MINNEAPOLIS Josh Aune’s interception with 44 seconds left on the Minnesota 13-yard line after a disputed penalty at Purdue gave the beleaguered Gophers defense a big lift and retained 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 2: 1 on 39.
The Boilermakers, boosted by a career-high 15 receptions for 116 yards from Rondale Moore in his highly anticipated return, moved into position for what they believed was a 19-yard touchdown catch through Payne Durham’s tight end in the last minute. Durham was flagged for offensive pass interference, angering the Purdue sidelines after reruns revealed barely any evidence of a violation.
I think you know what I’m thinking. I didn’t like it that much. I can’t really say anything about it. It’s part of the game, ”said Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm. ‘We have to move forward.
As Durham approached the goal line on his corner route, he extended his arm against the chest of corner-back Phillip Howard, whose pursuit by the contact did not appear to have changed significantly.
Refs called, but we still had to finish the game, Howard said.
Aune chose Plummer for the next play.
It was really who would turn the ball first. It was so difficult to get a takeaway, said Gophers coach PJ Fleck, whose defense only forced one kick in the first quarter.
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 missing an extra point.
Purdue used a fourth-and-1 conversion on a disc capped by the score reception from Durham who cut the lead to three points with 8:31 left. The Boilermakers got the ball back quickly after Seth Green, the wild quarterback for the Gophers, was eliminated for a 3-yard defeat to 4th-and-1 of their own 31. But Edward Dellinger, who had a 27-yard field goal. blocked in the second quarter, pulled his 33 yarder wide 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 had 492 yards in total. Moore took the field for the first time since injuring his hamstring against Minnesota on September 28, 2019. Plummer, who started six games last season, seamlessly replaced the injured Aidan O’Connell.
While playing their second consecutive home game on Friday night, a schedule quirk that’s hardly a blip in this odd season, the Gophers missed 22 players due to injuries or COVID-19 protocols. Offensive line coach Brian Callahan and two other team members were also absent, confirmed by Minnesota for positive tests for COVID-19. Ibrahim left with an injury in the fourth quarter, and cornerback Jordan Howden left with an injury in the third quarter.
Tanner Morgan’s junior year got off to a rocky start, but he delivered a crispy and impressive performance, marked by pointed throws on third downs and deep routes to Chris Autman-Bell (129 meters) and Rashod Bateman (59). Morgan finished 15 for 22 for 264 yards and no turnovers.
He had a head start, Fleck said. He played gritty.
Cam Wiley added a touchdown run, Ibrahim recorded his sixth straight 100-yard game, and the Gophers had their offense back in 2019 form.
The Minnesota defense, missing Boye Mafe, the top passer, played with a lot of energy despite the outside mismatches 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 as he had no possession in the corner of the end zone.
It’s one that’s going to sting, but that’s what losing should do to you, Brohm said. “I am proud of the fact that we played to the end and showed some arguments, some want to win. The defense revolted at the very end and gave us some chances. But when you miss a field goal, get one blocked, get a touchdown recalled, it’s hard to overcome against a good opponent.
Purdue: The return of Moore and the insertion of Plummer turned the attack into a machine that should bode well for the Boilermakers for the rest of the season.
Minnesota: After being blown away by Michigan and Iowa in their first two home games, the short-handed Gophers needed this kind of confidence.
Purdue: Hosts Rutgers on November 28.
Minnesota: Visits Wisconsin on Nov. 28.