Mistake-Prone Gophers Limp Into Bye Week

Before the Gophers can learn how to win, they have to figure out a way to be competitive. Considering Minnesota has nationally ranked Michigan State, Wisconsin and Illinois on its schedule in the last six games, it's unclear when or if that competitiveness will be seen.

Minnesota was routed 45-17 by Purdue, the second week in a row the Gophers have been out of a game early. Even the 28-point deficit was misleading since Minnesota trailed 24-0 after the first 15 minutes.

"The first quarter was just one of those things where it hits you in the mouth," said head coach Jerry Kill.

The Gophers head into their bye week 1-5 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten. The problems they've been dealing with all season hit early against the Boilermakers. Four glaring mistakes led directly to all of Purdue's points in the first quarter. Running back Donnell Kirkwood fumbled twice, Dan Orseske shanked a punt and quarterback MarQueis Gray's interception was returned 37 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Ricardo Allen.

"We just seemed like we weren't able to fight back after their big play," Kill said. "The backbreaker was fumbling the football multiple times. We certainly compliment Purdue for their aggressiveness to cause those things, but we just can't make mistakes like that."

Nothing positive has happened for Minnesota since beating Miami, 29-24 on Sept. 17. The Gophers suffered an embarrassing 37-24 loss at home to North Dakota State, an FCS team, the following week. Minnesota was overwhelmed by a 58-0 score at Michigan before being crushed again at Purdue.

The Gophers, who don't play again until hosting Nebraska on Oct. 22, are searching for any positive sign as they move forward.

"I thought the effort was better," linebacker Mike Rallis said. "That's how we're always trying to be, playing hard for 60 minutes, regardless of what it says on the scoreboard. We just need to put ourselves in a better situation earlier in the game."

The Gophers have started 1-5 in back-to-back seasons and three times in the last five years (2007, 2010, 2011).

NOTES, QUOTES

--MarQueis Gray's fourth quarter touchdown run was the first for Minnesota's offense since Max Shortell's 20-yard TD pass to Eric Lair in the fourth quarter against North Dakota State on Sept. 24.

--Sophomore left tackle Ed Olsen and freshman left guard Tommy Olsen started together on Minnesota's offensive line for the first time in their careers. Ed Olson left the game with a quadriceps injury and didn't return. It marked the first time the Gophers have started brothers since Jeff Tow-Arnett played center and Nick Tow-Arnett was at tight end against Wisconsin on Oct. 3, 2009.

--Minnesota still leads the all-time series against Purdue, 33-32-3. The Gophers are 4-20 all-time at Purdue.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Marcus Jones -- Coach Jerry Kill wants to give his younger players a chance to show what they can do. Jones made a strong case for more playing time against Purdue. The freshman returned a third quarter kickoff 92 yards for his first career touchdown. Jones had a kickoff return for a TD against Michigan that was called back by a penalty. He also caught one pass for 32 yards, the longest play from scrimmage of his career.

LOOKING GOOD: While it didn't help in the outcome, the pass rush finally showed some muscle against Purdue. Minnesota had three sacks after entering the game with only two for the season. Linebackers Gary Tinsley, Mike Rallis and defensive end Ben Perry recorded the sacks. Minnesota was last in the nation in sacks in 2010.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Gophers need to find a way to keep from getting buried early in games. Minnesota has been outscored 69-3 in the first half of the last two games, including 31-3 in the first quarter. These big deficits throw out any semblance of a game plan and are tough on the psyche of the players.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I knew they were trying to squeeze me into the middle. So I caught the ball and I realized the middle was wide open. I just ran as fast as I could, and then I bounced it to the outside and the kicker couldn't get me." -- Minnesota receiver Marcus Jones on his 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES:

--QB MarQueis Gray, who didn't play against Michigan because of a turf toe injury, didn't start in the Purdue game, but replaced starter Max Shortell in the first quarter. Gray completed 8-of-20 passes for 104 yards and one interception that was returned for a touchdown. He ran for a one-yard TD in the fourth quarter. Shortell completed two of three passes for nine yards.

--RB Donnell Kirkwood, who was limited to three carries against Michigan because of a sore hamstring, had 38 yards on 12 carries versus Purdue.

--K Chris Hawthorne made a career-long 47-yard field goal in the first quarter against Purdue. It was Minnesota's longest field goal since Joel Monroe hit a 54-yarder on Nov. 10, 2007 at Iowa.

--LB Lamonte Edwards, a converted running back, made his first career start and recorded three tackles.

ROSTER REPORT

--CB/KR Troy Stoudermire didn't play against Purdue because of a fractured left wrist. He was replaced by sophomore Chase Haviland, who made his first career start.

--RB David Cobb, who gained 54 yards against Michigan, didn't play in the Purdue game because of a hamstring injury.

--OT Jimmy Gjere missed the Purdue game because of a concussion.

--OL Zach Motta has missed the last two games with a head injury.

--DE Harold Legania didn't play against Purdue because of a foot injury.

--DE Leston Simpson was out against Purdue because of a head injury.


Gopher Illustrated Top Stories