After an 0-3 start, the Purdue Boilermakers were off to the races. Even with a blip against Michigan State, the team was 5-4 and almost certain to become bowl eligible on Saturday. Then they ran into… the Golden Gophers? The freshman-heavy Golden Gophers, who lost big to Maryland, Nebraska, and Illinois this season? Yes, it was those Golden Gophers who thumped Purdue 41-10 in the snowy Twin Cities. Here’s how Minnesota beat Purdue:
Seth Green and the Wildcat
The coaches have carved out a nice niche for wide receiver Seth Green running the wildcat formation. The 6’4″, 240-pound former quarterback has lined up at his old position and run the ball in short yardage very effectively. When the Gophers lined up with Green at QB on second-and-goal from the 11, Purdue naturally assumed Green would run. Instead, he found tight end Jake Paulson wide open in the end zone for the score. With the Boilermakers having to account for the possibility of a pass, Green was able to run for a touchdown out of a similar formation later in the game.
New Defensive Coordinator
After allowing 55 points to Illinois in week 10, head coach P.J. Fleck made the tough call to fire defensive coordinator Robb Smith in-season. Defensive line coach Joe Rossi was promoted to interim coordinator. I’m not sure anyone expected that move to pay such huge dividends so quickly. Minnesota held Purdue to a season-low 10 points and outgained them in total yards 233 (also a season-low) to 415. The Boilermakers didn’t have a 100-yard receiver (Rondale Moore led with 76 yards on eight catches) and the entire team had 88 yards on the ground.
I’m going to give Mother Nature an assist here, too. (Sorry to throw a hockey term into a football story, but it is Minnesota). I didn’t catch the temperature at kickoff, but the “feels-like” temperature was 11 degrees. The snow, while not really accumulating, was coming down hard at times. In short, these conditions were not conducive to the passing game. Purdue needed to be able to run the ball, and they couldn’t.
The tide really turned on this play shortly after halftime. Minnesota was leading 13-3 when Boilermaker quarterback David Blough dropped back in the read-option, and kept the ball. Linebacker Blake Cashman got to Blough, sacked him, stripped the ball, picked it up, and ran it back 40 yards for the touchdown. Up 20-3, with weather conditions deteriorating, was when I think the Gophers knew they were going to win this game.
Those certainly aren’t the only reasons Minnesota beat Purdue. There are a lot of players I haven’t mentioned who were key to this win. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim continues to impress, receiver Tyler Johnson had another big game, the offensive line played well. Emmit Carpenter made both field goal attempts and converted all five PATs in lousy weather. Linebacker Thomas Barber had one and a half sacks. This was a true team effort.