Purdue beats clock, Minnesota 35-28 in a wild finish

by Anthony Maggio

Up to this point in the season, the Minnesota football team has been trying to answer many questions: Who will start at quarterback? How will the young defense perform? Is the team good enough to make a third-straight bowl game?

But after Saturday’s 35-28 overtime loss to Purdue at the Metrodome, the only question seemed to be: Why us?

“I think we outplayed them,” cornerback Michael Lehan said. “I talked to one of the Purdue coaches coming down the tunnel and he said that we outplayed them today. Outplaying them and losing the game, that’s probably what hurts the most.”

Added coach Glen Mason: “To end up coming up on the short end in a very unorthodox manner, that’s tough to swallow.”

Not once, but twice, the Gophers were victims of questionable calls at the end of the game.

The first call came at the end of regulation.

Minnesota, after a mediocre first half, finally had things going its way in the second half. The Gophers had momentum and the clock on their side, and an 11-point lead.

But after a Boilermaker touchdown and two-point conversion, Purdue cut the lead to three. The Boilermaker defense then stopped the Gophers near midfield to force a punt.

Following the punt and a false start, Purdue was pinned on its three yard line with only 19 seconds left and no timeouts. Undaunted, redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Hance completed 27 and 39-yard passes to put the Boilermakers on the Gophers 34-yard line.

In a scramble, the field goal team ran onto the field with one second left on the clock. Boilermaker kicker Travis Dorsch split the uprights as time expired, but whether it expired before the snap was cause for much debate.

“I heard the whistle,” Mason said. “The whistle was blown, then the ball was snapped. It was not simultaneous. You put a Bible out here and I’ll swear to God on it.”

The officials, however, saw things differently, and ruled the kick counted, sending the game into overtime.

“I kid you not, we have practiced that every single week forever,” Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. “We have never seen it because we have never been in position to use it. Fortunately it turned out for us.”

In overtime, the controversy continued. Minnesota’s defense was unable to keep the Boilermakers out of the end zone, leaving the offense in need of a touchdown to force a second overtime.

On the Gophers first play, quarterback Travis Cole found wide receiver Tony Henderson on the right side of the end zone. Henderson caught the ball but officials ruled him out of bounds, nullifying the touchdown.

“(When I caught the ball),I thought I was in-bounds,” Henderson said. “But when I saw the replay I knew I was in-bounds. Maybe I should’ve given myself a little more space and not left the opportunity for the ref to make a bad call.”

The end zones at the Metrodome leave much to be desired. The golden turf does not extend to the sideline. Instead, it stops six inches short on both sides, leaving a green strip of turf, and a white chalk sideline.

Henderson’s said his left foot hit the ground first, landing partly on the green strip and partly on the gold turf. His right foot landed out-of-bounds, but the replay clearly showed Henderson’s left foot landed inbounds.

Mason thinks the end zones should be changed, as the same situation occurred last season against Iowa on a late touchdown by Ron Johnson. The out-of-bounds call last season, however, was overturned by another official and the Gophers got the touchdown.

“I think that’s a problem,” Mason said. “It would’ve cost us the game against Iowa last year if the official didn’t come over and correct it. There was two guys on the spot on this one and they didn’t correct it. I can see where it is confusing, it should not be that way.”

Two plays after the touchdown was called back, a Travis Cole pass to the end zone was picked off by Purdue safety Stuart Schweigert ending the game.

“It’s one of those things where you just feel like this always happens to us,” Johnson said. “We didn’t get all the calls we should’ve got, there was a lot of holding going on and a lot of other things. It happens. But you can’t let the officials dictate what happens in the game, we’ve got to play above that.”


Anthony Maggio covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]