The Gophers survive, taking down Purdue 34-31 in a shootout to record their first home win of the 2020 season.
The night couldn’t have really started any worse for P.J. Fleck’s Gopher team, as 25 total players and staff were ruled out due to COVID-19 or injury prior to kickoff.
The #Gophers will have quite the uphill battle tonight against Purdue:
– K, Michael Lantz: out with injury.
– TE, Brevyn Spann-Ford: out with injury.
– Reportedly 20 total #Gophers out due to COVID-19/injury.
– Former All-American Purdue WR, Rondale Moore: making season debut.
— Tony Liebert (@TonyLiebert) November 20, 2020
Oddly enough, the Gophers began their showdown against Purdue with terrific play (at least on one side of the ball). Tanner Morgan came out with something to prove, completing his first three passes of the game, converting on an eight-play 69-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a six-yard Cam Wiley touchdown run taking a 7-0 lead. Purdue answered back a scoring drive of their own evening the ball game at seven. Their All-American wide receiver Rondale Moore made his presence felt early and often, in his first game of 2020. The rest of the half saw Minnesota dominate the time of possession 16:51 to 13:08, this was in large part due to Mo Ibrahim having another terrific half of play with 16 carries for 75 yards and a score. Overall, a few lucky special teams plays found the Gophers ahead with a 21-10 lead heading into the break.
Defense was optional in half number two. The talented wide receivers of Minnesota and Purdue were making big plays back and forth. Purdue’s Rondale Moore was having his way the Gophers’ defense, while Chris Bell was big contested catches. Fortunately, Tanner Morgan did not let the Gophers’ defensive struggles bother him, finding Rashod Bateman and Chris Autman-Bell for big plays left and right. The half started with five total touchdowns with each score alternating from both sides. Minnesota led 34-31 with just under six minutes remaining in the game.
Things quickly tightened up. Minnesota’s following possession forced them into a 4th & 1 on its own 34-yard line. P.J. Fleck surprised everyone by deciding to go for it. After bringing out Seth Green and attempting a conversion from the wildcat formation, the Gophers failed, giving the ball back to Purdue with favorable field position. Fortunately, Joe Rossi’s defense came up huge, forcing a 33-yard field goal… and J.D. Dellinger missed the kick (his second of the day inside 40). The Gophers might have found a team with a worse special teams situation than them.
THE DRAMATIC GOPHER WORKED!!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/7aFb3PAnab
— GopherHole.com (@GopherHole) November 21, 2020
The controversy had just begun. After a quick three and out the Gophers punted the ball right back to the Boilermakers with just under three minutes left in the ball game. Purdue drove down the field setting itself up for a possible scoring play. It looked like the Gophers had let another game get away from them, as it seemed like Purdue had just scored a touchdown to take the lead until…
This was called offensive pass interference.
— SportsBetting.com (@WeSportsBetting) November 21, 2020
The game’s officials had ruled the play above an offensive pass interference. I mean I think anyone with two eyes can see what happened, but I personally am not going to apologize to anyone for the result. The following play, Josh Aune intercept Purdue’s Jack Plummer for a game-clinching interception. Gophers win 34-31 and move to 2-3 on the season.
What is next:
Well, the Gophers will have quite the test next week. They’re set to travel to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the No. 10 ranked Badgers in the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. A lot will have to improve before then if the Gophers want to compete with the undefeated Badgers.
Purdue’s Jack Plummer was 35 of 42 for 367 yards and three touchdowns in his first start of 2020. Rondale Moore finished with 15 catches for 116 yards and three carries for 20 yards. As a team, Purdue ran for 5.0 yards-per-carry. Minnesota’s defense forced one single punt.
It was obviously a terrific performance from the Gophers’ offense especially Mo Ibrahim who finished with 25 carries for 102 yards and three touchdowns, but the Gophers’ had zero business winning that game. I would argue that the defense’s performance was not any better than the Iowa, Maryland, or Michigan game. Purdue had their way all night and whatever they were calling was working. I will give P.J. Fleck credit for being aware of his underperforming defense and likely game planning to control the clock to take some pressure off of them. The Gophers squeaked one out, Purdue forces overtime if they make one out of two kicks under 35 yards, they win if they make both, and they also win if the refs do not bail out a struggling Gophers secondary.
It was great to see an inexperienced Gophers’ team get a big win under the lights, but P.J. Fleck will certainly have a long road ahead.