Quarterback Adam Weber ran the ball on the first two plays from scrimmage and gained 17 yards. His legs have been mostly taken away this year in Minnesota’s offensive scheme and both runs seemed to catch the Boilermakers off guard. Will he run more today? Keep an eye on it.
On Purdue’s first two offensive plays, the Gophers racked up 20 yards of penalties with an offside and a late hit out of bounds. Penalties were a major issue a week ago, Minnesota needs to be careful not to let them creep in again today.
The Gophers are swarming in run defense early. Purdue rushed for -5 yards on its first drive, despite one of the better running backs (Ralph Bolden) in the Big Ten. Minnesota is doing a good job of keeping the backs contained on the outside. That said, the Boilermakers converted three third-and-longs on the drive before stalling on third-and-12 and kicking a 43-yard field goal. It’s 3-0 Purdue with 7:36 left in the first quarter. Weber’s two pass attempts thus far have been disastrous. His first, on Minnesota’s first drive, was a pass well behind Troy Stoudermire on third-and-3. His second was an overthrow to Nick Tow-Arnett that was intercepted by Torri Williams. 2 minutes and 18 seconds later, the Boilermakers turned the interception into seven points and a 10-0 lead. MarQueis Gray has attempted his first collegiate pass. It was incomplete, but hey, it’s something. 13:36 remaining in the second quarter – Minnesota has 42 yards of total offense and has yet to move the ball to Purdue’s side of the field. And of course on the drive after I say the above, the Gophers march 84 yards in eight plays to trim the deficit to 10-7 with 6:29 remaining in the half. The highlight: a 47yard pass from Weber to Eric Decker that put Minnesota 1-yard out and in position for running back Deleon Eskridge to pound the ball into the end zone. I was thinking during Purdue’s last drive that Minnesota really needed a defensive turnover to stop the bleeding and keep the 10-0 deficit from growing. Of course, forcing a punt and driving for a score worked just fine, and a turnover a drive later worked as well. Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott looked left, looked left, looked left, then tried to dump it off short to Bolden. But linebacker Lee Campbell stood right in the passing lane, caught the pass that ended up right in his chest and returned the ball to the 2-yard line before Elliott forced him out of bounds. From there it was simple for Eskridge to punch in his second 1-yard touchdown run of the day. It’s 14-10 Minnesota now with just under 4 and a half left in the half. Minnesota wasted no time in the third quarter taking advantage of a 7-yard punt by Purdue’s Chris Summers. Running back Kevin Whaley broke a 28-yard run on the first play of the drive and Weber improvised well on a broken play to dive into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown. 21-13 Gophers. On the ensuing kickoff, Keanon Cooper forced a fumble by Boilermakers return man Keith Carlos which Bryan Klitzke recovered. Five plays later Minnesota stretched the lead to 28-13 on Kevin Whaley’s first career touchdown. He set up the score with a 19-yard run to the Purdue 1-yard line. And the madness continues. Lee Campbell blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt, Traye Simmons scooped the ball up at the Purdue 47 and scampered for a touchdown. This was the first blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by Minnesota since October 21, 1989. Weber throws his second interception of the game two plays into the fourth quarter, though I doubt this one will haunt him quite as much as some others, considering the Gophers lead 35-13. Perhaps the biggest coverage breakdown in the history of coverage breakdowns. Elliott found Keith Smith for a 61-yard touchdown pass, but Smith had no one within 20 yards of him when he caught the ball well downfield and trotted to the end zone. Trot is understatement of his speed. He had no need to run any faster.