Gophers control second half, hang on for 20-13 win at Purdue

Chris Autman-Bell had two catches for 40 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota's 20-13 win at Purdue on Saturday. ((credit: University of Minnesota Athletics))

The University of Minnesota football team bounced back from last week’s inexplicable home loss to Bowling Green with a 20-13 win in the pouring rain at Purdue's Ross Ade Stadium on Saturday for its first Big Ten win of the season.

It’s PJ Fleck’s first win in with the Gophers in 18 tries when trailing at halftime. Minnesota trailed 13-10 at the break, but scored on its opening possession of the second half and the Gophers’ defense shut out Purdue over the final 30 minutes.

"Just a gutsy win for us. Just a gutsy performance. We did what we had to do to win the football game. Defense played their hearts out. That's a big win for us, period," Gophers coach PJ Fleck said after the game. "Proud of the resilience of this football team, not only through the game, but what they went through this entire week. To stick together, listen to the internal noise and block out the external noise the best they could."

Tanner Morgan finished 9-of-18 passing for 169 yards and one touchdown, a 32-yard strike to Chris Autman-Bell on Minnesota's first possession. Autman-Bell had two catches for 40 yards, and Michael Brown-Stephens had two catches for 105 yards. Trey Potts had 15 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown, scoring on Minnesota’s first possession of the second half after Morgan hit Michael Brown-Stephens for 54 yards. Matthew Trickett added field goals of 42 and 38 yards, the last with 1:46 to play, as the Gophers hung on.

Tyler Nubin nearly picked off a high throw from Aiden O’Connell with the Boilermakers at the Gophers’ 30-yard line with under a minute to play. On the next play, Nubin stepped in front of an O'Connell throw for a game-sealing interception.

The Gophers were without receiver Dylan Wright, who missed Saturday's game for personal reasons after the shooting death of Utah football player and former high school teammate Aaron Lowe.

The Boilermakers finished with 434 total yards, but were just 1-of-7 on third downs in the second half and didn't score. They finished 6-of-17 on third down for the game. Jack Gibbens led Minnesota’s defense with eight tackles and three pass break-ups. Coney Durr, Thomas Rush, Nyles Pinckney and Micah Dew-Treadway all had half sacks in the win, and Jaqwondis Burns had a sack in the second half. Boye Mafe had a strip sack fumble that Val Martin recovered, which set up the Gophers' first score.

Minnesota's defense had seven tackles for a loss in the victory.

Mark Crawford’s punting also flipped the field for Minnesota in the win. Crawford had six punts for 308 yards, had three of 50 or more yards and had at least two that pinned Purdue inside its own 10-yard line.

Trailing 13-10 at the half, Minnesota needed just three plays to find the end zone to start the third quarter. Morgan hit Brown-Stephens for 54 yards. Potts then ran for 17 yards before scoring from four yards out, which gave Minnesota a 17-13 lead. It stayed that way until Trickett's kick with 1:46 left. Purdue's only real scoring chance of the second half ended with a 37-yard field goal that missed wide right after a bad snap early in the fourth quarter.

Fleck got his fourth straight win over Purdue coach Jeff Brohm in his 51st career game as Minnesota head coach. The Gophers (3-2, 1-1) now get a bye week before hosting Nebraska on Oct. 16 at Huntington Bank Stadium.