Gophers crush Purdue 41-10 at snowy TCF Bank Stadium
When Joe Rossi took over as interim defensive coordinator for the earlier in the week, he said that sometimes a new voice could bring positive results.
It looks as if that voice came through loud and clear for the Gophers defense, which played its best football of the season in a 41-10 romp over Purdue on snowy Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Gophers held the high-scoring Boilermakers to 233 yards, and linebacker Blake Cashman forced and returned a fumble 40 yards for a touchdown as Minnesota (5-5, 2-5 Big Ten) moved within a victory of gaining bowl eligibility. The Gophers held Purdue to 0-for-12 on third-down situations.
This all came a week after the Gophers gave up 646 yards in a 55-31 loss at Illinois that prompted coach P.J. Fleck to fire defensive coordinator Robb Smith.
Purdue (5-5, 4-3) entered the game averaging 35.8 points and 485.2 yards in Big Ten play. The Gophers limited them to 131 through three quarters, including minus-2 on the ground. They also sacked Boilermakers quarterback David Blough three times.
The Gophers offense got into the act, too. Mohamed Ibrahim rushed 18 times for 155 yards and Wildcat quarterback Seth Green passed for a TD and ran for one. Tanner Morgan passed for a score, and running back Bryce Williams ran for one.
With a win in either of their final two games home vs. Northwestern next Saturday and at Wisconsin on Nov. 24 the Gophers will secure a bowl berth in Flecks second year as coach.
From the start Saturday, Minnesota was in control.
The Gophers marched 69 yards in 13 plays on their opening drive, taking a 3-0 lead on Emmit Carpenters 24-yard field goal. On the drive, Morgan completed six of seven passes for 49 yards. Just as important, the Gophers drained 7:44 off the clock.
Minnesotas defense held firm on Purdues first possession, allowing one first down but forcing a punt after three incomplete passes by Blough.
On the Gophers second possession, Morgans pass intended for Chris Autman-Bell went off Autman-Bells hands, and Purdues Antonio Blakeman intercepted it at the Gophers 38. Free safety Navon Mosley was called for targeting, but a review reversed the call and the Boilermakers got the ball.
Minnesotas defense limited the damage when Cashman and Boye Mafe sacked Blough on third down from the Gophers 21. Spencer Evans 40-yard field goal tied the score 3-3.
On the Gophers next possession, Morgan found a wide-open Demetrius Douglas for a would-be gain of at least 30 yards into Purdue territory on third-and-5 from the Minnesota 28, but Douglas dropped the ball.
Minnesotas defense stiffened again, forcing a three-and-out after two incomplete passes by Blough.
The Gophers took a 10-3 lead with an 11-yard TD pass from Green to tight end Jake Paulson on a play in which Purdue bit on a run fake.
The 83-yard march began with Autman-Bells great catch for a 33-yard gain to midfield. The drive appeared to stall with a third-down incompletion, but Purdue defensive end Robert McWilliams was penalized for illegal hands to the face, moving the ball to the 34. Another personal foul penalty on the Boilermakers, a facemask on defensive end Kai Higgins, moved it to the 10.
The Gophers defense came up huge on the ensuing Purdue possession. Facing fourth-and-1, the Boilermakers went for it, but Cashman dropped Blough for no gain, and Minnesota took over at the Purdue 34.
Again, Purdue appeared to have a third-down stop at the 31, but linebacker Cornel Jones was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for hitting a Gophers player after the whistle. Minnesota converted that into Carpenters 27-yard field goal for a 13-3 lead with 3:40 left in the first half.
In the first half, the Gophers held Purdue to 0-for-6 on third-down conversions and 0-for-1 on fourth down. Also helping the cause was an offense that kept ball for 19:10 in the opening 30 minutes.
Cashman came up big early in the third quarter. With Purdue at its 46, Blough kept the ball on a run but was hit by Cashman, who forced a fumble, scooped it up and returned it 40 yards for a TD and a 20-3 lead.
The Gophers boosted that lead to 27-3 with 10:26 left in the third quarter on Greens 2-yard TD run. The drive covered 89 yards and was fueled by big plays -- back-to-back runs of 16 and 43 yards by Ibrahim and Johnsons great catch for a 35-yard gain to the Purdue 5.
The rout was on, and the Gophers added to it with Williams 11-yard TD run for a 34-3 lead with 4:37 left in the third quarter. Ibrahim keyed the seven-play, 81-yard march with a 33-yard run to the Purdue 13.
Minnesota made it 41-3 on Morgans 12-yard TD pass with 10:09 left in the fourth quarter. Blough threw a 9-yard TD pass to Rondale Moore with 5:28 left in the fourth quarter to make it 41-10.