Saturday, October 7, 2017

Purdue 31, Minnesota 17: Boilermakers deliver in the fourth quarter

                                                  Photo Credit: Purdue Athletics

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

The Purdue Boilermakers (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) led a come from behind effort with 18 fourth quarter points against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) in a 31-17 win to move to 1-0 in the Big Ten West, which also featured a 91-minute weather delay.

The mood in Ross-Ade Stadium was somber throughout the afternoon and into the night as Purdue mourned the loss of Joe Tiller, the winningest football coach in Purdue history.  Both teams honored Tiller with special helmet decals and a video presentation at halftime.

On their final comeback attempt of the game, Minnesota was driving and closing in on the red zone.  On 4th and 5 from the 27-yard line, Conor Rhoda’s pass was intercepted by Ja’Whaun Bentley and returned 76 yards for a touchdown to extend the Boilermakers lead to 31-17. 

The Boilermakers defense locked down against Gophers quarterback Conor Rhoda as he completed 11-of-25 pass attempts for 101 yards.

On their final comeback attempt of the game, Minnesota drove and closed in on the red zone. On 4th and 5 from the 27-yard line, Rhoda’s pass was intercepted by Ja’Whaun Bentley and returned 76 yards for a touchdown to extend the Boilermakers lead to 31-17. 

Bentley has impressed Purdue coach Jeff Brohm throughout his time with the program.

“Ever since I’ve been here— in the spring, in the summer, in the fall– he’s worked his tail off. Every workout, he’s come ready to go.  Every running session, he’s actually ran faster than I thought,” Brohm said. “And to be honest with you, the interception he had was not only a great play, but no one ran him down. There were recievers coming at him and from my vantage point, they weren’t catching up.  So that goes a lot to his conditioning and work ethic he had.”

Purdue got on the scoreboard first following a 20-yard touchdown pass from David Blough to Cole Herdman.  The point after attempt by kicker Spencer Evans was no good. 

Minnesota found the end zone on a drive highlighted by a 40-yard run by Shannon Brooks. The long run by Brooks set the Gophers up for first and goal from the 1-yard line. Rhoda found wide receiver Tyler Johnson for a 3-yard touchdown pass.

Purdue had a 13-play, 67-yard drive snapped when Minnesota linebacker Kamal Martin intercepted Blough in the end zone.  Rodney Smith added a highlight reel 51 yard rush on the ensuing Gophers drive.  Conor Rhoda capped off the drive with a 2 yard touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Lingen.

Elijah Sindelar replaced David Blough under center for the Boilermakers following Blough’s second interception.  Blough went 6-of-10 for 59 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions.  On Sindelar’s first drive, wide receiver Terry Wright fumbled and the Gopher defense recovered it.  On the following possession, Sindelar was sacked and fumbled– the fourth consecutive Purdue drive that ended in a turnover. 

Sindelar finished the game 19-of-26 through the air for 248 yards and a touchdown.

On the following Minnesota drive, Conor Rhoda fumbled on first and goal allowing Purdue to begin a drive at their own 7-yard line.

Going into halftime, the Boilermakers trailed 14-6, despite committing four turnovers in the first half.  Purdue coach Jeff Brohm was impressed by his defenses tenacity throughout the half.

“Well, I think our defense has been outstanding all year,” Brohm said.  “We’re physical.  We stopped the run.  We’re able to play more guys now which is good.  It gives you a little leeway and able to keep guys fresh.  Able to rotate a little bit more so we’re building depth.  I like our defense and in order to win championships at any level, that’s where it starts.”

The Boilermakers came out and scored on their first possession of the second half. Elijah Sindelar found D.J. Knox for a 22-yard touchdown pass to cut the Minnesota lead to just one point.  The following Boilermaker drive resulted in a 52-yard field goal attempt from Spencer Evans that missed wide left.

Purdue got back on top following a 19-yard field goal by J.D. Dellinger. The field goal gave the Boilermakers a 16-14 lead before a weather delay hit Ross-Ade Stadium. With 9:58 remaining, all fans were required to leave the stadium and head towards Mackey Arena or some other shelter on campus.  This was the first home game since 2007 that Purdue has had delayed by weather.

Following the delay, the Gophers used 7:32 on a 17-play, 62-yard drive that ended in a 38-yard field goal off the foot of Emmit Carpenter.  The kick allowed Minnesota to retake the lead 17-16 with 2:26 remaining.

Knox gave Purdue a huge momentum swing when he returned the kickoff 44 yards and gave the Boilermakers excellent field position. 

“At that point, I was looking. I was like, ‘We gotta score.’ So I mean, I gotta put my team in the best position possible.  So I mean, I just followed what Coach Levine put in,” Knox said.  “He told me to cut it back and I cut it back.  I just hit it as hard as I could, trying to get as far as I could to try and set up the offense.”

Throughout the game, Knox led the Boilermakers offensively.  Knox averaged 8.0 yards a carry for 56 yards on the evening.  He also added 38 yards of receiving and 79 yards on kickoff returns.  Knox lead all of the Boilermakers with 173 all-purpose yards.

Sindelar completed a big pass to Anthony Mahoungou for 37 yards to set up first and ten from the 12 yard line.  Markell Jones found the end zone on a 12 yard touchdown run.  Sindelar hit Gregory Phillips for the two-point conversion to make it a 24-17 game with 1:17 left and would not look back as it added another score late.