The Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-4) hit the road in an attempt to salvage their season against the Purdue Boilermakers (2-7) at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in West Lafayette.
Can Purdue score on offense?
The Boilermakers have been held to 17 or fewer points in five of their six Big Ten games this season. The lone exception was a 44-point outlier against the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Turnovers and execution have been issues for this offense all season long. Quarterback Hudson Card has thrown eight interceptions and the team has lost a combined six fumbles. Even when they have managed to hold on to the football, the red zone has not been kind to them. Purdue ranks 125th nationally in red zone offense, scoring only 69% of the time in 29 attempts.
A former Texas signal caller, Card is perhaps one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks in the Big Ten West. He has completed 57.8% of his passes and throwing for 1,861 yards with nine touchdowns this season. I wouldn’t categorize Card as a dual-threat quarterback, but he can escape the pocket and extend plays. If that happens against Minnesota, you can bet he will be looking for speedy wide receiver Deion Burks, who leads the team with 32 receptions for 469 receiving yards and six touchdowns. No other receiver has more than one touchdown catch.
On the ground, the Boilermakers lean on former walk-on running back Devin Mockobee, who has 125 carries for 558 rushing yards and four touchdowns this season. To keep defenses on their toes, Purdue will also mix in converted wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr., whose sideline-to-sideline skill set contrasts nicely with Mockobee’s north-south running.
Please tell me the Gophers will be able to score
Purdue head coach Ryan Walters was previously the defensive coordinator at Illinois, and the Fighting Illini have not strayed far from his defensive schemes even in his absence. So the defense you see this week should bear a close resemblance to the defense you saw last week, albeit without a future NFL Draft pick clogging up the middle at defensive tackle.
Where the Boilermakers are dangerous is at linebacker. Senior Kydran Jenkins leads the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks, but sophomore Nic Scourton isn’t far behind with 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks of his own. Purdue is going to be in attack mode against the Minnesota offensive line, dialing up a variety of different pressures using their 3-4 front.
The Boilermakers are also going to play a lot of man coverage in the secondary. You saw Illinois do the same last week and Gopher quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis and his pass catchers had a fair amount of success against them in the first half of that game. To do the same against this Purdue secondary, they’ll need to keep an eye out for freshman safety Dillon Thieneman. He leads the team in total tackles (79) and has three interceptions, two pass break-ups, and two forced fumbles to his name. He is their most dynamic playmaker on defense.
Nationally, the Boilermakers rank 72nd in rushing defense (148.9 rushing yards allowed per game), 89th in passing defense (238.9 passing yards allowed per game), and 103rd in scoring defense (30.6 points allowed per game). Not great for them, obviously.
But who will score more points on Saturday?
After demoralizing losses to Northwestern and Illinois, I just don’t have any faith in this team anymore. Purdue 28, Minnesota 21.