Philip Nelson Shines In Home Debut

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By Michael Molde

Minnesota true freshman quarterback Philip Nelson found his rhythm midway through the first quarter of Saturday's 44-28 win over Purdue. By halftime, the signal-caller making just his second career start and first at home may have had Purdue defenders looking spooked.

The Gophers fell behind 7-0 after the Boilermakers drove for a touchdown on their opening drive. On the ensuing possession, Minnesota answered with its first touchdown of the afternoon on a 34-yard pass from Nelson to redshirt junior wide receiver Derrick Engel with 6:06 left in the first quarter.

After a quick three-and-out by Purdue, Nelson was at it again, leading Minnesota on a five-play, 64-yard drive that took just over two minutes and was capped by a four-yard run by Rodrick Williams Jr. for the freshman running back's first career TD.

Just 2:37 later, Minnesota got the ball back again after another outstanding defensive effort. As the game moved into the second quarter, Nelson wasted no time stretching the Gophers' lead to 21-7, as he lofted a perfect 38-yard TD pass along the home sideline to junior wide receiver A.J. Barker to cap a three-play, 60-yard drive that took just 55 seconds.

With the TCF Bank Stadium crowd buzzing, Nelson gave the fans more to appreciate. This time, it took just two plays and 42 seconds for Minnesota to push its advantage to 28-7, as Nelson once again found Barker for a touchdown. Nelson's 63-yard pass play increased his totals at the time to 12-of-13 for 226 yards and three TDs - with 10:34 remaining in the half!

Nelson wrapped up the first half having led the Gophers to a 34-7 lead by completing 15-of-17 passes for 246 yards and the three touchdowns. In the second half, with Minnesota quickly getting a field goal and a defensive touchdown to extend the lead to 44-7, the Gophers utilized their running game to eat up time on the clock. As a result, Nelson threw just five incomplete passes after the break, but the game was well in hand.

Nelson credited his first-half barrage to the team's study of Purdue game film.

"In our preparation coming into this one, we noticed that Purdue's corners liked to bite on some short game stuff," Nelson said. "We put in some double routes and caught them jumping early."

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill was among those impressed with Nelson's performance.

"He took step one last week, and he took another step here at home. I thought he played outstanding. We were able to move the chains and score touchdowns, and he was accurate on the deep ball. We actually dropped a couple, which was unfortunate or he would have had an even bigger day."

"There was good timing and, again, when your quarterback doesn't turn over the football, moves the chains, and puts points on the board, and he's a freshman, that's a good sign for the future."

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