Upon Further Review: Gophers at Purdue

After three games in which Minnesota had to make a fourth-quarter comeback, the shoe was on the other foot for the Gophers in their Big Ten opener.

Holding a 38-17 lead entering the final period, Minnesota held off a charge from Purdue, securing a 38-31 road victory.

Minnesota jumped all over the Boilermakers early, mainly behind the arm of quarterback Tanner Morgan, taking a 28-10 halftime lead. Purdue had trouble stopping the Gophers all game as Minnesota racked up 488 yards.

But Minnesota got a little conservative, and Purdue was aided by recovering an onside kick, as the Boilermakers scored a pair of touchdowns four minutes apart.

With just under four minutes left in the game, though, Purdue relied on its defense and kicked deep after cutting the lead to seven. Mistake.

The Gophers got a key first down thanks to a pass interference penalty on a third-and-6 play then used the legs of Rodney Smith to rush for two more first downs.

The Boilermakers never got the ball back and Minnesota got its fourth victory of the season.

Here’s a recap of Saturday’s game:

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How good was Tyler Morgan? He went 4-for-4 for 61 yards on Minnesota’s opening scoring drive. How good was Morgan? His 10th pass was a 45-yard touchdown – making him 10-for-10 for 239 yards. How good was Morgan? At the half he was 16-for-17 for 298 yards and three touchdowns. How good was Morgan? He threw for 398 yards, the most for Minnesota since Adam Weber had 416 against Michigan State on Oct. 31, 2009. How good was Weber? He completed 21 of 22 passes; the 95.5% completion percentage is the best for any QB in Big Ten history (min. 15 attempts). Any more questions?


Someone had to catch all those passes and Rashod Bateman was the main benefactor. Bateman finished with six catches for 177 yards with two touchdowns. He got his first in the second quarter, running a slant and taking it 45 yards to the house. His second occurred in the third quarter, one play after Purdue punted. On a play-fake, Bateman was open deep as the defensive back bit and connected with Morgan on a 47-yard strike. Bateman also had what was likely the catch the day in the third quarter, coming down with a 42-yard reception which he had to fight for against a defender and also bobbled before hauling it in.


Late in the first half, Sam Renner sacked Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer for an 11-yard loss, pushing the Boilermakers to their own 27-yard line. Instead of trying to run out the clock, Purdue kept trying to pass – and two incompletions later the Boilermakers punted, giving Minnesota the ball at its own 38 with 1:58 remaining. After Morgan lost three yards on a sack and Rodney Smith ran for six, Purdue elected to call timeout with 1:32 left. Morgan then went to work – 8 yards to Bateman and 20 to Smith, for back-to-back first downs. After his first (and only) incompletion, it was four more completions, culminating in a three-yard score to Tyler Johnson. Instead of it being a two-score game, Minnesota was up by 18 and Purdue was in chase mode.


2 – interceptions for Kamal Martin. Martin is the first Gopher with two picks in a game since Cedric Thompson on Oct. 18, 2014. It’s also only the 12th time a Minnesota player has had two INTs in a game since 2000 – and Martin is the only linebacker among the bunch.


“Our quarterback had a 95.4 percent completion percentage. I’d say that’s pretty good. He’s a winner. He’s tough, he’s a leader. He’s not 6-foot-6 with a huge arm at 230 pounds, not flashy. But he’s smart and he’s mastered our offense.” — head coach P.J. Fleck on Tanner Morgan

“They can get themselves open all game, all I need to do is put it on them. If you can hit them in stride and let them keep their speed they got a chance to break one tackle and go.” — Morgan

“We know we have to earn our respect in the Big Ten. I feel like we came out here and did that tonight.” — wide receiver Rashon Bateman


Minnesota returns home to face Illinois, which was off Saturday. The Illini won their first two games against Akron and UConn but then lost two closes contests, both at home, to Eastern Michigan and Nebraska. Don’t expect the Gophers to take Illinois lightly, after all the Illini beat Minnesota last year 55-31.