Brees still able to make plays in win

Michael Dougherty

The good ones find ways to win and Drew Brees is one of the good ones. In fact, he might be the best.
Just ask Gophers linebacker Sean Hoffman.
“He’s the real deal,” Hoffman said of Brees. “He’s definitely one of the better, if not the best I’ve ever seen out there. He does what they ask him to do and he throws the ball where it needs to be and makes the right decisions.
“I thought he made a lot of good decisions and when you don’t put your team in bad situations you’re going to come out on top.”
Brees used his much talked about pinpoint accuracy on the Boilermakers first score. Hoffman and cornerback Jimmy Wyrick had Purdue tight end Tim Stratton sandwiched between them in the end zone, but Brees fired a strike and Stratton snared it out of the air for a quick 7-0 lead before the game was seven minutes old.
“We did what we were suppose to do,” Hoffman said. “We had two guys covering (Stratton), but that just shows Brees’ ability to make plays.”
Brees had a ho-hum day by his standards. He was “held” to 28-of-41 passing for 283 yards and two touchdowns, but the important stat showed up in the win column.
In coach Joe Tiller’s third season, the 6-3 Boilermakers are now almost guaranteed a third-straight bowl game, something they haven’t done since the late ’70s.
Brees’ ability to pick apart defenses was apparent especially on third down — the Boilermakers were 14-of-20 in converting them into first downs.
That 70 percent clip is almost 30 points higher than Purdue’s season average of 43 percent. And the Gophers’ stubborn defense has only allowed its opponents a 28 percent success rate in third down conversions this season.
“He’s probably one of the guys you will see playing on Sundays,” Wyrick said of Brees’ future in the NFL.

Boo-birds bore Mason
The Gophers got the ball with 2:02 left in the first half and trailing 10-7. But instead of trying to strike quickly, Gophers coach Glen Mason elected to run out the clock and the crowd of 48,869 was not happy.
But Mason had some strong feelings about the scenario and vowed to do it again.
“The last thing I wanted to do was give Purdue the ball back with time on the clock,” he said. “They’re too good. I heard everybody booing and that’s why you’re asking the question. I don’t care. I didn’t want to give up any more points. I was willing to go in at halftime with that score.”
Gophers quarterback Billy Cockerham said he agreed with his coach.
“With that offense, if you give them the short field and some time left on the clock they’re going to do something with it,” he said. “We’re only down 10-7 and getting the ball back in the second half — it was definitely a smart decision.”

Shush the rush
Life as a Minnesota pass rusher has been pretty advantageous this season. Defensive end Karon Riley leads the conference with 11 sacks and linebacker Ben Mezera has nine.
As a unit, the Gophers defense has 30 sacks and 69 tackles-for-loss. But the Boilermakers only gave up one sack and two tackles-for-loss. Consequently Brees had plenty of time to throw throughout the game.
“I wasn’t even hit in the first half,” Brees said. “I was just getting back there and getting rid of the ball quickly. There’s no need to sit back there, if a guy is open right away just get it to him. The offensive line protected the heck out of me, and I just got rid of it quick.”
Hoffman said using five and six defensive backs to defend Brees limited the pass rush.
“We wanted to get after him some, but you can’t rush everybody and leave the back end open,” he said.

Notes
ù Gophers left tackle Adam Haayer left the game early in the fourth quarter with a leg injury. He has been working his way back after suffering a knee injury earlier in the season. Although the new injury isn’t related to the knee injury, Mason said Haayer is questionable for the Penn State game.
Sophomore Jake Kuppe filled in for Haayer but hurt his ankle. He should be OK for this weekend though. Receiver Antoine Henderson didn’t dress for the game, sitting out with a recurring shoulder injury.
ù Minnesota running back Thomas Hamner’s 166 yards rushing moved him past Chris Darkins into second place in the school’s record books for career-rushing yardage. He now has 3,393 yards. Darrell Thompson is in first place with 4,654 yards. His two rushing touchdowns give him 21 for his career, tying him with Darkins for fourth place on the career list. Thompson leads that stat with 40 touchdowns.

Michael Dougherty covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]