Following loss to Maryland, Gophers Prepare for Purdue

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WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - OCTOBER 07: Minnesota Golden Gophers tight end Brandon Lingen (86) celebrates a touchdown during the college football game between the Purdue Boilermakers and Minnesota Golden Gophers on October 7, 2017, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It was a back-and-forth affair as Minnesota ultimately fell to the Terrapins. What went right, what went wrong, and what does it all mean as the Gophers prepare for Purdue?

Following loss to Maryland, Gophers Prepare for Purdue

The Good

Both tight ends are finally getting more involved in the passing game. Brandon Lingen and Nate Wozniak each had two catches, and Lingen scored a touchdown. Receiver Eric Carter had a fantastic catch for 35 yards that brought the Gophers to the Maryland 1-yard line. Ryan Santoso averaged 55 yards on his three punts.

One other positive: Minnesota took just five penalties for 12 yards. That’s a HUGE improvement over last season.

The Bad

Where to start? The vaunted Minnesota run game managed just 80 yards, while the defense allowed 262 yards on the ground. Conor Rhoda completed just 13 of his 26 pass attempts, and completed two more to the wrong team. Antoine Winfield Jr. injured a hamstring in the first half and didn’t return to the game.

Looking Ahead

Purdue quarterback David Blough has been one of the better signal callers in the conference this year. He’s completing 70% of his passes, with six touchdowns and two picks. This makes the Minnesota backfield issues worrisome. Antoine Winfield is listed as a starter on the depth chart, but he may not be 100%. Duke McGhee, who missed the Maryland game due to a suspension, has rejoined the team but won’t play this week. That leaves freshman Ken Handy-Holly to play alongside Winfield. Coach P.J. Fleck told the Star-Tribune earlier in the week that moving a receiver to DB isn’t out of the question.

The biggest concern, however, is the Minnesota run game. That’s their bread and butter, and they aren’t going to win many games with 80 yards rushing. Rhoda needs to be much more accurate, but it would also help if he didn’t have to throw the ball as much. Whether it’s Rodney Smith, Shannon Brooks, or a combination of the two, the run game is going to be key to beating the Boilermakers. If it can get going, they have a chance. If not, the team will be 3-2.

In summary, as the Gophers prepare for Purdue, they need to focus primarily on getting the run game back on track. Rhoda needs to be more accurate, and the team needs to hope that Antoine Winfield Jr. is fully healthy. The conference schedule gets harder from here on out.

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