With the Gophers getting ready to play at Purdue on Saturday, I traded a Q&A with Mike Carmin, the Boilermakers beat writer for the Lafayette Journal & Courier. You can follow him on Twitter @carminjc. Here's the report I gave him on the Gophers, and here's the report he gave me on Purdue:
1. I know no one wants to talk about moral victories in a coach's third year, but what impact do you think that 24-21 close call at Michigan State can have on the program's collective psyche?
It doesn't hurt, but they have to start building each week to move this program forward. Purdue has been close before - at Marshall, against Bowling Green and at Michigan State. The Boilermakers haven't made the necessary plays at the right moment to pull out a victory. It was a different loss than the previous three because Purdue rallied from a 21-0 deficit, had the ball on the last possession and the momentum. Can the Boilermakers sustain that momentum against a different opponent? Check back Saturday.
2. What are your impressions of David Blough so far, and has his performance come as a surprise?
He played well in his first start against Bowling Green and I thought he would have an uneven performance against MSU. That's a tough defense to face in your second start. He lost one fumble and the interception was similar to a punt. He missed some throws that he needs to make if this offense is going to stay on the field and produce points. He also needs help from the running game and his receivers have to make plays. Still a young player who is learning.
3. Markell Jones sure looked impressive on the highlights last week. How has he been able to compile that 6.8-yards per carry average?
I didn't really know what type of impact Jones would make this season, but you could see in training camp he was going to be on the field this season. He sees things very well and knows when to make the right cut at the right moment. He won't dazzle you with speed - like Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert did last year - but if Jones gets in the open field, he'll run away. He's also strong, especially in his lower body. In 60 carries, he doesn't have a negative rushing play.
4. What things would need to come together for Purdue's defense to start playing about mid-pack for a Big Ten team, instead of toward the bottom?
The scoring average is a little misleading because four TDs are a result of two pick-sixes, a fumble return and blocked punt for scores. The yardage allowed is all real. Purdue has been dreadful against the run in recent seasons and has given up 200 yards or more on the ground in seven of the last 11 games, dating back to last season. The Boilermakers will never be a three-and-out type defense but need to start making plays when it matters. Last week at MSU, they were able to get off the field late in the fourth quarter to give the offense a chance. To me, that's progress.
5. What kind of atmosphere will the Gophers be stepping into Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium, in terms of approximate crowd size and enthusiasm?
Since it's fall break on campus, student attendance will be down and overall I don't expect an electric atmosphere but it's been that way for several years. Attendance, though, is up 13 percent compared to last year after three games. Students ticket sales are up, nearing 10,000, a positive sign. The Boilermakers have also lost eight straight conference home games dating back to the end of the 2012 season. Purdue has to start creating a home field advantage at some point to help the program but also bring the fans back.