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Strong Second Half Propels Gophers Past Boilermakers 44-31
November 5, 2016

The Minnesota Gophers pressured and slowed stolid sophomore David Blough in the second half and overcame a 28-23 Purdue halftime lead to beat the Boilermakers 44-31, upping their Big Ten record to 4-2 (7-2 overall).

Blough had passed for 231 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, but the Gophers sacked Blough four times in the second half and held the Boilermakers to a field goal while scoring three touchdowns.

The win was the fourth straight for Minnesota, although all have been against non-ranked teams. The Gophers were a 17-1/2 point favorite against Purdue. Two weeks before, at home against Rutgers, they were even stronger favorites and needed a field goal in the closing seconds to escape with a win in that one.

Emmit Carpenter was a key to the Minnesota win with his strong right leg. The sophomore from Green Bay, Wisconsin, kicked three field goals in the first half, including ones from 52 and 53 yards. He also kept Purdue from returning kickoffs, booming his first eight (of nine in the game) for touchbacks.

The Gophers took a 10-0 lead, but Blough hit DeAngelo Yancey for a 38-yard gain to the Minnesota 20 and followed with a pass to his tight end, Cole Herdman, who leaped above Jonathan Celestin in the end zone to put Purdue on the board.

Near the end of the first quarter, Blough connected with Cameron Posey for an 89-yard touchdown, Posey taking the pass at the Purdue 40 and running another and running another 60 yards to put the Boilermakers up 14-10.

A Carpenter field goal and two-yard scoring run by quarterback Mitch Leidner gave the Gophers a 20-14 lead, but the Boilermakers needed only four plays to turn the score around. On a third-and-six from the Purdue 40, Yancey took a short pass on a slant pattern and was in the open, racing another 54 yards for a touchdown.

Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys said after the game that the team made adjustments at halftime to bring provide more help from the safeties and prevent the massive yards after the catches. “You don’t know until after the game how you will match up. It’s hard to judge [the other team’s] speed from film.”

A bizarre exchange near the end of the first half also demonstrated the contrasting styles of the teams in terms of aggressiveness.

The Gophers reached the Purdue 11 and faced fourth-and-one with 1:28 left. After trying to draw the Boilermakers offside, Minnesota called a time out and sent out Carpenter, who connected for the third time for a 23-21 lead. “I wanted the lead at halftime,” explained Claeys.

Purdue had to punt on its next possession, giving the Gophers the ball on their own 23 with 15 seconds left.

The next play turned into a disaster as Leidner underthrew a short pass on the right side for Drew Wolitarsky. Antonio Blackmon intercepted and returned to the 2 with 5 seconds left.

Purdue interim coach Gerad Parker (in his third game after taking over for fired coach Darrell Hazell) wanted more than just the lead. Purdue had earlier gone for it on fourth down in its own territory and failed, but that didn’t stop the Boilermakers from trying for the end zone with only seconds left.

Blough rolled to his right and tossed a short pass to tight-end Brycen Hopkins, who took it in as time expired.

Claeys said miscommunication was the culprit for the interception. He wanted Leidner to try a deep pass that could put the Gophers in position for another field goal; if incomplete, he’d have his quarterback run out the time on the clock. “I thought we would try and get behind them and throw it up and see what happens. It didn’t get communicated that way so that's my fault.”

The third play from scrimmage in the second half turned the tide in the game. Blough’s pass to Herdman at the Purdue 42 was first ruled complete. However, a review showed that the Gophers Duke McGhee had wrestled the ball away from Herdman, resulting in interception.

The Gophers took advantage, covering the distance to the end zone in six plays with Rodney Smith carrying it in from the 7.

In the fourth quarter both Leidner and Smith had touchdown runs sandwiched around a 33-yard field goal by Purdue’s J. D. Dellinger.

Despite briefly coming out of the game with an injured ankle in the fourth quarter, Smith ran for 153 yards. Leidner added 74 yards on 14 carries. Minnesota was without running-back Shannon Brooks, who was injured.

Leidner completed 14 of 23 passes for 231 yards.

The Gophers held the Boilermakers to 23 yards net rushing. Blough was 29 of 48 for 391 yards. He hit Posey 7 times for 128 yards. Yancey had 4 catches for 126 yards.

Now 1-5 in the Big Ten, Purdue was tied at halftime the previous week with Penn State before losing 62-24, A week before that, the Boilermakers had a 14-10 lead at the half over Nebraska before losing 27-14.

“Just puts tears in my eyes not to be able to get them to point where they are able to finish,” said Parker. “We got to do that and relate to them that it is not okay for us to finish short and just be close.”

Minnesota is tied at 4-2 with Nebraska and Wisconsin atop the Big Ten West standings. However, the Gophers will play both those teams on the road, with a game at home against a tough Northwestern team in between. Claeys expressed hope the Gophers could win the West and compete for the conference title.

Gopher Holes: Five Gophers—including starting cornerback KiAnte Hardin and nickel back Ray Buford—were back after an agreement had been reached over a restraining order filed by a Gophers cheerleader against the players. Jonah Pirsig returned at right tackle after missing three games with a sprained ankle. Nick Rallis of the Gophers was called for targeting and ejected (and will miss the first half of next week’s game at Nebraska) on the final drive of the game. Asked about the penalty, Claeys said, “It was crazy. I’d say more, but Christmas is coming, and I’d rather spend my money on Christmas presents than send it to the Big Ten.”

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