Aiden O’Connell led Purdue to a go-ahead 4th quarter score before the Devin Mockobee put the game away for the Boilermakers as they beat Minnesota 20-10 on the Gopher’s homecoming.
Not every win is going to be pretty, and the Boilermakers managed to win ugly this afternoon. A game where both teams made mistakes and missed opportunities, especially in the first half when the two teams combined for 5 turnovers. But Purdue executed in the 4th quarter to pull away and get a win at Minnesota for the first time since 2007.
The two teams combined for critical penalties, dropped passes, a missed field goal, four interceptions and a fumble in the first two quarters.
The game began with a quick Minnesota 3-and-out, followed by a surgical Purdue opening drive. It was 10 plays, covering 68 yards and it was mostly on the ground for the Boilermakers. Dylan Downing and Devin Mockobee combined for nearly 6 yards per carry on the drive and it was capped by Downing plunging in from the 2-yard line. A very quick 7-0 lead for the Boilermakers.
That was essentially all their offense would do until the 4th quarter. Their next nine possessions looked like this.
- PUNT - on a 3-and-out
- Field Goal - only gaining 4 yards after a Gopher missed 4th down conversion
- Interception - right before halftime
- PUNT - 3-and-out
- PUNT - 3-and-out
But it was the next two drives for Purdue that won the game for them.
With the game tied at 10, the Boilermakers took the ball at their own 22 with 10:04 left in the game. O’Connell started the drive 5/6, including a key 28-yard pass to Charlie Jones. They drove down to the Gopher 8-yard line before stalling and settling for what would be the game-winning field goal.
Trailing 13-10 the Gopher offense took over with an opportunity to tie the game or take the lead for the first time on the afternoon. It was the inopportune time to go 3-and-out and have to punt the ball with under 4 minutes left in the game.
Now it was up to the defense to force a quick stop and give the offense one last chance to earn a win. Instead, there was a breakdown defensively and Mockobee ran off-tackle to the left untouched for 68 yards setting up a 2-yard touchdown run and a Purdue 10-point lead with 3:13 left.
At this point it was over. Purdue picked off Tanner Morgan and then ran out the clock.
The Gopher defense actually played rather well. The opening drive for Purdue and the one long run late were not ideal, but in between the Gopher defense played well. Aiden O’Connell finished the game with 2 interceptions, zero touchdowns and under 200 yards passing.
For the Gophers, this loss was on the offense.
Without their star running back, Mohamed Ibrahim, playing this afternoon, Minnesota struggled to get their offense on track. A rushing offense that leads the Big Ten with nearly 295 yards per game managed just 47 yards rushing. A combination of not having Ibrahim and the offensive line struggling to open holes while the backs were consistently being hit in the backfield. PJ Fleck was asked about his offensive line struggles today.
“I just know we got beat. There were too many times we were pushed backward.”
Even with their struggles moving the ball, there were opportunities. Morgan led the offense 65 yards on 6 plays that resulted in the Trickett missed field goal. On the very next drive they went 6 plays and 24 yards to get their first points of the game on a Trickett 45-yard field goal. And then 2 possessions later they went 43 yards on 5 plays before Morgan hit an open Brown-Stephen in the chest that was dropped in the end zone and intercepted.
There were certainly opportunities. Opportunities that were missed. The offensive line needs to play much better. And the Gopher offense needs Ibrahim back on the field so they can have a more effective play-action passing attack.
But today it was Purdue who played well in the 4th quarter to get a huge road win within the division.
“They did what they had to do, had a good game-plan and we didn’t execute.”
Up next for the Gophers is a bye week followed by a trip to Illinois.