The Gophers football team led NCAA Division I-A in turnover margin last season, and its 14 total turnovers tied for the fourth fewest nationally.
The Gophers rank last nationally in turnover margin through four games this season, and their 16 total turnovers are tied for the most.
For all the criticism directed at the defense -- much of it deserved -- the rash of turnovers is perhaps more troubling because it's out of character for this program in recent years.
Since the 2000 season, the Gophers have finished in the top 11 nationally in fewest turnovers every season but one. They committed 21 or fewer turnovers in all seven of those seasons.
The Gophers are averaging four turnovers a game this season, which puts them on pace for 48 for the season.
One week after committing seven turnovers in a loss at Florida Atlantic, the Gophers had four more turnovers in the first half of a 45-31 loss to Purdue on Saturday.
Gophers coach Tim Brewster benched senior tailback Amir Pinnix after he lost a critical fumble for the second consecutive game in the second quarter. Brewster reiterated Sunday that he won't tolerate turnovers and said he will continue to emphasize ball security in practice this week.
"Ball security is the No. 1 issue in my mind that determines wins and losses," Brewster said. "Until we figure that out, we're going to struggle to win football games. As I state again, those that turn the ball over consistently will not play. We're going to put people on the field who have great ball security."
Brewster said that applies to everyone, even quarterback Adam Weber, who has committed six turnovers in the past two games (five interceptions, one fumble).
"Adam Weber knows that I'm not going to tolerate turnovers," Brewster said. "[Saturday] he had two, and it's unacceptable. It takes away from a lot of the good things that he did and that he's doing this season."
The team's fumbling problem is particularly unusual. The Gophers already have lost eight fumbles. They had not lost more than 10 fumbles in a season since 2000.
Brewster seemed particularly bothered by Pinnix's fumble, which came in the second quarter at the Purdue 14 with the Gophers trailing 24-3. Pinnix fumbled at the goal line last week against Florida Atlantic, costing the team a scoring opportunity late in the first half.
True freshman Duane Bennett replaced Pinnix after his fumble against Purdue and rushed for 81 yards and one touchdown in the second half. Brewster indicated a decision on that position will be made this week.
"We're going to play the guys that don't turn the ball over," he said. "Does that mean somebody is going to start other than Amir Pinnix? That decision hasn't been made yet. But we're going to line up with guys that we feel confident will not turn the football over and hurt our football team in critical situations particularly."
All four of the turnovers Saturday were critical. Weber's fumble led to a Purdue field goal. Purdue defensive end Cliff Avril made a terrific effort on his 43-yard interception return for a touchdown.
But the one that left people shaking their heads came in the final seconds before halftime. Mike Sherels blocked Purdue's 44-yard field goal attempt with 41 seconds left and his team trailing 24-3.
Jamal Harris scooped up the ball and had a clear path to the end zone. With no one around him, he somehow dropped the ball at the Purdue 20. Boilermakers holder Jared Armstrong, who was running 5 yards behind Harris, recovered it.
"I was just absolutely flabbergasted," Brewster said.