Turnovers Key for Gophers

The Gophers still have things to work on, but their ability to force turnovers is keeping them in games and consistently giving them opportunities to win.

Minnesota has an uncanny ability to force turnovers. That asset helps to mask any sort of defensive inefficiency most of the time.

Against Purdue, the Gophers didn't need camouflage — they simply knocked out the Boilers' starting quarterback.

With Curtis Painter sidelined, the Gophers' defense made Justin Siller look like a redshirt freshman seeing his first snaps under center. In point of fact, that's exactly what Siller is.

Minnesota forced four more turnovers, boosting their nation-leading total to 24, and held Purdue to just 276 yards of offense to escape Ross-Ade Stadium with a victory for the first time since 1990.

"They are doing it time, after time, after time," coach Tim Brewster said, referring to his team's ability to force turnovers. "I just can't tell you what it means to us. Obviously we are struggling on offense at times, sputtering at times and our defense kept trying to give us opportunities to do good things."

There is still plenty to work on, beginning with the 13 penalties, including four personal fouls. But for a program that celebrated just one victory last year, the 7-1 start to the season (3-1 Big Ten) and guarantee of a bowl game already seems like a fairy tale.

"Being a senior, it was tough last year to see some of your fellow teammates not get to go to a bowl game, which is what we usually do," defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg said. "We are not comfortable where we are at and we have to keep going and be on the winning side again and keep doing what we are doing."

NOTES

  • WR Ralph Spry, who started the first seven games at wide receiver, was suspended two weeks for violating team rules. He missed the Purdue game and will sit out the Northwestern game this weekend.

    In Spry's place, Brandon Green made his first career start and responded with a 71-yard catch to set up the Gophers' first touchdown of the game. He finished with five receptions for 100 yards to become just the second Gopher to hit the 100-yard receiving mark this season.

    GAME BALL GOES TO: DB Kyle Theret — The bigger the games get, the better he plays. Theret made nine tackles and an interception, keying a defense that was critical to the victory

    KEEP AN EYE ON: The schedule — This is starting to get serious. Minnesota closes the year with Northwestern, Michigan and Iowa at home, plus Wisconsin at Camp Randall. Given the way the Badgers have struggled this year, the Gophers would seem to have a decent chance at winning out, assuring no worse than a second-place finish in the Big Ten. If the Nittany Lions stumble along the way, the Gophers might just walk away with a piece of the Big Ten championship.

    LOOKING GOOD: The six points Minnesota allowed were the fewest the Gophers have allowed in a Big Ten game since shutting out Illinois in 2004.

    The win snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Gophers at Ross-Ade Stadium and was Minnesota's first win at Purdue since 1990.

    QB Adam Weber moved in to a tie for fourth with Rickey Fogge on the career touchdown passing list with 34 for his career — and Weber is only a sophomore.

    STILL NEEDS WORK: The Gophers were whistled 13 times for 133 yards in penalties, both season highs. The most egregious were four personal fouls, one each on Garrett Brown, Deon Hightower, Traye Simmons and Simoni Lawrence.

    The six points Minnesota allowed were the fewest they have allowed in a Big Ten game since shutting out Illinois in 2004.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "It is just huge and they are doing it time, after time, after time. I just can't tell you what it means to us. Obviously we are struggling on offense at times, sputtering at times and our defense kept trying to give us opportunities to do good things." — coach Tim Brewster, on the 24 forced turnovers that lead the nation

    SEASON RECAP

    Minnesota 31, Northern Illinois 27: Duane Bennett scored on a one-yard plunge with 22 seconds left to send the Gophers to a season-opening victory. Bennett scored a pair of touchdowns on the day and helped Minnesota avoid losing despite choking away an 11-point second-half lead.

    Minnesota 42, Bowling Green 17: Quarterback Adam Weber threw for 233 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, and the Gophers put the game away with a 21-point avalanche in the fourth quarter. Minnesota turned four BG turnovers in the second half into touchdowns, blowing open what had been a tight game.

    Minnesota 35, Montana State 23: Eric Decker caught nine passes for 154 yards and a score, DeLeon Eskridge became the first freshman in 22 years to rush for at least three touchdowns and the Gophers improved to 3-0 with the victory over the Bobcats.

    Minnesota 37, Florida Atlantic 3: Freshman DeLeon Eskridge rushed for 78 yards and two scores, the Gophers rushed for 206 yards as a team and the defense kept FAU out of the end zone to improve to 4-0 this year. Minnesota limited FAU to 276 total yards one season after the Owls scored 42 points and racked up nearly 600 yards of offense against the Gophers.

    Ohio State 34, Minnesota 21: For the first time this year, the Gophers lost the turnover battle, and ultimately the game. The Gophers turned the ball over three times, leading to exactly half of the Buckeyes' points (17 of 34). Freshman DeLeon Eskridge had 76 yards on 18 carries and Adam Weber threw for 187 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the loss.

    Minnesota 16, Indiana 7: But for a breakdown in protection that led to a 77-yard TD pass, the Gophers' defense was stout. Adam Weber threw for 274 yards without an interception, completing 13 passes to Eric Decker. Joel Monroe kicked three field goals in the second half.

    Minnesota 27, Illinois 20: Illinois lost two fumbles inside its own 10-yard line that turned into Minnesota touchdowns, as former Illini All-Big Ten tight end Tim Brewster earned the biggest win of his short head-coaching career during his alma mater's homecoming. Illini QB Juice Williams threw for 462 yards and rushed for 41.

    Minnesota 17, Purdue 6: The defense knocked Purdue starting quarterback Curtis Painter out of the game, then limited the Boilers to 226 yards of offense and forced four turnovers in a game the defense dominated. QB Adam Weber accounted for 276 total yards and two scores, and the Gophers improved to 7-1 for the first time since 2002.


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