Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill knows what’s at stake Saturday against Purdue (3-4, 0-3) with both teams seeking their first conference win and desperately needing a victory to get closer to bowl eligibility.
“We’re both in similar situations,” Kill said. “We both need a win.”
After going undefeated in non-conference play, Minnesota has scored just 13 points in each of its three Big Ten games en route to a three-game losing streak.
“I think we’ve tried to educate our kids as much as we can, where we’re at, what we need to do,” Kill said. “It’s just like anything else. When things don’t go perfect, those kind of things, we’re 4-3 right now, we have a huge game against Purdue. We still have some goals that we can reach.”
Purdue head coach Danny Hope said Minnesota (4-3, 0-3) has improved from where it was at this time last year, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The Gophers rank No. 6 in the country in pass defense, allowing only four passing touchdowns all year and surrendering only 155.54 yards per game.
“They can bring a lot of pressure, they pressured us a lot last year,” Hope said. “Very physical across their front ... a team that can really hit and a team that has a lot of pride.”
As strong as Minnesota’s defense is, its offense has struggled due to injuries to quarterbacks MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell.
Kill announced that true freshman Philip Nelson will start the rest of the season after making his debut last week against Wisconsin. He finished 13-for-24 passing for 149 yards and was the team’s leading rusher with 67 yards.
“All three quarterbacks are different in some ways,” Hope said. “They have employed three different styles of offenses in some ways. A lot for our defense to prepare against from a presentation standpoint.”
Purdue appears to gaining clarity at the quarterback position as well.
Hope committed to keeping Caleb TerBush in the game to establish a rhythm, and he responded by throwing for 230 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s game against Ohio State.
TerBush is likely to see similar playing time again Saturday, according to Hope.
“I think that we have struggled to have the continuity early in the season, even though we had two senior quarterbacks coming back, two very good players,” Hope said. “That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to have both of those players on the field.”
Hope called Saturday’s game a “one game season” for his team that hasn’t won since Sept. 29 against Marshall.
“It’s a consistency issue,” Hope said. “We have to be more consistent. There’s no question about it.”
Purdue and Minnesota kick off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.