The Minnesota Gophers squander away win at Purdue Boilermakers


On a windy West Lafayette day, the Minnesota Gophers squandered several opportunities on the offensive end. The result was a loss to Purdue 31-17.

It looked so promising. I wanted to believe the Minnesota Gophers could coast to a cozy win over Purdue. Alas, my blood pressure was raised and my hair pulled as Minnesota threw another game by the wayside. With the loss, they drop to 3-2 with an 0-2 Big Ten record.

On the Minnesota Gophers’ second play of the game, Purdue benefited from a missed targeting penalty on Phillip Howard. A Boilermakers defender clearly aimed for the head and went helmet to helmet on the Gophers receiver. Howard stayed down for several minutes before leaving the field. A blatant mishap on the part of the officials stunted any imminent Minnesota drive.

Next, a dreadful punt gave Purdue fantastic field position and they were able to score within 54 seconds. David Blough connected with Cole Herdman for 20 yards and a score. The bungled targeting penalty is directly correlated to Purdue’s quick start. If that call is made, who knows where that Gopher drive ends up. It was a truly disheartening ruling by the officials.

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Nevertheless, Adekunle Ayinde jumped a Blough pass and gave the Gophers their first takeaway of the game midway through the first quarter. Then, Shannon Brooks scampered for 40 yards on the ensuing Minnesota drive. This set up a Conor Rhoda touchdown pass to Tyler Johnson. With the Boilermakers missing an extra point, the Gophers took control of the scoreboard 7-6. Despite being in the red zone, Purdue was unable to change that score as the quarter ended.

WIth the Boilermakers knocking on the door of the end zone, the Gophers defense answered with another takeaway. This time, it was Kamal Martin coming up with an interception in the end zone. A 19-yard run from Brooks coupled with a 51-yard Rodney Smith run put Minnesota in scoring position. The drive ended with Conor Rhoda finding Brandon Lingen for a 2-yard touchdown.

As Elijah Sindelar took over the quarterback duties for Purdue, the Gophers stayed aggressive on defense. In the second quarter alone, both Merrick Jackson and Thomas Barber forced Boilermakers fumbles. Each recovered by Minnesota, giving them four takeaways in the half. Unfortunately, Minnesota could not take advantage of those two fumbles with Rhoda fumbling in the red zone himself. An extremely detrimental mistake as Minnesota wanted to extend their lead.

At the end of the second half, Minnesota was up 14-6 on the scoreboard. Both teams were near even in terms of total yardage. However, the Gophers led in time of possession by roughly three minutes. Also, the four turnovers caused by the Gophers defense stunted Purdue’s scoring chances. That being said, Minnesota squandered great offensive opportunities.

As the Boilermakers received the second half kickoff, Minnesota’s defense came out flat. Purdue waltzed down the field and polished the drive off with a 22-yard Sindelar pass to D.J. Knox. Jeff Brohm opted for the extra point, keeping the Gophers in front by one. With Minnesota’s offense stagnating in the frame, the score remained 14-13 going into the fourth.

There were 10 minutes left in the final quarter when Purdue took the lead on a 19-yard field goal. Almost immediately after, the game went into a lightning delay with the Boilermakers up 16-14. After an hour and a half delay, the game finally got going again with a wet, sloppy field waiting.

Stiff legs did not seem to set in for the Gophers as they put together a drive which chipped away at Purdue’s front seven. Minnesota converted two fourth downs and chewed up a good chunk of clock in the process. Ultimately, it came down the the leg of Emmit Carpenter with two and a half minutes remaining. The junior nailed the 38-yard kick, putting the Gophers in front 17-16.

The fate of the game now fell into the hands of the Gophers defense. With an opportunity to right the cracked ship, Minnesota sunk further. The Boilermakers marched down the field and scored in 69 seconds. Purdue tacked on a two-point conversion to make the score 24-17.

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Now, with just over a minute remaining, it was the offense that needed to return fire. Rashad Still made an unbelievable play off of a deflection to move Minnesota into Purdue territory. However, the great play was all for naught as Conor Rhoda threw an awful pick six on fourth down. A truly sour way to end the game.

Simply put, the Gophers cannot get into a situation to where they need to rely on Conor Rhoda’s arm. He just does not have the capabilities to lead a team with his passing. Minnesota will never win a close game if its up to Rhoda, which is too bad.

With how windy is was at Ross-Ade Stadium today, it was excusable to avoid the pass. Minnesota even had an efficient rush attack totaling 227 yards on the ground. However, the Gophers defense was unable to halt Purdue’s offense, putting more pressure on Minnesota to pass on the other end. You saw the result, the Gophers have no chance when they have to pass.

Lastly, Minnesota’s offense failed to capitalize on opportunities given to them by the defense. They did not score off the two forced fumbles in the second half, which kept the Boilermakers relevant going into halftime. Conor Rhoda fumbled away their best scoring chance in the red zone, which cuts even deeper.

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Wallow in self-pity and loathing accordingly because it seems the Gophers are in a downward spiral. The lights will be on at TCF Bank Stadium next week as Minnesota takes on the Michigan State Spartans.