Abdul-Khaliq, offense struggles to find rhythm in loss

Brian Stensaas

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.-Minnesota quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq is only in his junior season, yet he has made two starts at Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium.

Fortunately for Abdul-Khaliq, he’ll never be forced to see it again.

Abdul-Khaliq ended up with two of his most forgettable performances in the stadium, including Saturday’s 28-15 downing by the Boilermakers.

The junior finished Saturday’s game with 233 yards – his second largest yardage total this season – and one touchdown. But he only connected on 16 of a career-high 48 pass attempts, threw one interception and lost one fumble.

Both turnovers resulted in a Purdue touchdown.

“I take most of the blame for this game,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “I wasn’t nervous or shaken. I just didn’t capitalize on opportunities.”

During Saturday’s game Abdul-Khaliq, who entered as the NCAA’s passing efficiency leader, killed nine drives with incomplete passes.

To start the second quarter the Gophers had the ball at the Purdue 21-yard line after blocking a Boilermaker punt. Abdul-Khaliq proceeded to overthrow three different receivers on consecutive plays, forcing Minnesota to settle for a field goal.

Two possessions later, Minnesota recovered a Boilermakers fumble at its own 34-yard line. The Gophers drove, but Abdul-Khaliq’s three straight incompletions in Purdue territory forced Minnesota to settle for a field goal.

“We missed a couple throws, dropped a couple balls and obviously that doesn’t help you out,” tight end Ben Utecht said. “It comes down to execution in all positions, the quarterback, the running back, etc. We just couldn’t get it together when we needed to.”

Abdul-Khaliq has a history of falling short in West Lafayette.

During his freshman season, Abdul-Khaliq started and went

5-for-12 passing for only 34 yards before being benched.

In his two starts at Ross-Ade, Abdul-Khaliq has completed only 21 of his 60 pass attempts.

Saturday, Abdul-Khaliq was overthrowing receivers and misfired on potential touchdown strikes to tight ends Scooter Baugus and Utecht.

Even when Abdul-Khaliq was able to deliver the ball on target, his receivers were unable assist him. Gophers receivers continually dropped balls which hit them in the hands.

Even the normally sure-handed Utecht dropped an easy touchdown catch in the fourth quarter as the Gophers were trying to get back into the game.

“Pure and simple we have to execute better,” Mason said. “When (Abdul-Khaliq) was struggling we had some guys open and didn’t connect. Then later in the game, guys were dropping the ball and that is not his fault.”

Record assault continues

with Minnesota’s ineptitude on offense, kicker Dan Nystrom was able to continue his attack on the Gophers record books.

Nystrom was 3-for-4 in field goals with a long of 49 yards. With his third field goal, the senior tied Chip Lohmiller for first place in Minnesota history with 57 field goals made. The 57 three-pointers also pulled Nystrom into a tie for sixth place in Big Ten history.

Injury update

following the game, linebacker Justin Fraley was on crutches with a boot on his left leg.

As of Sunday, Mason did not know the extent of the injury, but said Fraley is doubtful for Thursday’s game against Illinois.

Running back Marion Barber III did not play Saturday due to a reoccurring hamstring injury. His status for Thursday’s game remains unknown.