of ending the current four game losing streak that has seen Purdue outscored 133 to 48. An offense that looked promising to start the season has been grounded to a halt with injuries to the offensive line, poor quarterback play, and receivers who don’t have reliable enough hands to catch the ball consistently. The biggest issue is that the big plays Purdue needs to be successful just aren’t there.
The Golden Gophers have had an uneven season with a record of 5-4 coming off a 27-26 loss to the Illinois Fighting Illini. The season has been highlighted so far with a surprise victory over the #24 Iowa Hawkeyes in mid October. The Gophers are going to try and get bowl eligible for the fifth straight season (2020 not counted) against the Boilermakers as they finish the season with a difficult two game stretch against the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Wisconsin Badgers.
Let’s get into the keys for the game against the Golden Gophers!
1 | Score Points in the First Quarter
There aren’t two other teams that will match up with one another that are as poor at scoring points in the first quarter as what you’ll see in Ross Ade on Saturday. Minnesota averages only 3 points in the first quarter, good for 116th in the country. The bad news? Purdue ranks below them with just 2.6 points scored in the first quarter all season which ranks them 124th (surprisingly Nebraska and Michigan State are actually below the Boilers and Wisconsin is just behind Minnesota). Plainly put, these are two bad offenses that fans will have to watch on Saturday.
Jumping out with points early in games has been one of the most difficult things for Purdue’s offense this season, other than converting 3rd and short it seems. Purdue’s highest scoring margin in the firs quarter this season is just 7 points scored against Fresno State and Virginia Tech. In fact, Purdue has failed to score any points in five of their games this season. They have also given up an average of 7.5 points in the first quarter for a scoring margin of 68-23 that favors their opponents.
These poor starts seem to then carry over into the second quarters of games where Purdue is also being outscored by a wide margin of 48-85. That means Purdue is being outscored 153-71 in the first half of games this season. That can be corrected by scoring early and getting an opponent to play from behind rather than trying to play catchup. Really, Purdue has only done that to Virginia Tech and went up 17-0 before holding on for a victory on the road.
2 | Stop Turning the Ball Over & Win the Turnover Margin
Purdue has done a good job of forcing turnovers all season, especially in critical situations. The Boilers currently have generated 14 turnovers for the season, including a season high of four against the Cornhuskers. The issue has been the offense has had a tendency to give the ball right back as Hudson Card has 8 interceptions and 3 fumbles lost while Devin Mockobee also has 2 lost fumbles. Both players also have 7 total fumbles on the season. Those kinds of plays are absolute killers when they are coming from what are supposed to be your two best offensive players.
Purdue has only gone three games all season without turning the ball over but have had really poor days against teams where they had opportunities to win had they not turned the ball over or had fumble issues that killed scoring opportunities. In fact, Purdue has had three games this season with 3 or more turnovers. That means Purdue’s turnover differential sits at just 0. If Purdue is going to win any of their remaining games then Hudson Card and Devin Mockobee can’t be loose with the ball and stifle an already anemic offense.
3 | Hit the Big Plays
Minnesota is sort of built like a less defensively talented and not as anemic offensively Iowa Hawkeyes team. They don’t really do much of anything on offense spectacularly well and their defense is incredibly solid. That defensive unit ranks 51st in passing yards allowed per game (223.9 per game) and 22nd in rushing yards allowed per game (113.4 per game) which places them as the 34th rated defense in the country for total yards (337.3). So what can Purdue do then? They have to hit some big plays which have been severely lacking this season.
Purdue started about as explosive as you could hope with a Deion Burks 80 yard touchdown reception on their first offensive drive of the season. Since then, its been rather offensive. Purdue’s longest play of the season outside of that long touchdown against Fresno State? Forty four yard passes against Fresno State and Illinois. The running game hasn’t been much better either with a season long run of 24 yards happening twice this season (Wisconsin and Michigan).
These big plays for Purdue, if you were to look at those plays that go for twenty or more yards, are just so few and far between for Purdue’s offense. Just twenty eight times through this season has Purdue had a play go for twenty or more yards. Only in the Virginia Tech game has Purdue hit these big plays more than four times in a game. For a team that isn’t built for sustained drives to grind a team down, that isn’t a recipe for success. Purdue is going to have to hit that mark or more to be successful.
4 | Jenkins, Scourton, and Thieneman Need To Have Big Games
Purdue’s defensive stars have been stellar this season, even more so once Ryan Walters took over calling plays for the defense. The defense has been as good as any in the country at generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks and forcing mistakes at key times. As mentioned before, the defense has generated 14 turnovers this season and given the ball to the offense in really good situations. Even with the offense being so anemic, the defense taking the ball away does remove a possession from the opposing offense and even that helps Purdue.
2 B1G players lead the league in sacks with 7.0 each.— Purdue Football (@BoilerFootball) November 9, 2023
They're both Boilermakers ⬆️ pic.twitter.com/jRZhLS9lGR
Jenkins has played at a first team All B1G level this season with 30 solo tackles, 7 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble, and 1 defensive touchdown. Scourton has been almost equally as impressive this season with 26 solo tackles, 7 sacks, and 14 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble. As a freshman, Thieneman has played at an incredible level at one of the most important positions in Ryan Walters’ defense leading the team in tackles with 79 total tackles, 55 solo tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 force fumbles, and 2 passes defended.
The last several weeks have shown some big aspects about Purdue’s program moving forward. This hasn’t been a disaster of a season but it certainly has been a difficult one. Adjustments have been made in the second half of games that show the staff is capable of handling game day responsibilities and schematic changes have occurred at times to help deficiencies. Recruiting has been going great and the program stands to have one of the better classes in recent history. That being said, the confidence in any of these games being wins is incredibly low because the offense is probably the worst in the B1G right now.