Pur­due can’t find open­ings

New Min­nesota de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor stymies Boil­er­mak­ers

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Sports - By Brian Hall As­so­ci­ated Press

MIN­NEAPO­LIS — Known for his catch­phrases, Min­nesota coach P.J. Fleck had one for his de­fense that he re­peated of­ten in the week af­ter fir­ing de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Robb Smith: sound, sim­ple, fast.

The Go­phers’ ma­ligned de­fense looked each part as it held Pur­due to sea­son-lows in yards and points for a 41-10 win against the Boil­er­mak­ers in the cold and snow on Satur­day.

Quar­ter­back Seth Green had a touch­down rush­ing and pass­ing, and red­shirt fresh­man Mo­hamed Ibrahim ran for 156 yards for Min­nesota, which played its first game un­der in­terim de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Joe Rossi.

The Go­phers en­tered the game al­low­ing 43.2 points and 507.7 yards per game, but line­backer Blake Cashman forced a fum­ble and re­turned it 40 yards for a touch­down as Min­nesota (5-5, 2-5) held Pur­due to 233 to­tal yards and 0 of 12 on third down.

“Sound, sim­ple, fast,” Fleck said of the de­fen­sive phi­los­o­phy. “We didn’t change our de­fense. The de­fense is the de­fense, and the de­fense works. We got back to us.”

Se­nior quar­ter­back David Blough com­pleted 20 of 31 passes for 142 yards for the Boil­er­mak­ers (5-5, 4-3), who en­tered the game the sec­ondlead­ing scorer in the Big Ten with 35.8 points per game.

“Re­ally, just some self­ish things that are go­ing on that can’t hap­pen,” Pur­due coach Jeff Brohm said. “Too many peo­ple that have pat­ted them­selves on the back too much, and lis­tened to oth­ers in­stead of work­ing their tail off and find­ing ways to im­prove, and un­der­stand­ing that all the lit­tle things mat­ter, and re­al­iz­ing that the team comes first.”

Fleck fired Smith a day af­ter giv­ing up 646 yards in a loss to Illi­nois last week. Rossi was the team’s de­fen­sive line coach this sea­son.

The an­nounced 21-de­gree weather was the third-cold­est start for a game in the 10-year his­tory of TCF Bank Sta­dium. A light snow fell dur­ing much of sec­ond half when Min­nesota took con­trol.

Cashman’s fum­ble re­turn for a touch­down on the open­ing drive started the half. The Go­phers capped their first three of­fen­sive pos­ses­sions of the sec­ond half with a touch­down.

“Sim­pli­fied the game plan, which al­lows guys to play

loose, play fast, give them that con­fi­dence out there,” Cashman said of Rossi’s im­pact. “That’s re­ally im­por­tant be­cause I think we lost some of that against Illi­nois when they came out and hit us in the mouth early.”

The long­est drive for Pur­due, which en­tered with 485.2 yards per game in Big Ten play, was 30 yards un­til mid­way through the fourth quar­ter when Blough con­nected with Moore for a 9-yard TD pass to cap a 75-yard drive.

“They run the same cov­er­ages, a few mi­nor changes, but we couldn’t get the run game go­ing,” Blough said. “We weren’t on all cylin­ders on the pass game, and it made it eas­ier for them to kind of tee off on us.”

Af­ter beat­ing then-No. 2 Ohio State 49-20 on Oct. 20, Pur­due went on the road and lost to Michi­gan State 23-13, with their pre­vi­ous worst of­fen­sive per­for­mance in Big Ten play. The Boil­er­mak­ers were com­ing off a 38-36 win against then-No. 19 Iowa last week.

“I’ll take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for it,” Brohm said. “We didn’t have our guys ready to play. I think we some­how just thought we could just come out there, and the ball would bounce our way, and good things would hap­pen.”

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