Gophers Score a Pair of Home Victories
October 11 and 18, 2014

The University of Minnesota Golden Gopher football team’s relentless pursuit of excellence carried the boys to tight home wins over two lesser foes, Nortwestern and Purdue. The latter win came on the day the University selected for the annual Homecoming ritual.

As someone once famously said, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. And so it is with Homecoming, a tradition that, in the past, meant something significant. This year, for example, there was no Homecoming slogan other than the mention that 2014 marked 100 years since the first such event. In 1914, a group of students, perhaps influenced by activities on other university campuses, cooked up the first Minnesota Homecoming. World War I cancelled such celebrations, but Homecoming returned in the Roaring Twenties. In the 1950s and 1960s, Homecoming was a big deal on campus, but subsequently declined to the point of extinction in the 1970s. The tradition was later revived by the administration, but hasn’t been the same.

Against the Boilermakers, it might have been wise to appropriate the old Homecoming slogan of Pooh-Pooh Purdue, since the Gophers clearly underestimated the abilities of the gang from West Lafayette. From the beginning, it looked like it would be easy. On Purdue’s first play from the line of scrimmage, Boilermaker quarterback Austin Appleby’s pass was intercepted by Cedric Thompson and returned to the two-yard line where David Cobb scored with less than a minute expired on the scoreboard. On third down with seven yards to go, an Appleby pass was then picked off by Damien Wilson who ran it in for an apparent touchdown. This was too easy. But hold on, the Wilson interception was voided by an offside penalty on Gopher lineman Theiran Cockran. Repeat third down. Appleby recovered his wits and hit wide receiver Danny Anthrop who sped past Gopher defenders for a 55-yard touchdown run.

Gopher quarterback Mitch Leidner then led Minnesota on a 13 play, 82-yard touchdown drive, relying on running back David Cobb to carry the ball nine times. Leidner then hit tight end Maxx Williams with a touchdown and a 14-7 lead. Gopher defenders were still pooh-pooing Appleby and Purdue when the Boilers tied the score at 14 after Gabe Holmes caught a touchdown pass just before the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Gophers continued to punish the Purdue defense. Donnell Kirkwood scored on a three-yard touchdown run to cap a 10-play. 71-yard drive. But something went wrong on the point-after attempt. The Gophers were penalized and set back five yards. Placekicker Ryan Santoso then missed the PAT. The Gophers would go on to chase that point for the majority of the game.

Raheen Mostert then zipped through flat-footed Gopher defenders for a 42-yard touchdown romp, and the Boilers’ Paul Griggs did make the point after for a 21-20 lead. From there until the end of the half, Minnesota was powerless to score. Purdue, meanwhile, tacked on 10 more points for a 31-20 lead at the half. Onlookers were curious as to why Purdue had brought a punter to the fray. He was not needed.

The doomsayers came out at halftime, pointing out that under coach Jerry Kill, the Gophers were 0-22 when trailing at the half, plus Kill’s troops had never won a Homecoming game.

“I told the players,” Kill said after the game, “this is going to define who you are. Can you fight back from adversity? We’re going to find out who you are today.”

Minnesota received the opening kickoff and marched down the field in six plays. Leidner got the touchdown on a six-yard run. Now coach Kill was going to be creative. He told Santoso to run with the ball instead of kicking it. Bad move. Although 6-6 and 250-pounds, Santoso failed to fall forward enough to reach the goal line. “I rolled the dice,” Kill said. “We felt like we were going to walk in the end zone, but we had a guy miss his block.”

Purdue demonstrated that they indeed brought a punter when their first drive of the half stalled. Minnesota responded with a 20-yard field goal, and it was 31-29 for the Boilermakers. After receiving the subsequent Santoso kickoff, it took the Boilermakers took just three plays to record their fifth mianof the record crowd of 51,241 sitting in stunned silence. It was a bad Homecoming prank.

With little time remaining in the third quarter, Leidner launched five-play, 58-yard touchdown march climaxed by a 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver K.J. Maye. Santoso kicked the extra point, but Minnesota was still two points short.

With 8:21 left in the game, the Gophers began a drive at their own 30-yard line that ended with a 52-yard Santoso field goal to put Minnesota in the lead at 39 to 38. Purdue had one chance to retake the lead, but Gopher safety Cedric Thompson made a picture-perfect interception of an Appleby pass, and Minnesota ran out the clock for the victory.

Cobb rushed for 194 net yards on 35 carries. For the Boilers, Mostert had 115 yards in only five attempts.

“We made plays at critical times and came back to win,” Kill said afterward. “This was the best showing to date by our offensive line. On defense, we didn’t tackle well early.”

The defense was more formidable a week earlier at TCF Bank Stadium when the Gophers defeated Northwestern, a team more substantial than Purdue.

Minnesota never trailed the Wildcats, but a Trevor Siemian two-yard touchdown plunge had resulted in a 17-all tie midway in the final quarter. But, on the ensuing kickoff, Jalen Myrick ran more than the length of the field and was (as per college rules) credited with a 100-yard touchdown romp. The Gophers hung on from there to reap a 24-17 win. Minnesota had led 14-10 at the half.

“This team is finding a way to win,” Kill said following the contest. “We still have a lot of things to clean up.” He noted that his team spends “extra time on kickoff returns” in practice. “Good teams find ways to win.”

Once again Cobb was the workhorse, carrying the ball 30 times. However, he was out-gained by Northwestern’s Justin Jackson, 106 to 97 net yards. Leidner was 10 for 15 passing and scored a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

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