Players to Watch: Minnesota vs Purdue

When the Gophers play the Boilermakers on Saturday, it will be yet another must-win for Minnesota. The Gophers need to stop their current six-game slide and get back on the winning path to finish out the season. To examine the matchup between Minnesota and Purdue, it is important to look at two players who will play huge roles on Saturday.

Purdue: The obvious choice for a player to watch from Purdue is defensive lineman and pass rush expert Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan is arguably the top pass-rusher in the Big Ten and is someone the Gophers will have to stop if they want to get things rolling offensively.

Coach Tim Brewster recognizes that Kerrigan is someone who the Gophers will need to keep an eye on. Brewster said of Kerrigan, "On every single play, you have to have a plan for how you're going to protect against [him]."

Thus far, Kerrigan has had an absolutely dominant season compiling 5.5 sacks, 13 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles. All three stats put Kerrigan at the top of the Big Ten in their respective categories.

Kerrigan is a relentless player who can get to any quarterback. He is a kid who will find a way to change a game whether it be by getting sacks, hurrying the quarterback or demanding a double team. The Gopher have certainly schemed to stop Kerrigan and will need to do so if they want their first conference victory of the season.

Minnesota: After an impressive game last week, look for Da'Jon McKnight to play big role this Saturday. Against the Badgers, McKnight had only two catches but they were both acrobatic grabs for scores. On his first touchdown, McKnight reached around the smaller defender and pulled the ball over the opposing players head as they both hit the ground. Weber found McKnight later in the game for another jump-ball touchdown.

Coach Brewster has stated that he wants to get his big athletic receivers like McKnight more involved. Earlier this week he said, "We wanna give those guys opportunities to make plays down the field. They're both very athletic, tall guys that can go up and get the ball so we'll get the ball down the field vertically some and give those guys some opportunities."

McKnight has had a solid season so far by grabbing 22 catches for 316 yards and a team-high five receiving touchdowns. Adam Weber has found success throwing to his big target of McKnight as well as MarQueis Gray and Eric Lair. Look for a few more passes down field to McKnight to try and gain some quick yards against a tough defense.

To share your thoughts on this article please go to Gopher Football Forum.

To follow on Facebook click HERE

Gopher Illustrated Top Stories