It was a play that saw two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, players fighting after the whistle and Gophers senior safety Cedric Thompson getting destroyed by an illegal block.
“It was all kinds of stuff,” Thompson said of the fourth-quarter exchange. “It was my neck, it was my head, it was my stomach, it was my chest. [Danny Anthrop] hit me pretty good.”
While the referees sorted out the pandemonium on the field, Thompson was on the sideline, determined to get back in and help his team complete a comeback from an 11-point halftime deficit.
Thompson returned and made an impact one last time before the clock hit zero.
The Gophers’ captain had arguably the best game of his career Saturday after recording two interceptions. The second pick came after he returned from his injury, and it was the game-clinching turnover on Purdue’s last offensive drive.
“For [Cedric] to come back in the game after he got hit there on a peel-back block and laid there on the turf … and then he comes back and makes a pick … You’ve got to make plays in critical times, and we made plays in critical times,” head coach Jerry Kill said.
Thompson’s other pick also came at a pivotal time in the game as he nearly returned an interception to the end zone on the very first play of the game.
“It was pretty important to set the tone of the game. Watching film, I kind of knew that route was coming, so I sat there and got it,” Thompson said. “I think I got to the end zone. I don’t know if [the referees] read that right. Either way, we got seven points and [running back David] Cobb ran it in, so it was good.”
Kill told reporters throughout the summer that Thompson was emerging as the heart and soul of the Gophers’ defense and said he really stepped up to take a leadership role.
Part of the leadership that Thompson exhibits is the dedication that he puts into watching film.
On both of his interceptions, Thompson explained that he knew what route was coming because he had watched so much film on the Boilermakers.
“When I saw the play watching film, I kind of knew what was going to come,” Thompson said, referencing his second interception. “I said, ‘[If] this quarterback throws this ball, it’s mine,’ and once he threw it, I grabbed it from him.”
It’s that kind of dedication that has helped the Gophers bolt out to a 6-1 record and emerge as a contender in the Big Ten West, something that was considered unlikely before the season.
“[Cedric] means a lot as a senior, as a captain. The guy gives us everything he has every day in practice, the weight room, the games,” Cobb said. “When you take a shot like [he did], and you see one of your players out there like that, you [have] got to bow your neck a little bit.”