Gophers lose sixth straight

The Gophers fell 28-17 to Purdue thanks to a nonexistent first-half offense and key defensive mistakes

Gophers lose sixth straight

John Hageman

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.âÄîThe Gophers havenâÄôt become numb to the pain of losing, even after six straight weeks of it.

Their 28-17 loss to Purdue Saturday stung more than usual, not just because itâÄôs been a month and a half since they last tasted a win, but because they beat themselves more than the Boilermakers did.

The Gophers continually shot themselves in the foot on both sides of the ball and on special teams, providing Purdue numerous second chances. 

Early in the second quarter, an errand snap sent the ball sailing over punter Dan OrseskeâÄôs head in Minnesota territory, giving the Boilermakers prime field position to extend what would be their halftime lead to 14-0.

It looked like they caught a major break coming out of halftime, however, when linebacker Gary Tinsley picked off Purdue quarterback Rob HenryâÄôs pass with nothing but daylight in front of him.

But Henry diligently pursued the turnover he created, closing the gap on Tinsley as he approached the goal line. Tinsley reached for the pylon but lost control of the ball in the process, fumbling it into the pylon and turning a sure touchdown âÄì and chance to cut the score to 14-7 âÄì into a touchback for Purdue.

âÄúThat was some good fortune,âÄù Purdue head coach Danny Hope said. âÄúFootball is a game of inches and that was a play of inches.âÄù

The Boilermakers then marched downfield and added an Antavian Edison touchdown catch to take a three-possession lead.

A potentially one-possession game became three.

âÄúI just feel like there’s so much bad stuff happening,âÄù Tinsley said. âÄúSome teams execute on those plays and for that play not to come through and for me to make a mistake like that…it feels like that’s been happening the whole year.âÄù

The Gophers found themselves in the red zone for the first time on the ensuing drive and looked to be on the way to their first touchdown of the day.

But running back Duane BennettâÄôs 20-yard touchdown catch was negated after wide receiver DaâÄôJon McKnight was called for illegal motion. The Gophers settled for a field goal, hardly a boost to a team already down by three possessions.

âÄúWe were our own worst enemy today,âÄù Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster said. A report Friday indicated Brewster would be fired if the Gophers lost, but Brewster said after the game that he hasn’t heard it. Athletic director Joel Maturi was unavailable for comment.

Minnesota got nowhere near the end zone in the first half, venturing only as far as the Purdue 44-yard line before losing six yards and being forced to punt.

Brewster said the overall struggles on offense were due to the teamâÄôs inability to run the ball âÄì a familiar theme for a team trying to establish a power-running identity with few results. The Gophers ended the game with just 65 yards on the ground, and 42 of those came from senior quarterback Adam Weber.

âÄúWe’ve got to be efficient running the ball and we weren’t,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúWe didn’t block them up front nearly as well as I expected us to.âÄù

The Gophers finally found the end zone early in the fourth quarter with a Bryant Allen touchdown catch, but the two-point attempt failed.

The Boilermakers immediately answered with a touchdown on HenryâÄôs third rushing score of the game to push the lead to 28-9 and all but seal the win.

Boilermakers running back Dan Dierking added 126 yards on just 12 carries, including a 22-yard run early in the fourth to set up PurdueâÄôs final touchdown.

The Boilermakers racked up 230 yards rushing in total, with a significant amount coming after the runner had shed a Minnesota tackler âÄì another familiar problem.

âÄúWe have him tackled in the backfield, and he ends up a 20 or 30-yard run,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúWe had a number of those situations where we didnâÄôt make the play and had an opportunity to make the play for a minimal gain and it ended up being bigger plays.âÄù

Any hope the Gophers had of making a bowl game all but died with Saturday’s loss, given the conference opponents they have yet to face, including No. 1 Ohio State two weeks from now.

The Gophers will return from their short road trip to face Penn State next week with no momentum and little of anything else going their way.

There’s plenty to improve on before a win would seem feasible before season’s end: tackling, the run game, and perhaps even the head coach. But before they can beat an opponent, they’ll have to stop beating themselves.

âÄúWe hurt ourselves and when we donâÄôt hurt ourselves, weâÄôll win a football game,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúItâÄôs that simple.âÄù

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