Gophers lose second straight in Big Ten

Gophers quarterback Conor Rhoda threw an interception returned 76-yards for a touchdown with 10 seconds in the game.

Redshirt junior running back Rodney Smith pushes past Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 7. The Gophers fell to the Boilermakers 31-17.

Courtesy of the Purdue Exponent

Redshirt junior running back Rodney Smith pushes past Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 7. The Gophers fell to the Boilermakers 31-17.

by Jack Warrick

The Gophers were down 24-17 with 43 seconds left in the game when junior wide receiver Rashad Still caught his first reception of the year — a 32-yard, bobbling catch that put Minnesota at the Purdue 32-yard line and kept the drive alive.

The highlight reel play didn’t matter. 

Four plays later, Conor Rhoda threw an interception that the Boilermakers returned for a 76 yard touchdown to give Purdue (3-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) a 31-17 win over Minnesota (3-2 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) Saturday night at Purdue’s Ross-Ade stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana.

‘’I’m proud of their effort,” head coach P.J. Fleck told reporters. “To be in that weather delay and have them rally like they did and us come out and really drive six minutes all the way down the field, or seven minutes, and hit the field goal. You’re up 17-16 with a minute 40 to go.”

Kicker Emmit Carpenter  made a 38-yard field goal to cap off a Gophers drive that lasted seven minutes and 32 seconds, giving Minnesota the lead 17-16 with 2:26 left in the game.

Purdue ran it down the field 56 yards in four plays for a touchdown and a two-point conversion to put the Boilermakers ahead 24-17 with 1:17 remaining.

“It’s gonna stick with me a lot,” defensive end Carter Coughlin told reporters. “Which is why it hurts so much.”

On a fourth and five situation at the Purdue 27-yard line, Rhoda was picked off by Purdue Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley for a 76-yard touchdown that sealed the game at 31-17.

“[Rhoda] just made a throw where he thought he could put it in there, and it didn’t work out,” Fleck told reporters.

The Gophers ended the first half winning 14-6, but when they kicked it off to the Boilermakers to start the second half, a new Purdue quarterback, Elijah Sindelar, took over for a struggling David Blough and drove down the field for a 22-yard touchdown pass in the opening drive, cutting the Gophers lead to 14-13.

After missing a field goal in the third quarter, Purdue made a go-ahead field goal with 9:58 left in the game and give the Boilermakers the lead for the first time since the first quarter.

Right after that, the rain on Saturday took its toll.

A storm in West Lafayette stopped the game after Purdue took the lead. The game resumed after an hour and a half game delay, and the Gophers came out of the locker room looking to score.

Minnesota drove down the field and ate up the clock, ending in a 38-yard Carpenter field goal for a 17-16 Gophers lead, with 2:26 left for Purdue to play with.

The Boilermakers took the lead 24-17 after they got the ball and drove four plays for a touchdown and a two-point conversion, giving Rhoda and the Gophers 1:17 to score a touchdown.

Though Purdue struck first with a touchdown in the opening Purdue drive, the Gophers won the first half in scoring and turnovers.

The Boilermakers had two fumbles and two interceptions in the first half, one of the interceptions being in the end zone. 

Minnesota’s injury bug continued to bite throughout the season.

Two more Gophers  were injured Saturday night — wide receiver Phillip Howard and offensive lineman Nick Connelly. Fleck told reporters both would be out for next week, but he doesn’t plan on pulling redshirts to fill their place.

Fleck told reporters he could move players listed as wide receivers to the defensive side of the ball as corner backs or safeties.

“I’ve been through this before. I’ve been through year one before,” Fleck told reporters. “It’s not easy for anybody. But again, they’ll keep their oar in the water.”