In the grand scheme of things, one play late in the first half of the Gophers’ 41-10 victory over Purdue didn’t mean much. It wasn’t a touchdown, nor did it lead to one, but it showed the attitude Minnesota took in rebounding from a 34-point loss at Illinois the week before and sent a message to the Boilermakers.
With 1:09 left in the first quarter, the Gophers got the ball at their 20-yard line after a Purdue punt. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim took the first-down handoff from Tanner Morgan and charged into the Boilermakers defensive front. The redshirt freshman appeared stuffed, but he kept his legs churning and a band of his teammates joined, pushing the pile in a rugby-like scrum for an 11-yard gain.
“That definitely gave us motivation going into halftime,’’ said Ibrahim, who was a game-time decision to play because of an undisclosed injury but rushed 18 times for 155 yards. “I enjoyed it. We enjoyed it as a whole unit.’’
His coach certainly enjoyed it, too.
“He’s a tremendous, high-character, go-to-battle-with performer,’’ P.J. Fleck said. “He’s not that big, but he’s got a bigger heart than every single one of us in this room combined. That’s why he’s here.’’
Operating behind an offensive line that won one-on-one battles throughout the game, the 5-10, 205-pound Ibrahim got better as the game went on. He had 4 rushing yards through one quarter and 39 at halftime before gaining 102 on five carries in the third quarter as the Gophers tenderized Purdue’s defense. Included in that were consecutive runs of 16 and 43 yards on a touchdown drive that made it 27-3, followed by a 33-yarder on the march that pushed the lead to 34-3.
“Mo’s one of the toughest kids I know,’’ Morgan said. “He takes a lot of hits each and every day and each and every game. But he’s dependable. Whatever happens, we know we can go to Mo. He’s gonna get that yard, he’s gonna make those plays. He took over the game in the second half.’’
Ibrahim notched his third 100-yard rushing game of the season, the most for a Gophers freshman since Laurence Maroney had five in 2003.
Embracing the cold
The temperature at kickoff Saturday was 21 degrees, making it the third-coldest college game in TCF Bank Stadium history. The Nov. 15, 2014, game against Ohio State had a kickoff temperature of 15, and the Nov. 23, 2013, game against Wisconsin started at 18 degrees.
Fleck was happy to see it.
“Our team was fired up all week. We saw what the temperature was going to be,’’ he said. “This is Minnesota. We embraced it all week. We can’t wait to get to November football in the state of Minnesota. The more home games we can have in the state of Minnesota [in November], that’s an advantage.’’
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm agreed. “I don’t think we were ready for the elements,’’ he said. “We let that get to us as well.’’
Even on turnovers
The Gophers entered Saturday’s game ranked last in the Big Ten during conference play with a minus-8 turnover margin. They didn’t win the turnover battle vs. Purdue — each team gave the ball up once — but they didn’t lose it, and that was progress.
The Boilermakers cashed their takeaway in for a field goal, but Minnesota got a touchdown off their takeaway, on a Blake Cashman 40-yard fumble return.
• Saturday’s announced attendance of 31,068 was the lowest in TCF Bank Stadium history. The previous low was 33,273 for the Oct. 26 game against Indiana.
• Defensive tackle O.J. Smith and defensive back Antonio Shenault did not play because of head injuries. Smith missed his fifth consecutive game, Shenault his third in a row. Smith’s usual replacement, Royal Silver, missed the game because of an undisclosed injury.