Expect Purdue to keep implementing its new rushing attack.
Having used an improved running game to beat their first two opponents, the 11th-ranked Boilermakers look to keep rolling when they open Big Ten play at Minnesota on Saturday.
Led by senior running back Jerod Void, the Boilermakers won 31-24 at Arizona last week. Void carried 18 times for 107 yards and three touchdowns.
The Boilermakers (2-0) rushed for a total of 239 yards to make up for quarterback Brandon Kirsch’s average performance. The senior went 7-for-16 for 140 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, though he did rush for 54 yards.
Kirsch feels good about Void carrying the load offensively.
“That’s what he’s going to do,” Kirsch said of the senior running back. “I think you might as well get used to that for the rest of the season. I think right now he’s coming out of his shell a little bit. We’ve kind of had him holstered with the type of running game we’ve had in the past.”
In prior seasons, Purdue has been a pass-first, run-second type of football team. However, its two games this year have suggested something different. With Void already notching four touchdowns and sophomore running back Kory Sheets with two, Purdue has been more of a physical running team and less of a finesse passing one.
“I think you can kind of see everything changing from the old Purdue `basketball on grass’ style to a style where we’re going to pound it, pound it and run some play option things off that,” Kirsch said.
While coach Joe Tiller concedes his Boilermakers will run more than before, he assures the team the passing game is still important.
“I don’t think what we did last week is an indicator of what we’re going to do for the balance of the season,” Tiller said. “We will lean a little more heavily on the run than we did when I got here eight years ago. We’re still a one-back, spread offense and we spend a lot of time practicing the pass.”
Though Purdue may be better at running the ball, no team has been better this season than Minnesota (3-0). The Gophers lead the country with 335 rushing yards per game, but now they go up against a Boilermakers run defense that allows a nation-low 16 yards per contest.
Minnesota has been looking forward to playing Purdue, even during last week’s 46-7 rout of Florida Atlantic.
“We’re ready for Purdue,” Gophers quarterback Bryan Cupito said. “It’s the first thing I thought about when halftime came. This is where we fell apart last year, so we’re going to try to forget that, move on this year, and prove that we can contend for the Big Ten title.”
Last season saw the Gophers outscore their nonconference foes 134-58 and win their first two Big Ten games against Penn State and Northwestern, only to lose five of their final six regular season games. It was a similar story in 2003, when Minnesota dominated four nonconference games to crack the AP Top 25 before beginning Big Ten play with losses to Michigan and Michigan State.
This season, Minnesota goes into the conference schedule after outscoring its first three opponents 143-41.
Though the Gophers own a 30-28-3 all-time edge over Purdue, they have lost the last seven meetings, including an 0-6 mark under coach Glen Mason. The Boilermakers also have won three straight at the Metrodome.
“The intensity level better go up. It’s got to,” said running back Laurence Maroney, who tops Minnesota with 481 rushing yards. “There’s no choice for us. We’re going up against opponents that are as good as us or maybe even better. We just have to step our game up.”