Gophers football rallies in the second half against Purdue to earn a 20-13 comeback win

Defensive back Tyler Nubin secured the win for the Gophers with an interception on Purdue’s last drive of the game.


Brad Rempel

Redshirt Senior Chris Autman-Bell faces the sidelines during a game against Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021

Michael Lyne , Sports Reporter

Gophers football rallied in the second half of their first Big Ten matchup against Purdue Saturday afternoon to earn a 20-13 comeback win, improving to 3-2 this season.

“[It was] Just a gutsy win for us,” Gophers head coach PJ Fleck said. “It was a very hard week. The leader of our defense goes down…but we got to get some guys back, get them healthy, but it was just a gutsy performance. Got to give Purdue a lot of credit. That’s a really good offense. Our defense did a great job of limiting explosive plays…especially with the weather conditions.”

Led by their defense without Mariano Sori-Marin, Minnesota’s win certainly wasn’t pretty, but they got the job done in a wet afternoon in West Lafayette. The win marks Fleck’s first second-half comeback in his 50 career games with the program.

The Gophers got off to a quick start as redshirt senior defensive lineman Boye Mafe forced a fumble on the Boilermakers’ opening drive to give the offense possession at Purdue’s 44-yard line.

Just five minutes into the game, the Gophers’ offense scored on their opening drive. Quarterback Tanner Morgan threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell, who made a keen adjustment to the ball and came down with it just inside the right pylon to give Minnesota an early 7-0 lead. The opening drive down the field was 44 yards over just four plays.

In the early minutes of the second quarter, Purdue went on a 91-yard drive, scoring a touchdown to take their first lead of the afternoon (10-7) after a 7-yard catch by Milton Wright.

The Gophers punted on their next two possessions, highlighted by three-and-outs on each of them. However, in their third drive of the second quarter with just four minutes remaining in the first half, they managed to tie the game at 10-10 after Matthew Trickett hit a long 42-yard field goal. Morgan’s 51-yard completion to wide receiver Mike Brown-Stephens highlighted the tying scoring drive.

Every time the Gophers put points on the board, the Boilermakers quickly had responses of their own. They marched down the field inside the red zone on their next possession, but Minnesota’s defense held them out of the end zone, forcing them to kick a field goal as they took a 13-10 lead 11 seconds before halftime.

Like their quick start in the first half, the Gophers capitalized on their opening drive in the second half.

On 1st and ten on their 25-yard line, Morgan completed a 54-yard pass to Brown-Stephens to put the Gophers on the Boilermakers 21-yard line, and running back Trey Potts did the rest.

Potts had back-to-back runs of 17 and four yards, punching his second run into the endzone to give the Gophers a 17-13 lead just 1:10 seconds into the second half.

Stretching into the fourth quarter, the next two possessions for the Boilermakers and Gophers ended in punts.

It was not until Purdue’s first drive of the fourth quarter that a possession did not end in a punt as the Boilermakers marched from their 22-yard line to the Gophers’ 20, converting two third downs along the way, but Mitchell Fineran missed a 37-yard field goal attempt, and the game stayed at 17-13.

On their next possession with six minutes remaining in the game, the Boilermakers elected to go for it on fourth down at Minnesota’s 43-yard line, but the Gophers’ defense shut down a completion two yards short of the first-down marker.

Then, the Gophers capitalized off the Boilermaker’s turnover on downs. Quarterback Cole Kramer and Potts got Minnesota’s offense into field goal territory.

Trickett converted his second field goal of the day from 38 yards to give the Gophers a 7-0 lead with 1:45 to go. Kramer had five rushes for 22 yards, and Potts had three carries for 16 yards on the drive.
In their last drive, Purdue had two quick rushes for ten yards. Then quarterback Aidan O’Connell completed two passes to David Bell for 28 yards to spring the Boilermakers to the Gophers 27-yard line.

But the Gophers defense found its footing and showed up at another big time. They forced O’Connell to throw two incompletions on his next two attempts. Then, on his third, defensive back Tyler Nubin predicted his throw, intercepting the football for the first time this season to give the Gophers a 20-13 victory on the road.

Next week, the Gophers have a bye and then will play Nebraska at Huntington Bank Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 16. The time of the game is still to be determined.