Minnesota looks to bounce back against Purdue

The Gophers will try to stay focused with two tough road games looming.


Image by Matt Mead


by Austin Cumblad

It could be one of those games. One that has implications beyond the Saturday on which itâÄôs played. One that alters the course of the season. And thatâÄôs not to be overdramatic. ThatâÄôs just what the Gophers are saying. Junior quarterback Adam Weber is saying it: âÄúYou hate to say that any one game can change the season, but I think this game has a lot of implications of our future and what type of season weâÄôre going to have.âÄù So is junior safety Kyle Theret : âÄúItâÄôs a huge point in our season; could be a turning point either good or bad.âÄù This is an uncommon rhetoric from Minnesota players. Typically itâÄôs all about one game at a time âÄî donâÄôt look back, donâÄôt look too far forward. Why is SaturdayâÄôs 11 a.m. homecoming game against Purdue different? For one, the Gophers (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) are coming off a heartbreaking loss, 31-28, at home to Wisconsin a week ago. Weber readily admitted that MinnesotaâÄôs sixth-straight loss to the Badgers would sting for awhile. Second, looming just beyond the Boilermakers (1-4, 0-1) are back-to-back road games against No. 14 Penn State and No. 9 Ohio State . âÄúYou want to focus on one game at a time,âÄù senior defensive tackle Garrett Brown said. âÄúBut I can definitely say that I understand that weâÄôre playing two big road games after this, and weâÄôre definitely going to make sure that this Purdue game gets us our confidence.âÄù The Gophers face their third star running back in four weeks in PurdueâÄôs Ralph Bolden . Though he may not boast California back Jahvid BestâÄôs speed or Wisconsin back John ClayâÄôs size, Bolden is averaging 108.2 rushing yards per game, second in the Big Ten behind Clay . âÄúHeâÄôs a real shifty guy, and he likes to get outside and move around and make cuts,âÄù Theret, who has 33 tackles on the season, said. âÄúHeâÄôs different than [Clay], so itâÄôs going to be a different challenge, and weâÄôll try not to let him get out in the open field.âÄù MinnesotaâÄôs defense has allowed 174.6 rushing yards per game . Though that number is at least somewhat skewed with the Gophers having faced Air ForceâÄôs run-heavy, triple-option offense, Best racked up 131 yards and five touchdowns ; Clay went for 184 and three scores . If Bolden and the Boilermakers waltz into TCF Bank Stadium confident that they can put up similar numbers, senior defensive tackle Garrett Brown is equally confident that the defense is up to the task of slowing PurdueâÄôs ground attack. âÄúI take that challenge,âÄù Brown said. âÄúI want them to run the ball.âÄù Under first-year head coach Danny Hope , the Boilermakers have shifted from a pure-spread offense to a multiple-set, pro-style offense similar to MinnesotaâÄôs. The difference is, while Purdue has had success with Bolden, the Gophers continue to struggle to run the ball with their combination of sophomores Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge and freshman Kevin Whaley . Bennett rushed a career-high 21 times for 89 yards and three touchdowns against Northwestern two weeks ago and appeared poised to become MinnesotaâÄôs primary running back. But he fumbled on his first touch against Wisconsin, and Eskridge assumed his role, carrying 14 times for 60 yards . Whaley has seen little action âÄî eight carries for 39 yards âÄî but might find himself in the mix more if the Gophers donâÄôt start averaging more than 96 yards per game on the ground. âÄúTheyâÄôre all very talented, and they all bring something different to the game,âÄù Weber said. âÄúItâÄôs crucial for this offense to run the ball, and when we donâÄôt, we struggle. WeâÄôve proven that.âÄù Davis to replace injured Tow-Arnett Head coach Tim Brewster announced Tuesday that sophomore Trey Davis will start at center in lieu of senior Jeff Tow-Arnett , who suffered a broken bone in his right leg Saturday against Wisconsin and will miss the rest of the season. âÄúItâÄôs really an unfortunate blow for Jeff because everybody knows what an outstanding young guy he is,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúBut itâÄôs a great opportunity for Trey Davis, and thatâÄôs how we look at injuries here. ItâÄôs the next man up, and itâÄôs an opportunity.âÄù Tow-Arnett played the majority of last season despite a torn ACL and had surgery prior to the Insight Bowl . âÄúHe worked so hard to get back and was such a great teammate and will continue to be, but out on the field, what he brought to this offense, itâÄôs going to hurt us,âÄù Weber said. âÄúBut itâÄôs football; it happens. WeâÄôll look for Trey and for D.J. Burris or whoever else is going to step up to continue what Jeff was doing, and that was being a great center âÄî a great leader of the linemen.âÄù