With the Ohio State loss still making Gophers coach Glen Mason sick to his stomach, he now must get his team prepared for Purdue quarterback Drew Brees.
Brees and the No. 18 Boilermakers (5-3, 2-3 in the Big Ten) are coming to town for Saturday’s Homecoming tilt with the Gophers (5-2, 2-2), and he has a wave of Heisman-inducing performances blowing in with him.
In Saturday’s 31-25 loss to second-ranked Penn State, Brees was 31-of-48 for 379 yards and two touchdowns. The week before, Brees threw for 509 yards and accounted for six touchdowns — five passing and one rushing — when the Boilermakers upset then-No. 5 Michigan State 52-28.
And do the 500-odd yards and six touchdowns sound at all familiar? Against the Gophers last year, Brees threw for 522 yards and six scores as Purdue throttled Minnesota 56-21.
“Do I feel comfortable?” Mason said when asked about the matchup with Brees. “No. I don’t feel comfortable.
“I guess haven’t seen all of the quarterbacks, but I don’t think there is a better quarterback in the country than Drew Brees.”
Purdue’s three losses came at No. 4 Michigan 38-12, at No. 21 Ohio State 25-22 and at home against Penn State.
Mason said if the Boilermakers had won the Ohio State and Penn State games, the Heisman people would “be giving him the trophy right now.”
“He’s a great quarterback who has it all,” Mason said. “He’s got a great arm, a great mind, good mobility. I think he’ll be a great pro.”
For the season, Brees is 222-of-365 for 2701 yards and 18 touchdowns. He does have nine interceptions, including four that have been returned for touchdowns. He also was sacked by Penn State’s LaVar Arrington who forced a fumble, scooped it up and scored.
The middle of the Big Ten standings are as muddled as Bob Dylan singing a Metallica song.
Indiana and Michigan State are tied for third and each have more conference wins than Michigan, Ohio State and Purdue.
“That’s the story with the Big Ten conference,” Mason said. “People hear coaches say (the conference is so competitive) but they don’t buy into it. The thing about this league is anybody can beat anybody on any given day. Illinois kicked the crap out of Michigan.
“The old days of the big two and the little eight where Ohio State and Michigan totally dominated the league — those are gone for now.”
Gophers receiver and kick returner Antoine Henderson hurt his right shoulder again in the Ohio State loss. It’s the same shoulder Henderson hurt against Northwestern on Oct. 2.
The coaching staff has been holding Henderson out of contact drills since then, but Mason said he’s starting to rethink that philosophy.
“What’s the sense of getting him through practice until Thursday and then go out there Saturday and take a hit and be gone again?” Mason asked. “Plus, I get nervous about how a guy handles the ball when he’s hurt like that.”
Henderson is doubtful for the Purdue game.
Mason said starting linebacker Justin Hall probably will be lost for the season with a broken leg. Hall will have surgery Thursday and was walking the practice field Monday with no crutches.
Linebacker Curtese Poole did not play again because of a nagging knee injury that Mason said Poole “just can’t get healthy.”
Michael Dougherty covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]