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October 25, 2012

Key Matchup: Running the ball





Last week at Ohio State, Purdue took a bit of a different approach offensively, lining up often in two-back and/or double-tight end sets to set the tone for more of an aggressive running attack.

This weekend at Minnesota, a similar approach might be appropriate.

The Gopher defense has been vulnerable to the run and stout against the pass.

Minnesota is giving up an average of 177 yards to opposing running games. Opponents are averaging nearly five yards per carry and have scored 15 of their 19 offensive touchdowns against the Gophers rushing.

And Minnesota's coming off a game in which Wisconsin did to it what Wisconsin had just done to Purdue. After running for 467 yards against the Boilermakers, the Badgers rolled up 337 last weekend against the Gophers.

Northwestern rushed for 208 and Iowa 182 against Minnesota, which like Purdue is looking for its first Big Ten win after an 0-3 start.

"They're very aggressive and sometimes they overplay things," running back Akeem Shavers said. "I just feel like we're going to have to try to use their momentum and their aggressiveness against them."

Ralph Bolden, who figures to see his role increase after showing distinct flashes of his old pre-injury self in Columbus, hadn't yet watched much film on the Gophers when he was asked about them earlier this week.

"I noticed a couple formations, how they lined up against it," Bolden said, "that maybe we can take advantage of."

Purdue will always strive for balance offensively, but at least on paper, the running game looks like the path of least resistance.

Minnesota ranks sixth nationally in passing defense, allowing only 154-and-a-half yards per game and four scores, two of which came at the end of games the Gophers already had won.

Coach Jerry Kill's team boasts a strong secondary and two formidable pass-rushers in D.L. Wilhite (5.5 sacks) and Ra'Shede Hageman (four).

But its defensive line isn't huge and its linebackers are considered vulnerable.

So it might behoove Purdue in Minneapolis to go back to the more "downhill" style it employed in Columbus.

"I hope we will," Shavers said, "because it's working for us and it helped open up our passing game, to where they balance each other out. If they're worried about our run and we can hit a couple play-actions off that, I think we'll be OK."




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