Minnesota resumes its schedule with Boilermakers

Anthony Maggio

The wait is finally over for Minnesota’s football team.

After three weeks of practice with no game, the Gophers are ready to take the Metrodome field Saturday for a contest with No. 24 Purdue to open the Big Ten season.

The Boilermakers (2-0) offense has scorched Minnesota in the past, putting up an average of 42.3 points and 566 yards a game – 432 of those coming in the air.

“They’re an excellent football team,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said. “We’re going to have to play a lot better than we’ve played the last couple of years against them.”

The Gophers (1-1) can, however, breath a sigh of relief – after three seasons at the helm, Drew Brees will not be stepping on the field calling signals for Purdue. Brees has passed for 1,124 yards and 10 touchdowns in his three games against Minnesota.

This season, redshirt freshman Brandon Hance has taken Brees’ place. Hance hasn’t put up Brees-like numbers in his first two games, but then again, neither has any other NCAA quarterback.

A noticeable difference between Purdue’s offense this year and last year is how much they throw the ball.

“We have not changed the offense,” Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. “The thing that has changed for us is we have really backed off and we’re not running nearly the amount of (passing) offense that we ran a year ago.”

In 12 games last season, the Boilermakers averaged 44 pass attempts per game and threw more than 50 times in four of those games.

In two games this season, Purdue has thrown an average of 33 passes per game.

Tiller said he would like to pass more, but Hance needs to adjust first. In the meantime, running backs Montrell Lowe and Joey Harris are getting more carries and trying to take the pressure off Hance.

But the Gophers are expecting Purdue to stick with what works.

“They’ve had success throwing the ball against us, so I’m expecting them to come out and do the same thing,” Minnesota safety Jack Brewer said. “If they do run the ball, we’ll be prepared for that.”

On the other side of the ball, the Gophers are facing a Purdue defense with 10 returning starters, including Akin Ayodele, the Boilermakers leader in sacks (nine) and tackles for a loss (15) last season.

Unlike past seasons, Purdue hopes its defense can carry the team early in the season while the offense gains momentum. Tiller is confident Saturday’s match-up with Minnesota will not be a shoot-out as in the past.

“We hope we’re good enough defensively that it won’t be one of those 52-51 games,” Tiller said. “We like where our defense is right now. We are anxious to see if we can step it up and improve next week over last week.”

In the Boilermakers’ first two games, the defense allowed 307 and 266 yards, respectively, while forcing six turnovers.

But as expected, Purdue’s offensive game is getting the most attention. The Gophers will be facing a passing attack for the first time this season, which will be a test for the young secondary.

“As a defensive back it’s a challenge for you,” Brewer said. “You look forward to games when you can go against a team that’s going to throw the ball around. Especially in the secondary, we’re looking forward to it.”

Anthony Maggio covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]