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Gophers Stifle Purdue 41-10
November 10, 2018

Joe Rossi, in his first game as interim defensive coordinator following the firing of Robb Smith after a 55-31 loss at Illinois, produced the right formula for a dominant effort by Minnesota defenders in a 41-10 win over Purdue. “Joe Rossi called a tremendous game,” said head coach P. J. Fleck, adding that he was proud of his team’s response after a poor game the week before.

“We didn’t change our defense,” said Fleck, “but we got back to us. What killed us in the past were explosive plays. There were no explosive plays today.”

The key to the game, according to Fleck, was that Purdue was 0 for 12 on third-down conversions. “It got them off the field. Simple, sound, and fast. That’s what we were going for.”

Played before a small but hearty crowd (announced at 31,068) that turned out on a 21-degree day with snow falling throughout the second half, the Gophers held the Boilermakers

The first-half score came after the Boilermakers took over on an interception by Antonio Blackmon at the Minnesota 38 in the first quarter and could advance only 16 yards before getting a 40-yard field goal by Spencer Evans, who had kicked a game-winning field goal in the final seconds against Iowa the week before.

Purdue’s win over the Hawkeyes was its fifth and sixth games, a stretch that included a 49-20 drubbing of Ohio State. Purdue came into the game favored by 10 points against a Minnesota squad that had one only one of six conference games.

Whether it was the weather or the new defensive coordinator, the Gophers responded with their best performance of the season.

Purdue hurt itself in many ways, but penalties were the Boilermakers’ undoing in the first half.

With the scoret 3-3 in the second quarter, the Gophers faced a third and nine at the Purdue 49. Under pressure, Tanner Morgan through incomplete, but defensive end Robert McWilliams was flagged for hitting Morgan in the face, a 15-yard penalty that gave the Gophers a first down at the 34. Two plays later Mohamed Ibrahim had a three-yard run enhanced when Kai Higgins grabbed his facemask. On second and goal from the 11, Seth Green entered at quarterback, usually a sure sign that Green would take the snap and run. This time he tossed to tight-end Jake Paulson, who was wide open in the middle of the field at the goal line. The touchdown put Minnesota ahead to stay.

“When you have a quarterback who is a runner,” said Fleck, “they put an extra guy in the box. We continue to run, run, run, and then use the deception of the pass. It’s part of [offensive coordinator] Kirk Ciarrocca’s creativity.”

On its next drive, the Gophers appeared stalled at the Purdue 31, leaving them looking at a 48-yard field goal. However, on the third-down play on which Morgan was stopped for no gain, safety Navon Mosley was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty allowed Minnesota to move closer for a 27-yard field goal by Emmit Carpenter that put the Gophers up 13-3 at halftime.

Purdue had only 4 yards rushing and 68 total from scrimmage in the first half.

On the second play of the second half, Blake Cashman stripped Purdue quarterback David Blough at the Boilermakers 46, then picked up the bouncing ball at the 40 and ran into the end zone for a touchdown that put the Gophers ahead 20-3.

From there, the big plays belonged to the Gophers. On their first two plays from scrimmage in the first half, Ibrahim ran for 16 and then 43 yards, sparking an 89-yard drive that culminated in a two-yard touchdown run by Green.

The Gophers stayed on the ground the next time they had the ball and, helped by another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Purdue, covered 89 yards with Bryce Williams breaking tackles to cover the final 11 yards for a touchdown.

Morgan hit Tyler Johnson for a 12-yard touchdown pass five minutes in the fourth quarter. After that, Purdue went on its only sustained drive, scoring on a Blough to Rondale Moore 9-yard touchdown pass with 5:28 left to produce the final score of 41-10.

Ibrahim, whom the Boilermakers found hard to take down, carried 18 times for 155 yards. “He has the ‘how’,” said Fleck. “That’s what we call it—an incomparable will and desire.”

Morgan completed 10 of 18 passes for 139 yards. For Purdue, Blough was 20 for 31 for 142 yards while Moore caught 8 passes for 76 yards.

Cashman led the tacklers with 9, 7 solo, including the forced fumble and return that deflated the Boilermakers on the second play of the second half. Fleck noted that Cashman had played the worst game of his career the week before, which made his response in his performance against Purdue all the more notable.

Minnesota needs one win in its final two games, at home against Northwestern and at Wisconsin, to reach six victories and become bowl eligible.

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