MINNEAPOLIS — Redemption. Plenty of college kickers would like to have it, but many don’t get the opportunity for it.
Ryan Santoso is glad he did.
The Gophers redshirt freshman kicker missed an extra point early in Saturday’s game against Purdue, and that one measly point appeared much bigger as the game drew closer to an end. Minnesota trailed by 11 at halftime and had to scratch its way back into the game.
Trailing by two points with five minutes to play, Minnesota called on Santoso once again. This time, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound kicker drilled a 52-yarder with plenty of distance to spare on what proved to be the game-winning field goal. It put the Gophers up, 39-38, which wound up as the final score.
"It was a great opportunity, just to get down that far on the field," Santoso said. "You’ve just got to take it one kick at a time and move on from the past."
The missed extra point came early in the second quarter after Donnell Kirkwood’s three-yard touchdown run. Minnesota was flagged for a penalty before the extra point, and Santoso’s ensuing attempt hit off the right upright. It was the first missed PAT for Santoso in his brief college career — he was 23 for 23 before the miss — and it meant the Gophers led 20-14 instead of 21-14.
That missed extra point forced Minnesota to attempt a two-point conversion early in the third quarter after a Mitch Leidner touchdown drew the Gophers to within 31-26. Hoping to make it a three-point game, Minnesota drew up a trick play that resulted in Santoso running the ball.
Holder Peter Mortell flipped the ball to Santoso, who ran up the middle. Purdue was ready, though, and stopped him short of the goal line.
"I need to take lessons from David Cobb," Santoso said, referring to Minnesota’s standout running back.
Santoso did connect on a 20-yard field goal midway through the third quarter to cut Purdue’s lead to 31-29. Still, that missed extra point was hanging over his head as the game wound down.
Minnesota eventually got the big-legged kicker one more chance to redeem himself. After the Gophers’ drive stalled at the Purdue 35-yard line, it was up to Santoso to attempt the 52-yarder.
The sighs of relief could almost be heard between the shouting and cheering from fans at TCF Bank Stadium as Santoso’s kick sailed between the uprights.
"When it counted, the rookie came in and popped one," said Gophers head coach Jerry Kill. "We said we’d get the ball around the 35 and we felt he could stick it, because we stick it every day in practice. We had a good hold, snap, and protection and execution, and a great kick. I watched that thing all the way. I think he had eight, nine yards to spare."
Maye’s first TD a big one: Minnesota junior wide receiver KJ Maye entered Saturday’s game against Purdue with 21 catches in his college career. None of them, however, ended with him getting to the end zone.
Maye had just one catch Saturday, but it was a crucial one. It was also his first career touchdown, as he caught a perfectly placed pass from Leidner for 37 yards. That score helped Minnesota get to within two points of Purdue, 38-36, with 1:13 left in the third quarter.
"We run that play probably three times in practice," Maye said. "It’s our first time running it in a game, so I was kind of waiting on it. I knew once the safety moved out of the middle of the field, once I got up and cut across . . . he put the ball in a good area."
Maye still had a man to beat before crossing the goal line, so he jumped as he approached the end zone and dove for his first touchdown as a Gopher.
Gophers sweat out another review: Earlier in Saturday’s game, Minnesota was on the wrong side of a video review when officials ruled a Purdue pass was an incompletion — as it was called on the field — and not a fumble recovered by the Gophers.
Late in the third quarter, the refs took a look at another potential fumble. This one was charged to Leidner, and Purdue initially recovered the ball. Replays showed, though, that Leidner’s knee was indeed down before he lost the football.
The call came on the first play of a Gophers drive that started at their own 42-yard line. If Purdue did get the ball back, the Boilermakers would have had an opportunity to tack onto their 38-29 lead.
Instead, the call was overturned as the officials ruled Leidner was down before the fumble. That proved to be a big review as Minnesota eventually went on to score on that drive on Leidner’s deep completion to Maye.
"I knew it was down when it first happened," Leidner said. "It’s just kind of like, ‘Oh man.’ . . . That’s the biggest thing is having a piece of adversity happen to you during the game, you’ve just got to overcome it."