Gophers replay Gophers 41, Purdue 10
A week after giving up 646 yards in a 55-31 loss at Illinois that led to the firing of defensive coordinator Robb Smith, the Gophers did a 180-degree turn in a blowout win over Purdue at TCF Bank Stadium. Under interim coordinator Joe Rossi, Minnesota (5-5, 2-5) held the Boilermakers (5-5, 4-3) to a season-low 233 yards. Purdue didn’t reach the end zone until 5:28 remained in the fourth quarter with the Gophers leading 41-3.
“I’m so proud of how this team has dealt with adversity throughout this season, especially this week,’’ Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said.
The Gophers offense played a big role, too, putting together scoring drives of 69, 83, 89 and 81 yards as running back Mohamed Ibrahim rushed 18 times for 155 yards.
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One more win for a bowl
The victory improved the Gophers to 5-5, and they can gain bowl eligibility with one more win. They are host to Northwestern on Saturday and travel to Wisconsin on Nov. 24, games in which they will be underdogs.
Jerry Palm, a CBSSports.com college football analyst who specializes in bowl projections, does not project the Gophers as making a bowl. He also projects that enough teams will have six or more wins to fill the 78 bowl spots. If there aren’t enough six-win teams, a 5-7 team with the highest Academic Progress Rate score can fill an open spot. That happened with the Gophers in 2015, when they went 5-7 and landed in the Quick Lane Bowl.
No big plays allowed
Peppered by big plays throughout a 1-5 start in Big Ten play, the Gophers held firm Saturday. Purdue’s longest play from scrimmage was 17 yards, and the Boilermakers had only seven gains of 10 yards or more, and two of those came after the Gophers had a 41-3 lead. Through three quarters, Purdue had no rushes of longer than 9 yards.
“What’s killed us in the past is explosive plays,’’ Fleck said. “I don’t think there were any explosive plays tonight. Zero.’’
Up next: vs. No. 24 Northwestern
11 a.m. Saturday • TCF Bank Stadium • BTN (100.3-FM)
The skinny: With help from wins by the Gophers over Purdue and Penn State over Wisconsin on Saturday, Northwestern clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and at least a share of the West Division title with its 14-10 victory at Iowa. The Wildcats (6-4, 6-1) have a two-game lead over both the Boilermakers and Badgers and hold tiebreakers over both teams because of head-to-head victories.
“This team has overcome a ton of adversity,’’ said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, whose Wildcats are the first Power Five team to clinch a division title while going 0-3 in nonconference play. “We got beat up. We had a bunch of injuries, lost some tough games there. The brotherhood in that locker room is the glue that kept everything together.’’
Northwestern has won five of its past six games, with the only loss to No. 3 Notre Dame. Keying the surge is freshman running back Isaiah Bowser, who took over when Jeremy Larkin had to retire because of a spinal condition. Bowser has surpassed 100 rushing yards in three of the past four games, and he had 165 yards and a touchdown against Iowa.