Gophers go deep to start
I'd like to think that Gophers offensive coordinator Jay Johnson had heard the cries of the Gopher faithful and knew that Minnesota had to start to get the deep passing game on track (yes, I'm 100% joking, but still). Minnesota goes play action and Rashad Still just runs by the Purdue Boilermakers corner, and both safeties bite on the play action, so Mitch Leidner just has to hit Still in stride. Ball is a little under thrown that Still has to slow down, but Minnesota's still able to get a 46 yard gain off the bat. Credit to the play call from Jay Johnson and the execution from Leidner and Still.
Minnesota's drive stalls out and Emmit Carpenter connects from 52 yards to give the Gophers a 3-0 lead.
Defense stands strong early
Purdue surprisingly goes for in on fourth and short at their own 34, and Minnesota's front seven doesn't allow the first down. Both defensive tackles submarine the offensive lineman and that allows the linebackers to come over the top to not allow the yard. Gophers take over with fantastic field position in Purdue territory.
Rodney Smith weaves his way for the score
I said it last night on the Twitter machine, but I could make a legitimate argument that Rodney Smith is the second best running back in the Big Ten right now behind Saquon Barkley. I don't think there's a running back that does more with less than Smith in Big Ten play right now. Minnesota goes to the draw on third down and I'll give some credit to the offensive line here as Donnell Greene is able to move his guy inside, Jared Weyler turns his defender, Tyler Moore gets to the second level and both Calhoun and Pirsig do their part.
Smith sidesteps Greene's defender and then just turns on the jets and starts to weave. Makes a man miss at the 25 and puts it into hyper speed to get his first touchdown of the day for 35 yards.
David Blough drops it in the bucket
This was an absolutely stellar throw from David Blough. Dropped it right in the bucket 38 yards downfield to his receiver. Jalen Myrick strips it out after the play, but Blough made some fantastic throws to his wideouts on Saturday afternoon.
Purdue gets on the board
You'll see Jonathan Celestin matchup with the Purdue tight end, and with the lack of pressure from the Gophers front four, Blough is able to step into his throw and deliver a perfect back shoulder throw for the touchdown. Celestin is actually in pretty good position, and he turns his head toward the center of the field and Blough makes the throw on the sideline shoulder and Cole Herdman makes a great adjustment to haul in the 20 yard catch. Have to give credit to those two there.
Footwork makes the dream work
Watch Mitch Leidner's foot work here. Yes, Purdue brings the house and Leidner knows he has to get it out quickly, but he's flat-footed and because of it, he doesn't have enough power to get the throw to Tyler Johnson on the slant at the top of the screen. Leidner's got to step into that throw if Minnesota's going to convert that third and long.
Stopping short of the first down
I'm sure it's just the route design here, but on 3rd and 8, Drew Wolitarsky stops his route one yard short of the sticks and when Leidner finds him, he isn't able to turn up field and Minnesota's stopped just short and are forced to punt. Guess I'd like to Wolitarsky extend that route to the sticks so it's a first down.
Man coverage burns the Gophers
After a few series of punts by each team, Minnesota has Purdue backed up in their own end on a 3rd and 11. The Gophers front four has been struggling to get consistent pressure, so defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel decides to go man coverage with Damarius Travis, who is by all intensive purposes Minnesota's best defensive back. Daletavius McGhee and Antoine Winfield are giving their corners outside help on two deep routes, and Travis gets turned around on the post, misses the tackle and the Boilermakers are off to the races.
Not often you see Travis get turned around like that, and with his other safeties giving help outside, Purdue is able to go 89 yards for the score.
Offensive line struggling
This was a sight that was too familiar in the first quarter for Minnesota's offense.
The defensive line times the snap and Weyler is pushed four yards into the backfield a second into the play. By the time Smith gets the ball, he has to sidestep a defender, and then pressure comes immediately from the right side of the line and there's nothing Smith can do about it.
It was evident that Purdue was timing up the clap count early, but this was even under center. Minnesota's got to change up their cadence as this is becoming a weekly thing with opposing front seven's timing things up.
First quarter score: Purdue 14, Minnesota 10
Timing up things against this Minnesota offense
This play is just a disaster.
Not sure if this is supposed to be a draw or just a delayed hand off, but it was going nowhere fast. Again, the Purdue front seven is able to key in on the cadence and bring six to go against five Minnesota blockers. Tyler Moore doesn't get a hand on either of the blitzing linebackers and Jared Weyler gets beat and Rodney Smith is smothered immediately after taking the handoff.
This cadence thing is a real issue and Minnesota's got to change it up.
Cashman gets on the board
Another third and long situation and Gophers walk-on linebacker Blake Cashman is untouched to the quarterback and David Blough doesn't see it coming. Cashman doesn't have to do much except run straight, but his closing velocity is impressive. With Rallis and Poock potentially out for the first half next week, I think Cashman has earned some more reps.
Smith and the OL finally starting to gel
Give some credit to Jonah Pirsig and Jared Weyler here. Pirsig seals the down block and Weyler pulls into the linebacker, giving a hole for Smith. Smith evades one defender on the hand-off, jump cuts to the second level and then lowers the shoulder to deliver a blow to the Purdue corner.
Gophers keep the chains moving.
Still dragging on the sideline
On the very next play, Minnesota goes play action with a stop and go, and that means this offensive line + Rodney Smith have to give Leidner a lot of time to make this happen.
Check out Rodney Smith here in pass pro. Takes out the defensive end and gives Leidner enough time to fake, and get off an accurate throw on the sidelines. Also will mention that the Purdue corner somewhat bites on the play, but he's able to recover and make this a lot closer.
Hell of a play by Rashad Still to adjust to this throw and drag his right foot while maintaining security of the ball.
This puts Minnesota in the red zone.
Read option works Leidner's way
Purdue played read option like this all day. The defensive end was consistently crashing down on the running back, which is an easy read for Leidner to pull it and keep and that's exactly what happens and Leidner's able to to get Minnesota back in front 20-14.
No help over the top gives Purdue another long score
Gophers truly go Cover 0 here and bring the house with all the linebackers blitzing, and with Jalen Myrick playing off, it sets up Deangelo Yancey perfectly for his slant and Myrick plays this like he thinks he has inside help. Watch him flip his hips toward the center of the field, and then he has to adjust back and by that time, Yancey is by him and off to the races and Purdue is back in front.
Minnesota played a lot of Cover 1 this rest of the game with safety help over the top, so this specifically doesn't happen.
Gophers try and get momentum back
First play after the Purdue touchdown is a deep play action connection from Leidner to Eric Carter. It ends up as a 51 yard play, but in my opinion, Carter didn't have to dive here and should have kept his feet and taken this 71 yards for the score.
I think that Carter dives here to make sure he holds onto this, but if he "chances" it and just trusts his hands and extends his arms out, he catches it in stride and runs into the end zone for the touchdown.
Yes, this is me being critical, but this passing game needs all the help they can get. Notice that Leidner's able to set his feet and transfer weight and step into this throw, which is an absolute beauty of a ball. Great loft and a perfect spiral.
What just happened
I talked about this play in-depth on the Gopher Gridiron Radio podcast last night, and it's up there for one of the most head scratching plays of the year.
Let's start my look at the previous Gopher drive. After that big play to Carter, Minnesota's get themselves in a 4th and 1 situation. They end up going for the hard count, which doesn't work, and then kicking a field goal at the Purdue 11. Claeys decides to be risk-averse there as he wants the points and the lead.
Then this play happens.
Minnesota has the play on their own 23 with no timeouts left and 15 seconds on the clock. They run four verticals, and Leidner throws it almost immediately to Drew Wolitarsky, who isn't looking for the ball and the Purdue defender picks it off easily giving the Boilermakers the ball on the MN 2 with a few seconds left on the clock.
Claeys talked about in the press conference after about how he wanted to take a deep shot as Minnesota had success earlier in the half there, and he relayed that message to Jay Johnson. There seems to be a disconnect between that message getting relayed to Leidner as he threw this ball right away, even though the ball was four verts.
Also, why choose to be aggressive here with the time, distance and situation, but not earlier on the Purdue 11 needing to get one yard against the worst run defense team in the Big Ten.
Just a head scratching play all around, and it's on both the execution of the quarterback and the decision to be aggressive there to begin with.
Purdue takes advantage of the Minnesota miscue
Watch Gophers safety Duke McGhee here. Both Damarius Travis and Jalen Myrick are pointing at him to go with the tight end as it's his responsibility. He's very hesitant to do so, and with man coverage on the outside, Purdue's tight end is able to walk into the end zone to put the Boilermakers back on top.
Situation that you can argue shouldn't have happened if Minnesota just decides to kneel it, but Purdue's able to take advantage of what the Minnesota offense gives them and gets the lead before half.