Josh Aune’s interception with 44 seconds left at the Minnesota 13-yard line after a disputed penalty on Purdue gave the beleaguered Gophers defense a big lift and preserved a 34-31 victory over the Boilermakers on Friday night.
Jack Plummer completed 35 of 42 passes for 367 yards and three scores in his first start of the season for Purdue, which took the ball with 2:01 left at its 39.
The Boilermakers, boosted by a career-high 15 receptions for 116 yards from Rondale Moore in his long-awaited return, moved in position for what they believed was a 19-yard touchdown catch by tight end Payne Durham in the final minute. Durham was flagged for offensive pass interference, angering the Purdue sideline after replays revealed scant evidence of a foul. Aune picked Plummer off on the next play,
Mohamed Ibrahim, the FBS leader in rushing yards per game, scored his third touchdown of the game — and 13th of the season — early in the fourth quarter to give Minnesota a 34-24 lead before a missed extra point.
Purdue used a fourth-and-1 conversion on a drive capped by Durham’s scoring reception that cut the lead to three points with 8:31 left. The Boilermakers got the ball back quickly after Seth Green, the wildcat quarterback for the Gophers, was taken down for a 3-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from their own 31. But Edward Dellinger, who had a 27-yard field goal blocked in the second quarter, pulled his 33-yarder wide right to keep Minnesota (2-3 Big Ten) in the lead.
David Bell caught eight passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns for the Boilermakers (2-2), who racked up 492 total yards. Moore, who in 2018 became the first true freshman in Big Ten history to be named a consensus All-American, took the field for the first time since injuring his hamstring against Minnesota on Sept. 28, 2019. Plummer, who started six games last season, seamlessly replaced the injured Aidan O’Connell.
Playing their second straight Friday night home game, a schedule quirk that’s hardly a blip in this strange season, the Gophers were missing 22 players either for injuries or COVID-19 protocols. Offensive line coach Brian Callahan and two other team staff members were also absent, confirmed by Minnesota for positive tests for COVID-19.
Tanner Morgan’s junior year was off to a rough start, but he produced a crisp and commanding performance marked by pinpoint throws on third downs and deep routes to Chris Autman-Bell (129 yards) and Rashod Bateman (59). Cam Wiley added a touchdown run, Ibrahim notched his sixth straight 100-yard game, and the Gophers had their offense back in 2019 form.
Minnesota’s defense, missing top pass rusher Boye Mafe, played with plenty of energy despite the mismatches on the outside against Bell and Moore. Micah Dew-Treadway came up with the key block, just after a touchdown catch by Moore was overruled by replay review because he didn’t have possession in the corner of the end zone.
Purdue: The return of Moore and the insertion of Plummer transformed the offense into a machine that ought to bode well for the Boilermakers over the rest of the season.
Minnesota: After losses to Michigan and Iowa in their first two home games, the short-handed Gophers needed this kind of confidence boost.
Minnesota: Visits Wisconsin on Nov. 28.
(photo courtesy of Gopher Sports, Brad Rempel)