Spoilermakers: Purdue stifles No. 21 Minnesota for 20-10 win
MINNEAPOLIS — Purdue has made a habit of these upsets of Top 25 teams under Jeff Brohm.
Toughing out this win at Minnesota was one of his proudest moments in six years as head coach.
Devin Mockobee rushed for 112 yards and a late touchdown to pad Purdue’s lead, and the Boilermakers’ defense fueled yet another takedown of a ranked opponent in a 20-10 victory over No. 21 Minnesota on Saturday.
“It was a long week. I’m tired,” Brohm said. “Because you’ve got to prepare for these guys. They’re really sound. They normally don’t beat themselves.”
The Gophers made it a little easier on Purdue this time, from the missed tackles early and late to the turnovers in between.
Cam Allen had two of the career-high three interceptions of Tanner Morgan, one in the end zone in the second quarter and another in the closing stretch.
Quarterback Aidan O’Connell returned from a one-game absence for the Boilermakers (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) and bounced back from two first-half interceptions to direct two drives for scores in the final 5 minutes.
“It was obviously frustrating. You never want to be on the sideline. It was hard to watch in practice and in the game last week, but I think it made me realize how much I do love my teammates,” said O’Connell, who went 27 for 40 for 199 yards.
The Spoilermakers is more like it. They beat No. 2 Iowa and No. 3 Michigan State last season and three ranked teams in 2018. This time, they knocked off a Gophers team that outscored its first four opponents 183-24. The only other teams in the FBS that hadn’t trailed entering this week were Georgia and Washington.
“Everything’s still in front of us,” said Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck. “We have to get better. Listen, nobody’s perfect. Even if you have a perfect record, you’re still not perfect.”
With star Mohamed Ibrahim held out after what appeared to be a minor ankle injury in Minnesota’s previous game, the Gophers (4-1, 1-1) were stifled on the ground. After so many shootouts between these teams over the years, defense ruled the day and the Boilermakers got the better of it to stop their four-game losing streak to Minnesota and spoil homecoming for the Gophers.
“There were too many times that push was going backwards, which we’re not used to,” Fleck said.
Bryce Williams, who led the Gophers with 35 yards on 11 rushes, scored on a 1-yard run to tie the game at 10 midway through the third quarter. After averaging 295 rushing yards over the first four games, the Gophers netted just 47 yards on 26 attempts.
“If there ain’t no gap, you can’t run through there, no matter who’s out there,” Boilermakers defensive tackle Branson Deen said.
The Boilermakers had three turnovers and three three-and-outs over seven straight scoreless possessions until O’Connell found a rhythm on a 70-yard march midway through the fourth quarter that set up Mitchell Fineran’s field goal for a 13-10 lead with 4:57 left.
Charlie Jones, who had 41 catches and seven touchdowns over the first four games to lead the FBS, had six receptions for 55 yards. He caught a 28-yard pass on that drive to set the Boilermakers up to pull ahead. O’Connell was heavily padded, Brohm said, with what was reported as a rib injury.
“He’s a tough kid. He’s just a competitor,” Jones said. “If he was able to go he was going to go.”
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With starter King Doerue out, Dylan Downing had 10 carries for 32 yards and a touchdown. Mockobee, a second-year walk-on delivered the kill shot by rumbling through the Gophers for a 68-yard gain inside the 4-minute mark to set up his score on the next play.
After Purdue lost leads to Penn State with 57 seconds left and to Syracuse with 7 seconds to go, the Boilermakers put this one away.
“We’ve been battle-tested, and I think today it showed that we’re ready for the test,” Deen said.
Purdue has outscored opponents 47-3 in the first quarter. The Gophers started the game with a three-and-out, a tipped-pass interception near midfield and a failed fourth-and-1 run at their 29.
Morgan, who went 13 for 33 for 257 yards, had an 11-yard pass late in the second quarter bounce off the chest of Michael Brown-Stephens and into Allen’s arms in the end zone.
After reappearing in the Associated Press Top 25 this week for the first time in nearly two years, the Gophers will likely fall out of the rankings.
Purdue: There’s no reason to believe the Boilermakers won’t contend for the Big Ten West title, given their strengths, their schedule and the state of the division. When a reporter suggested as much to Brohm, he quipped, “I don’t even know any other scores, so I hope you’re right.”
Minnesota: The only problem with playing so well over the first third of the season was the lack of action in tense situations, particularly for the defense. With the lack of sustained drives by the offense, the defense couldn’t have been fresh down the stretch - and it showed.
Purdue plays at Maryland next Saturday.
Minnesota has next week off and plays at Illinois on Oct. 15.