Since opening the season with a win at Middle Tennessee, the Gophers have dropped five consecutive decisions, four of which came at home. The losing skid began with a shocking home loss to South Dakota State and continued with a 41-23 setback at nationally-ranked Wisconsin last weekend. Minnesota is now 0-2 in the Big Ten and still has Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa left on its schedule, so there isn’t much to look forward too this team.
Purdue meanwhile, rebounded from a surprising 31-20 home loss to Toledo with a 20-17 victory at Northwestern in its Big Ten opener last weekend. The Boilermakers have now won three of four games since an opening loss to Notre Dame, and the team could certainly use a victory this weekend with a daunting league schedule still ahead.
As for the all-time series, Minnesota extended its lead to 33-30-3 with a 35-20 triumph over Purdue in last season’s meeting.
Adam Weber was one of the few bright spots for Minnesota in last weekend’s loss to Wisconsin, as he threw for 249 yards and three TDs. He completed just 11-of-25 pass attempts and two of his scores came when the game was out of reach, but Weber continues to be solid for the Gophers, tossing 12 TDs against four INTs for the season. Three players have already logged over 20 catches and 300 receiving yards for Minnesota, as Weber has done a nice job getting everyone involved. Da’Jon McKnight is part of the trio and he had two TD grabs last weekend, giving him a team-high five for the season. In the backfield, the Gophers rely on a pair of runners in Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge, who have combined for 714 yards. Eskridge had 72 yards on 21 carries last weekend, but Minnesota was held to just 96 yards on the ground, well below its season average of 154.3 ypg.
Minnesota’s defense continues to get abused during the team’s losing streak, as Wisconsin racked up 473 total yards of offense. The run defense continues to be a problem for the Gophers, who gave up 250 yards and five TDs on the ground to Wisconsin. Minnesota is now allowing 221.5 rushing ypg and opponents are averaging 5.7 yards per carry against this suspect defense, which has also surrendered 15 scores on the ground. Gary Tinsley was one of the few players that showed up for the defense last weekend, as he racked up 14 tackles, giving him a team-best 46 stops for the season.
Making his first career start, redshirt QB Rob Henry rushed for 132 yards and a score in leading Purdue to a 20-17 win at Northwestern. Henry was part of a mix that helped Purdue gain 232 yards on the ground, slightly above its season average of 196.8 ypg. The young gunslinger struggled through the air with 47 yards and an INT and he will need to improve in that area going forward. Henry was thrust into the starting role after Robert Marve suffered a season-ending ACL tear last game. He currently leads the team with 299 yards on the ground. Ranking second is Dan Dierking, who has amassed 227 yards and three TDs. Dierking had just 22 yards last weekend, but he scored the game-winning TD on a seven-yard run with just under four minutes to play.
Purdue allowed 389 total yards to Northwestern, but benefited from a blocked and missed field goal in the fourth quarter. The unit was stout versus the run, allowing just 83 yards on 42 attempts, but struggled versus the pass, permitting Northwestern to complete 30-of-41 tosses for 305 yards. That has been the story this season for the Boilermakers, who are giving up 135.2 ypg on the ground compared to 222.2 ypg through the air. The defense though, has been able to bring the pressure, posting 16 sacks, including five last weekend. Ryan Kerrigan had four tackles and a sack last weekend and he continues to be outstanding for Purdue, leading the team with 38 tackles, 13 TFLs, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles for the season.
Minnesota hasn’t been able to slow down anyone on the ground and that should help Purdue come away with the victory even without an experienced QB running the show.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Purdue 34, Minnesota 24