The Gophers bounced back on Saturday with a fantastic 20-13 win over a good Purdue Boilermakers team. Honestly, Purdue made a HUGE mistake in playing the Gophers a week after the Gophers struggled against a weak MAC team. Earlier in the season, the Gophers traveled to Boulder, CO a week after struggling against another MAC team and obliterated the Buffaloes, 30-0. The main question coming in was which Minnesota Gophers football team was going to show up. It is a valid question because this season has not made very much sense. The have played tough against two Power-5 schools (Ohio State and Colorado) but have struggled against 2 MAC schools (Miami-OH and Bowling Green). The Gophers answered the questions with a great game and even better second half. Saturday marked the first win under PJ Fleck where the Gophers have earned a victory while trailing at halftime (now 1-17 in that category under Fleck). This performance has everyone feeling better, but the question of which team will show up will continue to hover week to week, which is completely warranted.
Saturday's game featured poor weather conditions and rain the entire game. That didn't stop the Gophers from creating big time plays throughout the game, and taking advantage of the opportunities. Purdue started with the ball, but were only able to get to midfield until Gophers DE Boye Mafe rushed in like a cannon and came up with a HUGE strip sack that resulted in a Gopher recovery. Three plays later, good old Tanner Morgan showed up and dropped an absolute DIME to his favorite WR, Chris Autman-Bell, in the corner of the end zone for a 32 yard TD pass. For Purdue, RB King Doerue and WR David Bell each tallied over 120 yards on the day. Expect them to continue to be Purdue's two best offensive players the rest of the season. They are both explosive game-changers and I wouldn't be surprised if Purdue is able to pull off a massive upset later in the year. After two solid drives, Purdue was able to take a 10-7 lead halfway through the second quarter. The Gophers took over with 7 minutes left in the half, needing to put some points on the board. Tanner Morgan loaded up and connected with WR Mike Brown-Stephens, nephew to famous singer/songwriter John Legend, for a 51 yard completion that traveled 54 yards in the air and on the MONEY. The two teams went into halftime with Purdue leading 13-10. Not a great sign for Gophers fans as they find their team at 0-17 when trailing at halftime since PJ Fleck has become the Head Coach.
Whatever the Gophers did at halftime, it worked. On the first play of the second half, Tanner Morgan connected with Mike Brown-Stephens on a 54 yard BOMB. If he was able to lead him (Brown-Stephens had to slow down as the ball was slightly under thrown) it would have been an easy touchdown. That didn't matter. The Gophers simply called 2 rushing plays in a row for Treyson Potts as he ended up in the end zone, resulting in a 17-13 lead which the Gophers would not give back. The Gophers defense was able to shut out Purdue in the second half and finished the day with a fumble recovery, 4 sacks, 7 tackles-for-loss, and a game ending interception by Safety Tyler Nubin to seal the 20-13 victory. The Gophers offense were led by QB Tanner Morgan (169 yards and 1 TD), RB Treyson Potts (78 yards and 1 TD), WR Mike Brown-Stephens (105 yards), and WR Chris Autman-Bell (40 yards and 1 TD).
It wasn't the prettiest victory, but to start the Big Ten West season out 1-0 on the road is a great start. The Gophers are now 3-2 on the season with all of their conference goals right in front of them as they head into a MUCH needed bye week. They have some key players banged up after the last couple weeks and should return home on October 16th to host Nebraska with a healthy squad. Let's hope the Gophers play with this same passion every game the rest of the season. If they play to their true capabilities, I still believe they are a legit Top-25 team with the ability to play with any team in the Big Ten.