WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. - He didn't even turn around to look. Marcus Jones arrived in Purdue's end zone a mere 13 seconds after he set out for it from 92 yards away, and he didn't bother checking the grass behind him for cruel yellow flags.
"Nah, I had confidence my kickoff-return team wouldn't make the same mistake," said Jones, deprived of a nearly identical score a week ago by a holding penalty. "They told me they were going to block it the best they could. And they did that."
And Jones did the rest. The freshman from North Carolina took Carson Wiggs' kickoff in the center of the field, and jetted into a clearing that opened right in front of him.
"They were trying to squeeze me to the middle, so when I caught the ball, I realized the middle was wide open. I just hit it straight as fast as I could," Jones said.
He did, and this one counted. It came a week later than he would have liked, but Jones became the first Gopher to return a kickoff all the way since Jay Thomas' 91-yard romp against Florida Atlantic in 2007.
Not that it meant much to him. The third-quarter score cut a 42-point deficit to 35, he pointed out. Sort of takes the electricity out of it.
"It's kind of disappointing that you score when the team's down. You wish you could do it on the first kickoff return, the second kickoff return, to give your team a chance," said the 18-year-old Gopher. "It's not as exciting as it would be if you were up in the game."
Still, it beats some of Jones' other exploits Saturday. He caught a 32-yard pass from MarQueis Gray, the Gophers' longest offensive play of the day, but there were negatives, too. When he snuck into open space in the end zone during the second quarter, he dropped a sure touchdown pass. And on Minnesota's final possession, he reacted violently when a safety broke up a pass by coming over the top, a shove that earned him a 15-yard penalty.
"Just frustration. Frustrated to be down, kind of not used to being down in games and losing," Jones said. "You can credit it to inexperience or just plain stupidity, but that's a mistake I can't make in these games."
Brothers on the line
The Gophers' lineup Saturday featured the first pairing of brothers in a couple of years.
Freshman Tommy Olson started at left guard, next to his big brother Ed, the Gophers' left tackle, making the Olsons the first siblings in the Gophers' starting lineup since Jeff and Nick Tow-Arnett in 2009.
"I'm anxious to see how it went in his first game," coach Jerry Kill said of his plans to watch game film later Saturday.
• Linebacker Lamonte Edwards made his first career start Saturday, ahead of junior Keanon Cooper, and made three tackles. He might have picked up a few rushing yards, too, but a hand injury caused Kill to worry about the possibility of a fumble. Tailback David Cobb suffered a hamstring injury Thursday, Kill said, so Edwards stayed after practice to work out once more at his old tailback position. "I was out there at 5:15, with Lamonte and MarQueis, repping him at tailback, teaching him everything I could teach him," Kill said. "I'd have played him today, but he hurt his hand."
Devon Wright was injured on punt coverage, removing another tailback from the Gophers' depth chart. Only Duane Bennett (53 yards on 15 carries) and Donnell Kirkwood (27 yards, 12 carries but two fumbles lost) received handoffs against Purdue.
• The loss extends Minnesota's streak to 36 consecutive games in which it trailed at one point, including all 10 of the victories in that time. It was the 16th time during that streak, and fourth this season, that the Gophers never held a lead.