There was a score, and a game, but all anyone will talk about in West Lafayette tonight will be the aftershock of a seemingly innocuous play in the first quarter.
When Purdue’s fifth-year QB, just cleared from a concussion, Elijah Sindelar rolled to his left, pump-faked, and then took a hit driving him into the ground, Purdue’s entire season altered before Ross Ade’s nearly sold out crowd.
Sindelar went down in a heap, smashed into the ground off-shoulder first, and was in immediate pain.
Twenty yards up field and to the left of him, Rondale Moore, Purdue’s Heisman candidate receiver was trying to get up and move across the field. He couldn’t. His left leg wouldn’t sustain his weight and he toppled to the ground, too, writhing and hitting the ground in pain/frustration.
When all was said and done, four Moore’s and a thousand Sindelar’s wouludn’t have helped Purdue’s defense that was gashed through the air to the tune of a 38-31 Minnesota victory.
But what was looking like a lifeless Purdue performance and a route, turned into a major comeback orchestrated by the redshirt freshman Jack Plummer who looked much improved in his second game of his career. The Boilermakers scored two straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter, pulling within a score 38-31 behind the scrambling ability of Plummer, the legs of freshman running back Doerue, and the pass-catching of true freshman David Bell and a young but talented receiving core.
Doerue’s third touchdown of the game was a beautifully crafted screen pass in the red zone. The freshman caught it in space and turned upfield, powering through a pair of Gopher defenders and setting Purdue up for one last defensive stop on a night where Minnesota was having their way with the Boilermakers in the air.
After recovering an onside kick earlier, Coach Brohm decided to kick the ball deep and count on his defense for a stop. It almost worked. Purdue forced a third and long, and a deep ball on the left side of the field was batted away, but pass interference was called against Purdue and the gophers drive remained alive. Purdue was unable to stop Minnesota’s running game again and the Golden Gophers were able to run out the clock.
Plummer’s performance and the offensive resurgence late was a promising direction for Coach Brohm and his youngsters, but Purdue’s season now looks in serious jeapordy. The loss pushes the Boilermakers to 1-3 on the year, and their roster was already depleted of their best, most experienced talent. The added loss of their 5th year quarterback and possibly the most dynamic playmaker in the Big Ten will almost certainly spell doom for Coach Brohm’s squad the rest of the way.
Purdue’s defense just wasn’t up to snuff against the Golden Gopher air attack. They gave up too many easy routes that led to too many big gains after the catch.
Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan had a career day. He went 21-22, 396 yards, and 4 touchdowns.
Morgan effectively did whatever he wanted to the Purdue secondary, including finding receivers deep down field. He had three touchdown passes over 45 yards including a 70 yarder on a slant route where Chris Autman-Bell caught the ball over the middle of the field and ran untouched into the corner of the end zone.
Purdue’s only real silver lining was the discovery of an effective run attack. King Doerue had a career day, carrying the ball 20 times for 94, and scoring the first two touchdowns of his career on the ground and catching his third touchdown late in the fourth to bring Purdue back to within one score, 38-31, after a successful onside kick recovery.
Jack Plummer was asked to fill in for Elijah Sindelar again where he displayed a better handle on the offense, avoiding pressure, and making some nice plays. He did struggle to the protect the ball again, throwing two interceptions, but settled in in the second half. His efficiency was much improved, going 23 of 41, and tossed 2 touchdown passes.