MINNEAPOLIS — Devin Mockobee rushed for 102 yards and a late touchdown to pad Purdue's lead, and the Boilermakers defense fueled yet another takedown of a ranked opponent in a 20-10 victory over No. 21 Minnesota on Saturday.
Cam Allen had two of Purdue's three interceptions of Tanner Morgan, one in the end zone in the second quarter and another in the closing minutes. Quarterback Aidan O'Connell returned from a one-game injury absence for the Boilermakers (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) and bounced back from two first-half interceptions to direct two drives for scores in the final 5 minutes.
With star Mohamed Ibrahim held out after what appeared to be a minor ankle injury in Minnesota's previous game, the Gophers (4-1, 1-1) were stifled on the ground for just 47 yards on 26 attempts. After so many shootouts between these teams over the years, the defenses ruled the day and the Boilermakers got the better of it to stop a four-game losing streak to Minnesota.
The Spoilermakers is more like it. They beat No. 2 Iowa and No. 3 Michigan State last season and three ranked teams in 2018. This time, they knocked off a Gophers team that outscored its first four opponents 183-24. The only other teams in the FBS that hadn't trailed entering this week were Georgia and Washington.
The Boilermakers had three turnovers and three three-and-outs over seven straight scoreless possessions, until O'Connell found a rhythm on a 70-yard march midway through the fourth quarter that set up Mitchell Fineran's second field goal of the game for a 13-10 lead with 4:57 left.
Charlie Jones, who had 41 catches and seven touchdowns over the first four games to lead the FBS, had six receptions for 55 yards. Jones caught a 28-yard pass on the drive to get the Boilermakers in prime position to pull ahead.
The Gophers went three and out, and then Mockobee delivered the kill shot by rumbling through their defense for a 68-yard gain to set up his score on the next play.
Bryce Williams, who led the Gophers with 35 yards on 11 rushes, scored on a 1-yard run to tie the game at 10 in the third quarter. After averaging 295 rushing yards over the first four games, the Gophers netted only 17 yards on the ground on 15 attempts in the first half.
The Gophers were unable to escape their earlier misfires. Matthew Trickett missed a 28-yard field goal in the first quarter. Morgan had a pass bounce off the chest of Michael Brown-Stephens and into Allen's arms in the end zone in the second quarter. The Gophers also got stuffed on fourth-and-1 from their own 29, when backup quarterback Cole Kramer ran a failed draw.
Minnesota's homecoming was spoiled last season, too, by Bowling Green. That 14-10 loss was pinned largely on a passing game that was then in disarray. Morgan was 5 for 13 for 59 yards, two interceptions and four sacks that day.
The Boilermakers were eager to atone for their last game here, a 34-31 loss in an empty stadium during the pandemic when tight end Payne Durham was called for a disputed offensive pass interference penalty to wipe out what would've been the go-ahead touchdown and the Gophers intercepted Jack Plummer after that to seal the victory.
After reappearing in the Associated Press Top 25 this week for the first time in nearly two years, the Gophers will likely fall out of the rankings.
Purdue: The Boilermakers, who were missing three injured starters on offense, have long fielded one of the Big Ten's most potent passing attacks even before coach Jeff Brohm arrived. Their defense has been catching up, and this was a solid performance by both the players and the coaches on that side of the ball. There's no reason to believe the Boilermakers won't contend all the way to the end for the Big Ten West division title.
Minnesota: The only problem with playing so well over the first third of the season was the lack of action in tense situations, particularly for the defense. No matter how much coach P.J. Fleck and his staff push the one-game-at-a-time approach, letups are part of human nature. With the lack of sustained drives by the offense, the defense wasn't fresh down the stretch — and it showed.
Purdue plays at Maryland next Saturday.
Minnesota has next week off and plays at Illinois on Oct. 15.
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