After suffering a surprising loss last season, Purdue’s defense is looking for revenge against the high-powered University of Minnesota offense.
“We owe them one,” junior defensive end Derrick Barnes said. “We’re ready to get them back.”
Led by senior running back Rodney Smith, along with a considerably large offensive line, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0) will be looking to pound the ground this week, utilizing their traditional inside-zone scheme.
“We (have) got to obviously stop the run,” said defensive line coach Reggie Johnson. “We have to take pride in owning our gap and stopping what they do best.”
Purdue (1-2) will be going up against the biggest offensive line they have faced this year, the largest member being 400-pound sophomore Daniel Faalele.
“We’ve got to use our speed and quickness,” Johnson said. “You have to be faster, you have to be more explosive, you have to get off (the ball faster).”
Barnes is not intimidated by the Golden Gophers’ size.
“I know they’re strong up front,” Barnes said. “If we just stay in our gaps and play physical and play downhill, I think we’ll do alright.”
Purdue’s defense gave up significantly more points in the second half of both of their losses this year, as well as the Minnesota game last year. The trend is something that Minnesota will be looking to take advantage of once again.
“I think defensive-wise, we had them, and we kind of let it slip away, especially in the second half,” junior safety Brennan Thieneman said.
This year, the Golden Gophers have won all three of their games off of drives in the fourth quarter or overtime and have outscored their opponents by a total of 13 points. Last week, senior wide receiver Tyler Johnson had three receiving touchdowns against South University, his last being a game-winner with only 13 seconds remaining.
Thieneman, who recorded nine tackles two weeks ago against Texas Christian University, is prepared for anything the offense throws at him.
“They’re primarily run,” he said, “but we’re definitely relying on our corners to lock down their outside receivers a lot.”
Purdue’s secondary as a whole did considerably well two weeks ago against Texas Christian, allowing only 70 passing yards. This week, taking on receivers Johnson and sophomore Rashod Bateman as well as sophomore cornerbacks Dedrick Mackey and Kenneth Major may have a bit more of a challenge.
“I think we’ve done pretty well,” Thieneman said. “We’ve obviously had our plays we haven’t made, but I think our secondary is one of our strong suits.”
Ever-present in the defense is the vacancy left by fifth-year linebacker Markus Bailey, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice two weeks ago. Fifth-year linebacker Ben Holt, who recorded 17 total tackles against Texas Christian, has stepped up as a leader in his absence.