Gophers plow past host Purdue, 41-13
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Shannon Brooks gave Minnesota's running game a fresh start and an old look Saturday.
He broke tackles, ran away from defenders and almost single-handedly got the Golden Gophers' sluggish offense in sync.
The powerful 206-pound freshman ran 17 times for a season-high 176 yards including a game-breaking 71-yard TD run early in the second half that led Minnesota to a 41-13 blowout at Purdue.
"Shannon Brooks is going to be a heck of a back. He reminds me of Marion Barber," coach Jerry Kill said. "He is fast, and he hits the holes."
He certainly did Saturday.
The question now is whether he can keep it up during a brutal four-game stretch against Nebraska, No. 18 Michigan, No. 1 Ohio State and No. 22 Iowa.
At least the Golden Gophers now have some momentum.
The Big Ten's worst rushing team piled up a season-best 326 yards on the ground. The reason: Brooks, whose combination of speed and power rekindled images of former Purdue star Mike Alstott.
Brooks delivered body blow after body blow with his strong inside runs, then changed the game by breaking tackles and outrunning the rest of the Boilermakers defense on the second play of the second half on the TD run that made it 17-6.
Purdue never recovered.
Much maligned quarterback Mitch Leidner took the cue, throwing two TD passes to Brandon Lingen to make it 31-6, and Jalen Myrick finished the scoring flurry with a 27-yard interception return that made it 38-6 with 1:11 left in the third quarter.
Minnesota won its third straight in the series for the first time since 1989-91.
"For me, this was huge in terms of confidence, because it was something I always knew was there," Leidner said after going 8 of 12 for 59 yards with two TDs and one interception following a week in which fans were calling for him to be replaced.
Purdue (1-5, 0-2), meanwhile, looked every bit as inept offensively as Minnesota was supposed to.
After D.J. Knox capped a 75-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run to open the game, the Boilermakers didn't score again until David Blough threw a 10-yard TD pass to Cole Herdman with 4:39 left.
In between, the mistake-prone Boilermakers couldn't get anything right.
Paul Griggs hit the left upright on his first extra-point attempt. Punt returner Trae Hart muffed a punt near midfield as he tried to make an ill-conceived diving catch. Blough finished 21 of 49 with one TD pass and three interceptions, and the ground game that looked so strong at Michigan State managed only 2.4 yards per carry.
Purdue has lost four straight overall, eight straight in league play and has only two wins over FBS foes under third-year coach Darrell Hazell.
"I' m not sure where the breakdowns are," Hazell said. "All of a sudden we were out of sync."
Minnesota made them pay for it -- time and again.
After Ryan Santoso's 37-yard field goal cut Purdue's lead to 6-3, Myrick picked off Blough, putting the ball at the Purdue 37. Six plays later, Leidner capitalized with a 1-yard TD plunge that gave Minnesota a 10-6 lead. Leidner's 19th career TD run broke a tie with Sandy Stephens for the second-most rushing scores by a Minnesota quarterback.
But it was Brooks' strong runs that kept the Gophers offense chugging and eventually got them out of their scoring funk.