Gophers Hang On To Beat Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Tanner Morgan threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns, both career highs, to help Minnesota hold off Purdue 38-31 on Saturday.
The Golden Gophers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) have won six straight overall and four in a row outside Minneapolis for the first time since 2003.
"The first three games we had to come from behind to win," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. "This game, we had to keep the lead to win. A lot of crazy things happened but our team found a way to respond."
Purdue (1-3, 0-1) has lost two straight home games and this one was never really close after the Boilermakers lost starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar and All-American receiver Rondale Moore on the same first-quarter play.
Sindelar appeared to hurt his left shoulder when he was sacked and Moore appeared to suffer a lower left leg injury while running down the field.
Morgan took full advantage by completing his first 14 passes, throwing for 298 yards in the first half — four short of his previous career best — and running an offense that needed only two quarters to produce nine plays of 16 or more yards. He finished 21 of 22 with no interceptions.
"I'm very disappointed in our pass defense and have been for a while," Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. "We can't give up that many passing yards. We knew what they were going to do and that's the disappointing part. Just a very poor performance."
It didn't take long for the Gophers to seize control, either.
Rodney Smith capped the first possession of the game with a 2-yard scoring run.
After the Boilermakers cut the deficit to 7-3, Morgan answered with a 70-yard TD pass to Chris Autman-Bell to make it 14-3.
Sindelar and Moore left on Purdue's next series, but Jack Plummer completed the drive with a 7-yard TD pass to Zander Horvath.
Morgan then threw TD passes of 45 yards to Rashod Bateman and 3 yards to Tyler Johnson for a 28-10 halftime lead.
Minnesota wasn't finished. Purdue running back King Doerue opened the second half with an 8-yard TD run, making it 28-17, but Minnesota answered with a field goal and a 47-yard TD pass to Bateman midway through the third quarter to seal it.
Doerue scored twice in the fourth quarter to make it close but the Gophers kept the ball for the final 3:59.
Bateman caught six passes for a career-best 177 yards and two scores. Autman-Bell had three catches for 97 yards and Rodney Smith carried 22 times for 115 yards.
Doerue carried 20 times for 94 yards and two TDs while catching four passes for 32 yards and another score. Plummer was 23 of 41 with 245 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers' offense played exquisitely Saturday. Morgan repeatedly connected with open receivers and Smith ran enough to keep the Boilermakers' defense honest. It's a combination that could soon be causing headaches for other Big Ten teams, too.
Purdue: The Boilermakers dug themselves out of a 0-3 start to make a bowl game last season, but this is going to be much tougher if Sindelar and Moore miss significant time. Purdue also lost offensive lineman D.J. Washington. And they'd already been playing without their top two defensive players — linebacker Markus Bailey and defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal.
Minnesota running back Shannon Brooks ran five times for 5 yards in his season debut — only his second appearance since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during winter conditioning between the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
He ran 22 times for 154 yards and one TD in last October's victory over Indiana but tore the ACL in his right knee during the game and missed the rest of the season.
Brooks has only played in eight games since rushing for 1,359 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016.
Minnesota: Returns to Minneapolis next Saturday to face Illinois.