WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Purdue's Drew Brees would welcome a repeat of history Saturday when his No. 21 Boilermakers host Minnesota in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Two years ago, Brees faced the Golden Gophers coming off a heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame and responded with a career-best 522-yard passing performance, including 6 TD tosses, as he hit on 31-of-36 attempts to send Purdue to victory. Saturday, Brees and his mates again face Minnesota following another narrow loss to Notre Dame.
"It's kind of an empty feeling," said Brees. "This is the second time we've played Minnesota after a tough, tough loss to Notre Dame. As I recall we beat them 56-21 at home after that Notre Dame loss. I'd like to see those same results."
Playing against the Gophers has helped Brees put himself in position to leave Purdue with every Big Ten passing record.
In two games against Minnesota, Brees has completed 59-of-77 passes for 805 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception. And in one of the games he sat out the fourth quarter. The Boilermakers won both games, outscoring the Gophers 89-49.
"What they take pride in is playing man-to-man defense, and putting a lot of guys in the box to stop the run," said Brees. "They really do have a great run defense, and they have some experienced guys in the secondary."
Brees isn't sure if he'll see a man-to-man defense Saturday.
"They did in 1998 and it turned out to be kind of disastrous. Last year they ran pretty much all zone," he said. "Who knows what we'll see. They can do either."
Both teams finished non-conference play 2-1. No. 21 Purdue defeated Central Michigan and Kent State before Saturday's 23-21 loss in South Bend. Minnesota won its opener over Louisiana-Monroe, was upset by Ohio University 23-17 and then topped Baylor 34-9 last week.
Purdue has defeated Minnesota four consecutive years and is 15-4 in Ross-Ade Stadium.
Minnesota coach Glen Mason figures the best way to stop Brees is to have possession of the football and keep him off the field.
Minnesota tried that tactic last year when it lost 33-28, accumulating 249 yards rushing.
"He's a master," Mason said of Brees, who is one of the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy after finishing fourth in the voting last year. "You can sense it watching film: Sometimes he laughs at defenses."
Short drops, a quick release and more than a half dozen capable receivers makes Brees one of the most difficult quarterbacks to sack in the Big Ten. Opposing defenses have sacked him only four times in 123 passing plays this season. Three came against Notre Dame last week.
"If you have a lot of three and outs," Mason said, "you don't have a chance."
The Gophers will have a new starter at running back this week in freshman Thomas Tapeh, who came from the sideline to replace Tellis Redmon against Baylor and earned Big Ten offensive player of the week honors after gaining 183 yards on 32 carries, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. The 6-foot-1, 228-pounder ran for one touchdown and added a 27-yard TD reception on his first collegiate catch.
Redmon left the game after he fumbled the ball away and has been demoted to third-string on the depth chart.
"It's kind of tough," said Redmon, who had 37 yards and a receiving touchdown before the benching. "He deserves to start. I went in there and messed up, and he stepped it up for 32 carries, 183 yards -- that's pretty good."
The series has been a high-scoring one in the past decade, including a record-setting 59-56 battle won by the Gophers in 1992. Purdue has scored at least 30 points in the last seven games and averaged more than 43 points the past eight. Minnesota has scored 20 or more points in all eight of those games, averaging more than 34 points.
"Tell me who has stopped them," Mason said. "You don't stop them. So if you're not moving the ball offensively, if you're giving them the ball back and giving them the time, you're hurting."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.