Giving Gophers keep taking it

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 9, 2011 - 12:05 AM

Minnesota basically handed Purdue a 24-point lead in a brutal first quarter, committing all sorts of mistakes in another painful, punishing Saturday.

view larger photos

  

WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. - Whip them, punish them, humiliate them. Inflict scars both psychic and physical, and even dance a mocking makes-we-want-to-shout shimmy in front of their facemasks. The Gophers absorb it all, climb back to their feet, and respond with a startling request:

More. Give me more.

"I wish we could have played another quarter, just to keep playing," coach Jerry Kill said almost masochistically after his Gophers fell behind by 31 points seemingly during the opening coin flip and walked away after the requisite 60 minutes with their second consecutive blowout loss, 45-17 to Purdue. "We need repetitions, with the youngsters we have playing right now."

It's not fun and it's not sublime, but this is what the Gophers are left with now: Learning how to operate the cockpit controls before they can ever try to fly.

This week's crash came not in the form of a far-superior force, as in last week's 58-0 disaster in Michigan, but in the Gophers' own ineptitude. Two fumbles in their own territory, an interception returned for a touchdown, and a roughing-the-punter penalty that extended a Boilermakers touchdown drive -- all that before halftime, no less -- decided the outcome. But not the day's worth.

"There's some guys who got better today. There's some young guys who played pretty good. There's some older guys that I thought stepped it up," Kill said. "We just haven't done it as a team."

Not even close, not in Big Ten play. The Gophers allowed 372 yards to just 213 of their own, 22 first downs while picking up only half as many, eight extra minutes of possession under a hot, defense-roasting sun. So it's not fair to the Boilermakers to say the Gophers, who used 18 freshmen in various roles, gave a victory away.

But Purdue's first three scoring drives went 39, 36 and 11 yards, thanks to a pair of Donnell Kirkwood fumbles and Dan Orseske's shanked punt, and their fourth first-quarter score was provided by cornerback Ricardo Allen's easy read of MarQueis Gray's underthrown pass and 37-yard return to the end zone. A second-quarter Boilermakers drive stalled at their own 33, but Devon Wright dived into the punter's legs and reignited what turned into a 70-yard touchdown march.

"To be honest, the whole first quarter was one of those things that just hits you in the mouth. We just seemed not to be able to fight back off that with a big play of our own," Kill said. "All four of those [mistakes], that's 24 points. We certainly compliment Purdue for what they did and their aggressiveness to cause those, but on our side of it, you can't make mistakes like that."

Or drop an open pass at the goal line, as Marcus Jones did. Or react to a pass breakup by shoving the cornerback, another freshman mistake that cost Jones and the Gophers 15 yards and killed a drive. Or scatter passes in the vicinity of, but rarely directly to, receivers, as Gray did upon relieving Max Shortell at quarterback. Gray was 4-for-14 at one point before locating his receivers late in the game, but the missed connections were chronic and crippling.

"I felt confident in myself. We were getting out and doing some good things. Then all of a sudden, [we'd] do something bad," said Gray, who didn't start but was called upon after the first three drives under Shortell were short-circuited by mistakes. "We couldn't find a rhythm on offense."

Not until Purdue, after its players took part in an exaggerated dance-off between the third and fourth quarters, sent in its own second- and third-teamers. Gray, who finished with 104 passing yards on 8-for-20 effectiveness, directed a six-minute drive that ate up 78 yards in the final period, completing a couple of timely passes and keeping the defense off-balance with a couple of runs, including the touchdown plunge from a yard out.

It's not much, but it's a step. In a season likely doomed to the Big Ten basement but devoted to laying a foundation while they're down there, the Gophers took heart from small but tangible accomplishments. Jones' electrifying 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and his 32-yard reception along the sidelines. Duane Bennett's 3.5-yard rushing average. Three sacks, a shocking total for a team that had two in the season's first five games.

And especially, the chance to get experience that will help them someday.

"This is how we're going to be -- 60 minutes hard, no matter what it says on the scoreboard," linebacker Mike Rallis said. "I completely agree [that he would have played even longer]. Me personally, and as a team, we need all the experience and reps we can get."

  • related content

  • Gophers' Gray rusty but glad to be back in game

    Saturday October 8, 2011

    The quarterback played with little practice this week because of a hurt big toe, but coach Jerry Kill is confident he will improve.

  • Jones' jaunt counts this time around

    Saturday October 8, 2011

    He didn't even turn around to look.

  • Recap: Purdue 45, Gophers 17

    Saturday October 8, 2011

    The junior quarterback excelled mostly by avoiding mistakes; his 140-yard day included a touchdown pass and no turnovers.

  • No stopping 'em

    Sunday October 9, 2011

    The Gophers have given up 103 points over the past two weeks, and the remaining schedule features high-scoring offenses from...

  • Purdue running back Raheem Mostert ran past Gophers defensive back Kim Royston for a 25-yard score in the third quarter.

  • PURDUE 45, GOPHERS 17

    Up next: 2:30 p.m. Oct. 22 vs. No. 14 Nebraska • TCF Bank Stadium • TV: Ch. 5 (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 4 FINAL
St. Louis 5
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Minnesota 2
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Washington 1
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 4
NY Yankees 10 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
Tampa Bay 0 Cancelled
Baltimore 0
Detroit 1 FINAL
Toronto 4
Chicago WSox 3 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 6
Texas 6 FINAL
Oakland 7
Cleveland 2 FINAL
Arizona 3
Arizona 7 FINAL
LA Angels 2
Miami 0 Cancelled
Houston 0
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 5
San Francisco 8 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Colorado 5 FINAL
San Diego 7
Milwaukee 8 FINAL
Cincinnati 6
Detroit 111 FINAL
Orlando 97
LA Clippers 119 FINAL
Philadelphia 98
Charlotte 107 FINAL
Washington 110
Boston 96 FINAL
New York 92
Cleveland 98 FINAL
Brooklyn 106
LA Lakers 83 FINAL
Toronto 94
Miami 86 FINAL
Atlanta 99
Golden State 107 FINAL
Memphis 84
Sacramento 88 FINAL
New Orleans 102
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Houston 120
Dallas 76 FINAL
San Antonio 94
Utah 91 FINAL
Denver 107
Portland 87 FINAL
Phoenix 81
Calgary 2 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 5 FINAL
Chicago 2
Dallas 0 FINAL
Edmonton 4
UCLA 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 74
NC State 65 FINAL
Louisville 75
Utah 57 FINAL
Duke 63
Kent State 73 FINAL
Northern Ariz 74
Michigan State 62 FINAL
Oklahoma 58
(15) North Carolina 65 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 67
(18) Iowa 66 FINAL
(5) Baylor 81
(9) Arizona State 65 FINAL
(7) Florida State 66
(14) Stanford 60 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 81
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close