Gophers replay: Purdue 31, Gophers 17
In a thunderstorm-delayed game that saw three lead changes in the fourth quarter, the Gophers (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) fell to the Boilermakers (3-2, 1-1) when Markell Jones scored on a 12-yard run and Purdue got a two-point conversion with 1:17 left for a 24-17 lead. That came after Emmit Carpenter kicked a 38-yard field goal with 2:26 to play to give Minnesota a 17-16 lead. The Gophers had one last chance and drove to the Purdue 27, but Ja’Whaun Bentley intercepted Conor Rhoda’s fourth-down pass and returned it 76 yards for a TD with 10 seconds left for the 14-point edge. The game began with steady winds of 17 mph and gusts up to 35 mph, and a thunderstorm blew in early in the fourth quarter, just after Purdue took a 16-14 lead. Play was suspended, and the delay lasted 1 hour, 28 minutes.
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New wrinkles on offense
The Gophers opened up their offense a bit Saturday, sending running back Shannon Brooks on jet sweeps, a wrinkle that led to positive results. Brooks rushed 18 times for 116 yards, and his 10-yard gain on a sweep helped set up Carpenter’s field goal that put the Gophers ahead. “I feel like it definitely worked,’’ Brooks said. “That is something that we’ve been practicing a lot. … A lot of teams are going to stack the box, and our coach [offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca] does a great job being creative to get playmakers in space.’’
The Gophers began the game driving into that stiff wind, and those conditions prompted coach P.J. Fleck to use rugby-style punter Jacob Herbers instead of Ryan Santoso on Minnesota’s first punting situation in the hopes of keeping the ball low and out of the wind. The move backfired, as Herbers’ kick went only 11 yards and Purdue began its first drive on the Gophers 37-yard line. The Boilermakers quickly scored for a 6-0 lead. “We wanted to be able to put ourselves in the best position. We worked on it all week,’’ coach P.J. Fleck said. “And they we kick it for a 10-yard punt. We’ve got to be able to execute.’’
No targeting call
Gophers wide receiver Phillip Howard was lost for the game on the first possession when he was hit in the head by Purdue cornerback Da’Wan Hunte. Not targeting call was made, though the hit looked borderline. “The ref didn’t call targeting, and they reviewed it, so it must not have been,’’ Fleck said.
Up next: No. 21 Michigan State
7 p.m. Saturday, TCF Bank Stadium, BTN
Fresh off their 14-10 upset of No. 7 Michigan in the Big House, the Spartans (4-1, 2-0) come to town looking like a contender in the tough Big Ten East. Michigan State took advantage of five Michigan turnovers and beat the Wolverines for the eighth time in the past 10 meetings. Last year the Spartans free-fell to a 3-9 mark after making it to the College Football Playoff semifinals in 2015. They’re making the 2016 season look like an aberration. “We’re not done yet,’’ linebacker Joe Bachie said.