- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota is built around a power running attack, with sound defense and special teams to back it up. The Gophers were even good enough one afternoon last month to beat San Jose State by three scores while completing only one pass.

Mitch Leidner missed that game with injuries, and since he’s returned there have been signs that, yes, this team can throw the ball. Leidner completed 14 of 22 passes for 167 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers at Michigan, and he finished 10 for 15 for 153 yards and one interception against Northwestern.

Hardly dynamic but definitely efficient.

“He looks a lot more comfortable. His demeanor is so much better than I think the first few weeks,” wide receiver Isaac Fruechte said.

The key is those crisp play-action fakes to draw the defense toward running back David Cobb and find the open receiver, whether it was Fruechte or tight end Maxx Williams in last week’s 24-17 win over the Wildcats.

“If he’s got a chance to step into his throws, has time to step in there and throw it, he’s going to be accurate,” coach Jerry Kill said. “The kid can throw the football.”

The Gophers (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) host Purdue on Saturday.

The Boilermakers (3-4, 1-2) have taken small steps forward since finishing 1-11 in Hazell’s first season. They gave him his first Big Ten win at Illinois on Oct. 4 and gave Michigan State a scare last week in a 45-31 loss to the eighth-ranked Spartans.

Though they lost 38-17 at home to Central Michigan last month, the Boilermakers held first-half leads against Notre Dame and Iowa before fading. Whether it’s this Saturday at Minnesota, Nov. 1 against Nebraska, Nov. 8 against Wisconsin, Nov. 22 against Northwestern or Nov. 29 at Indiana, the Boilermakers have several chances left for that first signature win under coach Darrell Hazell.

“Definitely it’ll happen for us, and it won’t be a surprise, to us at least, the guys in our locker room,” Hazell said.

Here are some key nuggets to know about the game:

RUSHING REVIVAL: Purdue totaled a woeful 805 yards rushing last year, an average of 67.1 per game and 2.5 per carry that ranked second-worst among the 125 FBS teams. The Boilermakers are now middle of the pack in the conference and the country, averaging 164.1 yards rushing per game. Akeem Hunt had 90 yards or more in each of the last three games, including a career-high 177 against Illinois and a season-most 8.0 yards per carry against Michigan State.

RACING MYRICK: Sophomore cornerback Jalen Myrick sped away with the game last week for the Gophers, returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to break a fourth-quarter tie. He didn’t just look fast. He was fast. Myrick said the GPS tracking the Gophers wear on their shoulder pads to measure exertion and fatigue clocked him at 21.5 miles per hour at the peak of the run.

APPLEBY ASCENSION: Purdue had the ball at the 3-minute mark against Michigan State only by seven, before an interception of Austin Appleby was returned for a touchdown by the Spartans. But the sophomore quarterback has shown some potential in two games as a starter, completing more than 68 percent of his passes.

“A lot of guys are feeding off of Austin right now, not only offense but both sides of the ball, and I think that’s why there’s so much confidence,” Hazell said. “You know, when we get down two touchdowns or three touchdowns, I think we still feel like there’s a chance that we can do some things and come back.”

STINGY GOPHERS: Minnesota has given up an average of 36.4 per game over the last 18 meetings with Purdue since 1993, going 6-12 in that stretch. But this is a different Gophers defense, currently allowing an average of 18.7 points per game. In 24 quarters this season, opponents have gone scoreless in 13.

HUDSON’S RETURN: Defensive coordinator Greg Hudson, in his second season on the job at Purdue, held that position at Minnesota for four seasons from 2000-04 under coach Glen Mason. After leaving the Gophers, Hudson coached at East Carolina and then Florida State.


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