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Minnesota Football: Opponent Preview #7 Purdue Boilermakers


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In the next three weeks as we move closer to the start of the 2014 Gopher Football season, we here at The Daily Gopher will give a quick preview of the Gophers opponents. Next up is the Gophers' Homecoming opponent, the Purdue Boilermakers.

Name: Purdue Boilermakers
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Enrollment: 40,090
Conference: Big Ten (West Division)
Notable Alumni: Neil Armstrong, Sully Sullenberger, Herman Cain, Orville Redenbacher, Benjamin Harrison, Jim Gaffigan, John Wooden, Drew Brees, Bob Griese
Bill Connelly Preview Link: Here!

Last Season:

Awful.  Terrible.  Nauseating.  Odoriferous. All synonyms for Purdue's 2013 season.  With the exception of a 20-14 victory at home against 1-11 Indiana State, the Boilermakers had a rough go of it in 2013 finishing 1-11 (0-8) in Darrell Hazell's first season at the helm.  The numbers don't look any better.  They ended the season 121st in the nation in offense and 114th in defense.  Ouch.

Key Losses:

After a season like last year, its tough to call any player turnover a "key loss". However, Purdue does lose some players who had an impact in 2013.  Quarterback Rob Henry started the season as the starter before being replaced.  He threw for 832 yards and four touchdowns. He then moved over to play some safety for the Boilermakers.  Yeesh.  What may be the downfall for Purdue in 2014 is the loss of four fifths of their starting offensive line.  82 career starts graduated last season leaving a lot of holes to fill to try and protect the players who remain. Of course when your offensive line ranked 104th in the nation, maybe some turnover isn't the worst thing.  Right?

Defensively, Purdue loses both starting defensive ends and its nose tackle.  They were weak up the middle a year ago, but this won't help much.  Will linebacker and leading tackler Will Lucas also is gone leaving a hole on the outside for Purdue.  In the secondary, the Boilermakers will lose Henry at safety and Ricardo Allen at corner, who led the team with six interceptions a year ago.

The biggest blow to Purdue might be losing punter Cody Webster.  He was the top ranked punter in the nation a year ago putting 24 balls inside of the 20 with only a single touchback.  You know, its really not a good sign when your team's best player is a punter...and now he's gone.

Key Returners:

Quarterback Danny Etling took over mid-season for Henry last year and will be back as the undisputed starter this season.  He threw for 1,690 yards and 10 touchdowns, but took 31 sacks.  He will need some help in the run game, and will try and get that from Akeem Hunt.  The Boiler's fast shifty back ran for 464 yards and a touchdown before getting injured.  For a team that ranked almost dead last in the nation in rushing last year, the numbers will have to improve for the record to improve.  Etling will have plenty of people to throw to however, as the Boilermaker's top six receivers and a tight end all are back for 2014.  The question will be one of protection as the only starting lineman, center Robert Kugler will have to play with four newcomers to keep Etling off the turf.

Bill C's Wisdom and Statistical Wizardy

On defense Jack backer Ryan Russell returns after having 5.5 tackles for loss a year ago, good enough for second on the team.  The Boilermakers will have two additional senior starters at the Mike and Will linebacker spots, and with a new defensive line, they can expect to be well used.  Purdue's strength will be its secondary.  Both starting safeties return as do three of their top four corners.  Of course, that advantage only helps when teams need to throw on you, something that didn't happen very often for Purdue's opponents in 2013. Paul Griggs also returns as the kicker.  He was 21-22 on PATs, but his field goal percentages were not pretty.

Question Marks??

Will Purdue win more than one game in 2014?  The signs point to yes.  The team is improved, and the fact that they start with Western and Central Michigan mean that they may double their win total by week two. But they better win early. A game against Notre Dame, and having Indiana and Michigan State as divisional cross-overs, and the rest of the season doesn't look great for Purdue.

The next question will be can Purdue protect Danny Etling and get some run out of Akeem Hunt.  Hunt is very talented, but Adrian Peterson would have had a hard time gaining 100 yards behind this line last fall.  With one starter returning, and a couple of Juco players in the lineup this fall, it may be better.  But it still most likely won't be good.

The third question will be if Purdue has another stinker of a 1-11 or 2-10 season, does Darrell Hazell start feeling some heat.  Purdue let Joe Tiller go for quite a while, but it wasn't this bad. Hazell had some success at Kent State, but unless he can show it soon at Purdue, he may need to go back to the MAC to find success again.

What Does It All Mean For Minnesota?

The Gophers didn't get to play Purdue last season, but I'm sure they won't mind playing them this year.  The Gophers should be able to dominate Purdue with their run game.  The Boilermakers will not be strong up the middle, and that should pay dividends for David Cobb and Company.  Defensively, if the Gophers can get a good pass rush on Etling, it should be easy pickins all day.  Purdue's run game has not shown anything lately, and the Gophers should be able to control the game from all sides.

Final Analysis:

This is a game the Gophers should cruise through.  It would be nice to see Minnesota pull ahead early and just put the hammer down on a Big Ten team.  This will most likely be their opportunity.  The run game should be there for big gains, and Mitch Leidner shouldn't have to do much but hit open receivers if they bring seven or eight up in the box.  The Gophers secondary should have no trouble with the Boilermakers receivers, and Etling should be running for his life most of the game.  Minnesota runs away with this one 44-10.