Homecoming week will likely not overshadow the Purdue defense as it faces a huge test in the Minnesota offensive line this Saturday.
“It’s not anything different, it’s just Minnesota,” senior safety Chris Jefferson said. “We haven’t even talked about homecoming in the locker room.”
The Boilermakers (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) defensive line has remained locked in at practice in anticipation of a literally massive challenge. Each Golden Gopher (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) offensive lineman stands at an average weight of 334 pounds, 20 pounds heavier than the average NFL lineman.
Not only are the Gophers big, but they feature one of the most deep and experienced offensive lines in the Big Ten. In a line that features all senior starters, 10 total players on the line have started throughout their college careers, according to the Pioneer Press.
“This will be the biggest offensive line we have to play to date,” defensive coordinator Brad Lambert said.
That front can present problems for the Boiler defensive line, but redshirt freshman Damarjhe Lewis said he feels defensive line coach Mark Hagen has prepared them well. Lewis and other defensive lineman have been coached to “get vertical,” or push the lineman into the backfield and disrupt running lanes for the running back.
“If we come out and play like we have been playing, the game is over,” Lewis said.
Lambert said he noticed Minnesota will bring in offensive packages with six to seven lineman, giving the defensive line more of a reason to “set the tone” against the Gophers.
In the backfield, the Boilermakers will have to contain running back Treyson Potts. In his last three games since becoming the starter, Potts has averaged 147 yards per game, just seven yards fewer per game than back Mohamed Ibrahim averaged last season. He presents a challenge the defense has not seen thus far in the season.
“It’s a matchup problem,” Lambert said. “He’s a really good back and he makes people miss.”
Lambert has been very pleased with how the defense has tackled so far. The team needs to continue tackling well in order to contain Potts, he said.
Loading the box will be another tactic Purdue tries to give itself an advantage in the run game, Lambert said. That will mean moving hard hitting sophomore safety Marvin Grant down to play a similar role to the linebackers.
Grant has been important to the defense filling run gaps from his position at safety; his aggression is on full display whenever offenses rush the ball. Fans can expect to see Grant and Potts collide hard on Saturday.
Grant said he feels good about defending the Gopher’s passing attack, as the defense still works on “tightening up the little things.”
From the run game and pass game, the safety has improved his play in every game of the season, increasing his tackling totals and his role in pass coverage to the point of leading Purdue in total tackles against Illinois.
“I just wanna take my whole game to a new level each week,” Grant said.