Mason faces QB questions

Michael Dougherty

After a drubbing like Saturday’s 56-21 rout against Purdue, Gophers coach Glen Mason was forced to analyze the play of a team that simply did nothing well on either side of the ball.
His run defense, which was ranked first in the nation, gave up only 88 yards rushing, but the pass defense surrendered an unheard-of 604 yards.
But perhaps the most pressing question Mason will have to answer is who will start at quarterback Saturday against Penn State — Billy Cockerham or Andy Persby?
Cockerham struggled against the blitzing Purdue defense and was yanked at halftime in favor of Persby.
“When the team started putting heat on Cockerham, he’d get frustrated and try to get rid of the ball,” Purdue linebacker Willie Fells said.
While Persby didn’t exactly light things up, he attempted to spread the ball around and showed some surprising mobility in leading two touchdown drives. However, his playing time came when the game was already in hand, so it’s hard to accurately analyze his play.
Cockerham, on the other hand, continues to have trouble finding open receivers who are not wearing the number seven. It’s becoming quite apparent he only has eyes for Luke Leverson, and inexplicably passes up other receivers while forcing the ball Leverson’s way.
In Cockerham’s defense, Leverson did turn in a good performance against Purdue, with five catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns, but the quarterback’s struggles always coincide with the team’s struggles.
“It always goes back to the same thing,” Mason said. “When the offense does good, the quarterback gets way too much credit, and when it doesn’t go good he gets far too much criticism.”
Kicker picks on Wasurick
In an attempt to keep the ball away from potent Gophers return man Tyrone Carter on kickoffs, Purdue kicker Travis Dorsch pooched his kickoffs.
The strategy worked. Dorsch — who had plenty of practice kicking off — helped limit the Gophers to 79 yards on eight returns.
Gophers backup tight end Bo Wasurick, who plays on the kickoff team, had two returns for a whopping 11 yards and fumbled one of them.
“We were terrible in the kicking game,” Mason said. “I don’t know what happened to (it) but I was very disappointed there.”
Shoe’s loose, Bruce
Persby’s first attempted pass came on a third-and-three play. The swing pass was intended for running back Arland Bruce, but was way over his head.
As Bruce reached helplessly for the ball, his shoe flew off. The moment was just one of many embarrassing moments in the blowout.
Purdue backup quarterback David Edgerton entered the game in relief of Brees — who was probably tired after having to run all the way to the end zone to celebrate with his receivers — and made the Gophers look bad on his first pass.
His pass was meant for receiver Robert Tolbert, but instead hit Gophers cornerback Clorenzo Griffin directly in the face mask.
After the play, Griffin lay on the ground with his head buried in his hands, in obvious embarrassment. He wasn’t the only one feeling that way.
“It’s a combination of two emotions — I’m very upset and I’m very embarrassed,” Mason said.
Score some more
With time winding down in the fourth quarter, Purdue was again threatening to score, but Minnesota held them on the downs and took over at the six-yard line with four seconds left.
Mason was asked if he felt the Boilermakers were running up the score.
“I know they tried to get it in at the end of the game, and some guys complain about that,” Mason said. “Joe Tiller (Purdue’s head coach) knows how to run his team, and I’m trying to run mine, so that’s my fault, not his.”
Staggering statistics
A sampling of Purdue’s record-breaking numbers:
ù Purdue scored touchdowns on eight of their first nine possessions, with drives of 93, 80, 68, 71, 78, 72, 31 and 66 yards.
ù The 604 yards passing is a new team record for Purdue, and the most ever given up by Minnesota.
ù Purdue’s spread offense, which has been criticized for its inability to control the clock, provided the Boilermakers with a 37:51 to 22:09 edge in time of possession.