Gopher It – the Minnesota Predicto
Purdue last beat Minnesota in 2011, a 45-17 thrashing that gave Danny Hope’s first bowl team a 3-2 record at that point and 1-0 in the Big Ten. Last year, as you may recall, Purdue led 31-20 at the half in Austin Appleby’s second start before collapsing and losing 39-38. Many fans looked at the Minnesota game at home as a potential win at the outset of this season. But Minnesota is a well-coached team that won eight games last year, so that felt a bit….optimistic. However, since then, Minnesota has
staggered to a 3-2 start and their offense has looked suspect, culminating in a shutout loss to Northwestern last weekend and the benching of QB Mitch Leidner.
We’ve now creeped past the one year mark since Purdue’s last (and Darrell Hazell’s only) Big Ten victory. Their last home Big Ten win? Well, believe it or not, that remains Danny Hope’s last game as Purdue head coach, November 24, 2012. Or 1,050 days on Saturday.
Can Purdue break that astonishing string of futility against the Gophers? Let’s see what the guys think.
Northwestern 27, Minnesota 0. TCU 23, Minnesota 17. Which is the real Minnesota team ... or are they both representative of the squad that the Good Guys will host on Saturday?
The Wildcats gave up 19 points to Ball State ... and 16 points to their other four opponents combined, including Stanford and Duke. (Note: they also shut out I-AA Eastern Illinois. That's how that should work. Hmm.) Minnesota runs a low-variance, low-possession offense, which fits right into Northwestern's plan. Purdue's defense, you may have noticed, is not very much like Northwestern's.
TCU has put up more than double their total against Minnesota in every game since, including a blowout of Texas where they probably could have scored 80 if their backups were better. That should be cause for concern. The Boilers looked pretty good against Michigan State and Mark "What second half?" Dantonio last week, but they don't have half the offense the Horned Frogs do, and half of TCU's output against Minnesota would be a small number.
Let's focus instead on the three games in between, all three-point wins for the Gophers. In each one, Minnesota held a lesser opponent to little output on offense, but couldn't muster much on their own, and each time, they had to hang on for dear life or come back late to steal a win. All good scenarios for Purdue, right, because surely they compare favorably to Colorado State, Kent State, and Ohio? Right?
S&P offense: CSU 97th, Kent State 128th (lol), Ohio 62nd, Purdue 69th. So at least at this point, Purdue's offense has a profile similar to the Bobcats, who managed 5.3 yards per play on UM. That's OK, I guess. Could be better. For context, Purdue is averaging 5.21 - 6 gets you closer to middle-of-the-pack, and 7 is pretty much elite. 5 is Northwestern territory.
S&P defense: CSU 82nd, Kent State 13th (!!), Ohio 62nd, Purdue 76th. Hmm. Minnesota recorded 413 total yards and 23 first downs against the Rams, plus they had two turnovers. That's pretty bad. 413 sounds like a lot until you realize they ran 86 plays (remember, that game went to OT), for 4.8 yards per play. Oof.
In short: slow offense, tolerable defense. Sounds like what we expected from the Boilers this year, right? So it is a winnable game. In games like this, between similar offenses and defenses, it frequently comes down to things like special teams and intangibles.
Minnesota 22 Purdue 18 (missed two-point conversions; ain't gonna be no FGs)
I keep saying that until they show me they’re capable, I’m not inclined to call for a victory. Was last week’s performance in the second half against Michigan State a tiny step forward? Or was MSU just being ultra-conservative because that’s what Dantonio does with a lead?
You can make a realistic argument that Purdue showed enough to win against Marshall, Bowling Green and MSU. I’m not talking about moral victories or games where they “were in it for a half,” I’m talking about games where in the fourth quarter you found yourself saying, “Sh-t, self, they could win this.”
Is the next step taking the game by the throat and finishing it? It sure feels like it could be and an outcome like that against a quality opponent this Saturday would surely change some fans’ perspectives on what’s possible this season. But this Minnesota defense is really good and Purdue’s defense has shown at times to have a way of turning pedestrian offenses into something special.
Scoring points hasn’t seemed to be a problem for the 2015 iteration of Purdue football, so I’ll go out on a limb and say that since scoring has been a problem lately for Minnesota that the boys finally put it all together and win a game that will feel like it “matters.”
Purdue 24 Minnesota 17
Aneesh the Swamy:
Hope is a super weird thing. At 1:30pm last Saturday, I was tweeting about the possibility of Purdue Pete growing a soul patch. Needless to say, the only hope I had was that Purdue wouldn’t be a complete embarrassment and get blown out by Illinois and Indiana on their way to another 1-win season.
At 3pm, I was convinced Purdue would scrape together a 4 win season.
That 90 minutes showed what we’ve all been clamoring for from #Hazelball – adjustments, fight, and belief. Markell Jones was a stud, David Blough bounced back after a particularly rough half and no help from his offensive line, the pass rush got to Connor Cook, and Purdue just pieced things together just enough to come within a hair of a program changing upset.
That’s where the frustrations could set in. How many more “near”-upsets, how many more moral victories, how many more self-inflicted mistakes will lead to close games Hazell’s Purdue can’t close? 2013 against ND and Illinois; 2014 against Michigan State, Minnesota, and Indiana; 2015 against Marshall, BGSU, and Michigan State. This program has been so close to “getting that breakthrough win” that even typing that phrase makes me nauseous.
But…you know what? This will be the second wedding I’ll be attending at the same time as a 2015 Purdue football game. Weddings are for happiness, for celebration, for new beginnings, for amazing dance moves. Weddings are the culmination of a ton of hard work, mostly to ensure that all of the attendees have a great time. So I guess Purdue football is the groom, winning is the beautiful bride, Purdue fans are few drunken wedding guests that managed to make it to the venue, and Joe Tiller is the officiant because dammit this is my daydream. Weddings are a perfect moment in time which people can point to and say “that was the start of a special time in my life, and I’m glad we shared it with everyone”.
Or…”holy hell what a mistake why did we ever think that would be a thing why are we even here what are we even doing thankfully annulment is a pretty easy thing to do”.
Just to be safe, let’s check back in on Purdue’s ranking on Tom Fornelli’s Bottom 25 on CBSsports.com:
ALL-CAPS ANEESH IS ALL-IN ON THIS WHOLE POSITIVITY THING. DO YOU, PURDUE, TAKE WINNING TO BE YOUR LIFELONG PARTNER? YES? THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT. LET’S DO THIS.
PURDUE 32 MINNESOTA 24
Expectations have changed, it's undeniable. Purdue is obviously not a power football program, but there has traditionally been pride in getting to that magical sixth or seventh win, playing in an ok bowl and dreaming that next year shall surely bring more wins and more prestige. At least, this is what the Tiller era felt like.
That "next year" only came about once, in a weird set of circumstances that led to a Rose Bowl birth. But what now?
We have become so wrapped up in this mess of a program that when we do finally poke our heads above water we find that dream receding quickly into the horizon. Now, the high bar isn't a Rose Bowl, or to have ESPN come to town on GameDay, but to not get blown out by Bowling Green, or to not have to rely on a late interception to seal a victory against an FCS squad.
Alas, we hold in our collective head two valid truths that remain in conflict. One, that our team, as it truthfully exists today (full stop), has earned the right to no more than the aforementioned goals, and two, it's unacceptable that achieving those milestones count as a notch in our belt at all.
Perhaps that's why the close loss to Michigan State serves to both disempower and to embolden. True, this loss followed a script so familiar it has become learned by rote. But maybe it matters that it came by the hand of a team as well regarded as MSU, their precipitous reputation drop following last week's game surely embodying Purdue's reputation more than their own.
I suppose the truth in that conundrum will make itself known in the coming weeks. This has not been the first time that Purdue has shown itself strong against a singular, talented opponent, only to fall on its face for the remainder of its schedule.
Yet I must draw confidence from whatever I can at the moment, lest my pessimism would surely serve as an indictment of how I choose to spend my precious free time. I'll draw from that well one more time, at least. Perhaps I'll be rewarded this time. But perhaps not instead.
Purdue 23 Minnesota 17
After Purdue fought to simply compete with MSU, I felt pretty good about the possibility of victory this week.
As I thought about it, my confidence was shaken a bit because of what I know my Boilers to be (based on the larger body of work)...but then after talking to a good pal of mine yesterday, I was completely back to 'show me' mode.
A point that he reminded me of was, "There has been no cultural change within the program...so it'll be tough to imagine a change on the field."
I really agree with that...and if you hear the talk out of Hazell and co all but guaranteeing a victory, it's hard for me not to have that sinking feeling. Are they hungry or fat and happy after the most recent moral victory?
I loved Blough's approach to the post game in East Lansing- he was pissed that he couldn't help lead the team to victory...for the second straight week. But Hazell seemed almost happy that they almost won...and players reflect their coach.
There's no doubt that signs of life are everywhere this season...but this program still has no pulse. And until they beat a respectable program, I am forced to consider them dead and demand proof of life.
Purdue's path to victory:
The defense to shut down a bad Minnesota offense.
Jones and Knox to average 4.5 yards/carry combined.
Blough to play like he did v. BGSU
Minnesota 20 Purdue 14