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.

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