MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Last Saturday, Gophers' head football coach P.J. Fleck notched another first in a season full of them: his first loss.
It was the first Big Ten game for Minnesota against a Maryland team that was already on its third starting quarterback of the season, and hopes were high for Fleck and his Gophers--but the Terrapins ended up outlasting Minnesota for a 31-24 win.
Now, the coach is hoping his team can rebound against Purdue this Saturday on the road and keep some of the momentum from a commanding nonconference slate early in the season.
Fleck joined the Fox 9 sports team Wednesday to talk resilience, staying healthy and how playing in a two-quarterback system will help his team as they face off against a dynamic Purdue offense.
ON HIS TEAM'S RESPONSE TO THEIR FIRST LOSS
"The response is exactly the same as it would be after a win. The result shouldn't be how you respond to things, it should be, 'What went wrong? How did you lose or how did you win?' And, 'What can be fixed?' That's what we worked on all week and I thought the players responded really well, especially in today's practice.
"Today was probably one of the best practices we've ever had. So they understand how they have to be better. We didn't make enough plays, we lost the turnover battle, and if that happens you're not going to win many ballgames."
ON THE EMPHASIS THIS WEEK VERSUS LAST WEEK
"[Purdue] is a little bit different in terms of what they run and what they do. They spread you out all over the place, try to get you as wide as possible and then run a lot of gadgets and screens and reverses and trick plays and flea flickers and down the field throws--so you've really got to be able to cross your Ts and dot your Is.
"So for us the biggest thing is to tackle in space and rallying around the ball. We were in the right position a lot of times last week, we just didn't make the tackles. We were grabbing at ankles instead of driving our feet through the opponent. We did that in games one, two and three, though obviously we didn't do that in game four."
ON THE NUMBER OF INJURED PLAYERS
"We have to stay healthy. We're not a very deep football team. If you look right now, we've got 13 freshmen on our 2-deep roster. Purdue has one. That should not happen, right? But it's the situation we have.
"Those are my challenges and our opportunities. Guys are going to have to step in and do an elite job. I think our senior leadership is doing a good job of bringing those guys along, but ultimately we expect them to play like they're seniors and get the job done."
ON FACING PURDUE'S TWO-QUARTERBACK SYSTEM
"It's not like one does something different than the other. They're very similar. No. 11, I'll be honest, has failed so much and now he's really good. You listen to his speech at Big Ten media day and it'll blow you away.
He's a really talented quarterback, very experienced. And then they bring in No. 2 and alternate them. He's got a rocket of an arm, he can throw the ball a mile--then the receivers respond and the running backs start playing well, and the O-line protects them well too."