hredding of Minnesota defense is total Brees

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., —Long after Minnesota’s 38-24 loss to Purdue on Saturday, a white flag with a black “W” hung high above the scoreboard at Ross-Ade Stadium signifying the Boilermakers victory.
On the field, fans young and old tossed footballs around dreaming they could be Purdue quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Drew Brees.
An hour or so earlier those same fans witnessed Brees and his right arm dismantle the Gophers defense. Brees threw for 409 yards and a pair of touchdowns, leading his team to a win in the Big Ten opener.
“I knew where I was going with the ball every time,” said Brees, who didn’t throw an interception for the third-straight year against Minnesota. “I don’t think I made a bad decision.”
Brees was clearly on his game early as he completed his first eight pass attempts.
The sold-out crowd of 67,425 fans watched the senior live up to his hype. But the picture of a dismantled Gophers (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) defense wasn’t painted all by himself.
“Drew Brees is a great quarterback,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said. “In saying that, he’s got an darn good supporting cast.”
The supporting cast was led by Purdue’s offensive line, which prevented Brees from being sacked on all but one occasion. Brees could have ordered a pizza and had it delivered to the pocket.
Brees’ receivers were equally dominant. Of the nine who caught passes, four had a reception for over 25 yards.
By halftime the solid team play of Purdue (3-1, 1-0) gave the Boilermakers a 24-3 lead. Brees threw for just three feet shy of 300 yards in the first half.
“He’s a great quarterback,” Gophers safety Delvin Jones said. “I would nominate him for the Heisman.”
The same praise could not be given to Minnesota starting quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq. The freshman didn’t last until halftime.
Making his first Big Ten start, Abdul-Khaliq was an unimpressive 5 of 12 for 34 yards, which forced Mason to pull the freshman in favor of Travis Cole near the end of the second quarter.
Mason said the move was made due to poor execution on the entire offensive side of the ball, not just at quarterback.
“Don’t make the mistake and say the first half was all Asad’s fault, because it was not,” Mason said.
Although Abdul-Khaliq was the scapegoat, Minnesota’s execution — both offensively and defensively — was dismal all day.
The Gophers were 0 for 7 on third down conversions on their first seven possessions, and just 3 for 14 on the day.
The running game managed just 90 yards on 28 carries for an average of 3.2 yards a rush.
And Purdue’s offense wore down Minnesota’s defense by racking up over twice as many first downs as the Gophers (33 to 16).
“It all comes down to execution, and sometimes you need a change,” Cole said of the quarterback switch.
The change did help Minnesota score three touchdowns in the second half — making the score look closer than it was — but the points wouldn’t have come without a little help from the Boilermakers.
Fourteen of Minnesota’s points came off of Purdue mistakes.
The first Gophers touchdown, a two-yard run by tailback Thomas Tapeh, followed a punt snap over the kickers head gave Minnesota the ball at the Boilermakers four yard line.
Two possessions later, Purdue had a punt blocked by Minnesota’s Trevis Graham giving the Gophers good field position at Purdue’s 14.
A three-yard strike by Cole, the first touchdown pass of his career, to Gophers tight end Ben Utecht was Minnesota’s second touchdown.
The Gophers then added a late score by receiver Tony Patterson to cap the day’s offense.
Despite the 24 points, Mason was not happy with the overall play from the Gophers offensive unit.
“I don’t know if it was the worst (I’ve ever seen),” Mason said, “but it was awfully poor.”
The bad play of Abdul-Khaliq, and a strong effort by Cole (17 of 27, 180 yards), will give Cole the opportunity to start this Saturday against Illinois, Mason said.
After the Gophers buses had rolled away from Ross-Ade Stadium, fans still remained on the field.
Sprinklers then chased most of the Brees imitators off, something no team in the Big Ten may be able to do to Brees.
The Gophers certainly didn’t.

John R. Carter covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]