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Scoggins: Gophers defense performs stunning about-face

Where did that come from?

Seriously, was that really the same Gophers defense on display at snow-covered TCF Bank Stadium?

A week ago, the Gophers gave up 430 rushing yards to a bad Illinois team.

On Saturday, they held a potent Purdue offense to minus-2 yards rushing through three quarters.

Pick any superlative and it applies to the performance put forth by a unit that became so overwhelmed and deflated that P.J. Fleck had no choice but to fire defensive coordinator Robb Smith this week.

The response to that drastic move was stunning.

The Gophers delivered one of their best defensive efforts in a long, long time in a 41-10 win over Purdue.

Their dominance was captured in statistics. The Gophers held Purdue to 233 total yards and 0-for-12 on third down.

That qualifies as remarkable given the circumstances.

Purdue entered the game ranked second in the Big Ten in scoring in conference games at 35.8 points per game. The Gophers defense was allowing 43.2 points per game against Big Ten opponents.

On paper, this figured to be another wipeout after watching Illinois shred the Gophers over and over last week with big plays.

It proved to be wipeout, except the other way. Go figure.

Credit where credit is due: Interim defensive coordinator Joe Rossi rallied his players after a difficult week, and they responded.

The Gophers tackled infinitely better. They seemed to be in the right spots in assignment and alignment. They played aggressively at all levels and displayed a lot of emotion.

Their performance reinforces the importance of coaching. And confidence. The Gophers looked prepared – mentally and physically – and they pounced on the Boilermakers.

They should feel good about themselves after enduring mostly tough times this season.

Scoggins: Falvey, Levine making a mistake by firing Molitor

Paul Molitor was honored as the AL Manager of the Year after the 2017 season.

On Tuesday, the Twins fired him after a disappointing 2018 season.

The Twins new brain trust of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine got it wrong with this decision. They made Molitor a scapegoat for a season in which many things went wrong, including a number of their own personnel decisions.

I argued in my Tuesday column that Molitor deserved to return based on all the factors that contributed to this ugly season. Miguel Sano showed up to spring training out of shape at nearly 300 pounds. Staff ace Ervin Santana (finger surgery) and shortstop Jorge Polanco (drug suspension) missed the first half of the season. Falvey and Levine mostly whiffed on veteran pickups Logan Morrison, Lance Lynn, Addison Reed, Zach Duke and Jake Odorizzi.

Those factors sabotaged this season and weren't the fault of Molitor, who signed a three-year contract last offseason and had two more seasons left on his deal.

Molitor's job looked in jeopardy when owner Jim Pohlad declined to give him a vote of confidence during an interview with the Star Tribune last week.

It's fairly common for new management to make coaching changes when they take over a team. Executives like to hire their own coaches. That's part of the sports business. Falvey and Levine basically had no choice but to extend Molitor's contract after he guided the Twins to the one-game playoff last season.

Molitor didn't become a bad manager in one season. He didn't lose his clubhouse. He adapted his managerial style to mesh with the new-age principles of Falvey and Levine in terms of analytics and defensive shifts.

Unless there were personality clashes behind the scenes that we're not privy to, this move doesn't make sense to me, other than Falvey and Levine wanted their own hand-picked manager.

The pressure on them increases in a major way with this decision. Their next choice of manager is a critical hire for the direction of the organization. This will be a total house cleaning. They have to get it right because they just fired a man who was recognized as the Manager of the Year one year ago.