Squandered opportunities to blame in loss

Minnesota amassed 252 total yards in the first half, but just seven points.

Mark Remme

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Minnesota’s inability to play sound football against formidable opponents proved costly in its 27-21 loss at Purdue on Saturday.

The Gophers rolled to victory in convincing fashion against Kent State and Temple, racking up 106 points while not surrendering a score.

By contrast, the Gophers showed penalty-ridden, fundamentally unstable performances against California and Purdue.

Senior quarterback Bryan Cupito said the game was winnable, but the execution kept the Gophers from tallying a victory.

“Sometimes when you lose, you feel like a team is better and you play well (against them),” he said. “But I don’t feel that way at all today.

“I feel like we’re both evenly matched teams and they just made more plays than we did.”

As it stood at halftime, Minnesota amassed 252 yards of total offense but only seven points.

The reason was mostly attributed to the lack of productivity inside Purdue’s 50-yard line, aside from their first-possession score midway through the first quarter.

“We missed a lot of opportunities in the first half,” Cupito said. “The second half we didn’t miss as many opportunities but when you miss that many in the first half it really takes a toll on us.”

The Gophers blew an opportunity late in the first half to at least tie the score heading into halftime.

After Cupito completed a pass to freshman wide receiver Mike Chambers, Purdue freshman cornerback David Pender was called for a personal foul on a late hit that gave Minnesota the ball on the Boilermakers’ 4-yard line.

After two plays produced no gains, Cupito threw a fade pass to junior wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright in the end zone.

Wheelwright leaped for the ball, tipped it in the air, and eventually watched it land in the hands of senior linebacker George Hall for an interception and a touchback.

The missed opportunity was not only a point swing, but also a momentum swing.

Coach Glen Mason said coming away from that last drive of the half with no points really hurt the Gophers going into the second half.

“We missed a ton of opportunities and we went in down at halftime when we should be ahead,” Mason said.

After halftime, Purdue came out of the locker room looking like a new team.

The Boilermakers started their first drive of the second half on the 20-yard line and proceeded to march 80 yards on 11 plays.

Purdue capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown rush by sophomore running back Jaycen Taylor.

Penalties took over for fundamental mistakes during the fourth quarter for Minnesota.

After the Gophers scored to bring them within six points of Purdue, Minnesota exposed itself to a game-changing penalty.

With the Boilermakers pinned inside their own 10-yard line and facing a third and six from their own 7-yard line, Gophers cornerback Trumaine Banks was called for pass interference down the far sideline.

The penalty kept the possession alive and allowed Purdue to march 93 yards on the drive en route to an 18-yard touchdown reception by Taylor.

Junior center Tony Brinkhaus said it was a game Minnesota thought it could have and should have won.

“(Between) penalties, dropped balls, you know, plays we had the capabilities of going a long way we just missed them,” he said.

Junior linebacker John Shevlin said those penalties are what turned the tide of the game.

“Anytime you get penalties, they kill you,” Shevlin said. “If you could sum it up, I mean, penalties really did hurt us.”