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Minnesota Football: Gophers outlast Purdue 34-31

Gophers 34, Purdue 31 in Big Ten Friday night football

Purdue v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Gopher offense returned on a chilly Friday night in Minneapolis as the Golden Gophers were rarely stopped on the way to a 34-31 win over Purdue. Mohamed Ibrahim continued to score touchdowns and Tanner Morgan found some rhythm with Chris Autman-Bell to lead the Minnesota offense.

This was a night were Minnesota struck first and was rarely kept out of the end zone while the defense made some key stops late to keep Purdue from completing the comeback.

Each team scored on their opening drives, each drive was relatively easy and 0-0 was quickly a 7-7 game. Minnesota took their second drive and scored again, going up 14-7. Each team then punted on their next possessions. Purdue drove and was held to a FG which was answered by a Gopher touchdown. Now with a 21-10 lead, it was Purdue playing catchup the rest of the way.

And it was the 4th quarter when they very nearly overcame that deficit. Ibrahim ran in a 5-yard touchdown with 14:15 in the 4th, giving his team a 34-24 lead. It was the 5th touchdown in 6 possessions for the Gophers and even if Purdue managed to score, you felt as though the Gopher offense would answer.

Purdue did score a touchdown, cutting it to 34-31 and at this point their defense shut kept the Gophers from moving the chains. The Boilermaker offense had 2 possessions, down three in the final 8 minutes.

The first came after a failed 4th down conversion by the Gophers. They started on the Gopher 31 but ended with a missed FG attempt.

The second followed a Gopher three-and-out. After a missed interception by Coney Durr and a questionable offensive pass interference call wiping away a touchdown, Josh Aune intercepted Jack Plummer to seal the game for the Gophers.

Two massive stops by the Gopher defense in the 4th quarter. Absolutely sealed this game with the defense. But the first three quarters belonged to the offense.

The Boilermaker defense came into the game allowing 23 points and 408 yards per contest. Both numbers were roughly in the middle of the pack among Big Ten teams. But they struggled to keep this Gopher offense out of the end zone tonight. Minnesota found the endzone on 5 of their first 6 possessions to quickly get to 34 points (when you factor in yet another missed extra point). They stalled, gaining just 7 yards on their next two possessions, allowing Purdue opportunities. But they looked very sharp for much of the game.

Once again the offense was paced by Ibrahim. The junior continued to rack up touchdowns and yards to add to his fantastic season totals. Tonight was ONLY 102 yards and JUST three touchdowns bringing him up to 817 and 13 through just 5 games. Cam Wiley got in on the rushing action a little with 26 yards of his own and a touchdown.

But what really helped bump up the total scoring tonight was the rediscovered passing game. Tanner Morgan has not been particularly sharp in 2020 and had thrown for over 200 yards just once in the team’s first 4 games. Tonight he was 15/22 for 264 yards. And he was back to having a pair of receivers that ate up yards. Chris Autman-Bell lead the way with 129 yards on 5 catches while Rashod Bateman caught 4 for 59.

While the Gophers ended the game with more points than Purdue, the Boilermaker offense put up 492 total yards (nearly 100 more than Minnesota). But being held to 2 FG attempts in the first half, one of them blocked, and the two key stops in the 4th quarter was the difference.

Plummer completed a ridiculous 35/42 for 367 yards and Rondale Moore was dangerous with 136 total yards. It wasn’t exactly pretty, but it was effective. And it was a much needed win.

Up next, the Gophers head to Madison for a date with the Badgers. A 1:00 kickoff on BTN for your Saturday after Thanksgiving enjoyment.

Editor’s Note: the selections for tonight’s cover pic were rather weak. Jake Paulson may never have graced the TDG front page, until now. Good game, big man.