The Boilermakers (2-1) are heading to Minnesota this week for their fourth game of the season, hoping to bounce back from a 27-20 loss against the No. 19 Northwestern Wildcats.
The Gophers (1-3) are coming off their best season since 2003, going 11-2 in their third year under head coach P.J. Fleck. Talent and experience on both sides of the ball pushed the team to rankings as high as No. 10 in the AP poll. Minnesota earned a 38-31 victory against Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium and a win against then-No. 14 Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
Despite the loss of senior receiver Tyler Johnson to the NFL Draft and the addition of offensive coordinator, former Utah State coach Mike Sanford, Minnesota has been able to keep its offensive consistency alive behind an experienced offensive line and junior running back Mohamed Ibrahim. Ibrahim has rushed for 715 yards on just 130 attempts this season, an average of 5.5 yards per rush.
Purdue co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Anthony Poindexter said Minnesota’s strength on offense is equivalent to last season, despite key changes.
“They’re a well-coached team. I’m not getting tricked by their record,” Poindexter said. “They have a great running back, they’re leading the country in rushing and they have one of the top receivers in the nation in (junior wide receiver Rashod Bateman). We’re going to have to play hard ... and try to match their intensity this Friday.”
Purdue graduate-transfer linebacker Tyler Coyle played in his first Big Ten game against Northwestern last week after going down with a foot injury before Week 1. Coyle said he was excited to be involved in a revamped Purdue defense.
“This is a hard, physical defense,” Coyle said. “I know everyone on the field is going to play hard. I just wanted to get out there and showcase my ability to get the job done.”
Coyle has connections to both Purdue defensive coordinators, having been recruited by Poindexter and co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Bob Diaco in 2016, when both were coaching at UConn.
While he only played one season under Diaco and Poindexter, Coyle said his experience under the coordinators affected his choice to transfer to Purdue. He wanted to link up with coaches he already knew when choosing a school.
Poindexter talked about what Coyle brings to this defense, describing him as a “tremendous athlete” at UConn who could play multiple positions when needed.
“He has a very unique skill set for his position,” Poindexter said. “You can move him around all over the field. He’s also just a great kid. He has great family values, and was brought up the right way.”
Despite the third loss in four years to Northwestern in the Jeff Brohm era, sophomore cornerback Cam Allen said the team is keeping a positive mentality and taking the season week by week, no matter the result.
“You can mourn your loss for 24 hours, but after that, it’s right on to the next opponent,” Allen said. “We’re going to listen to what our coaches tell us to do and keep our mind on Friday. That’s all we’re really worried about.”