Saturday's Big Ten: Gophers rally at Purdue for P.J. Fleck's first second-half comeback
West Lafayette, Ind. — Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck challenged his team to respond Saturday.
Did it ever.
Trey Potts scored the go-ahead touchdown 70 seconds into the third quarter and the Golden Gophers defense pitched a second-half shutout to hold on for a 20-13 victory at Purdue.
“That was a very difficult week — mentally, physically, emotionally,” coach P.J. Fleck said after earning his first second-half comeback in 50 career games at Minnesota. “To come out here and beat a really good Purdue team on the road, was great.”
It was just what the Gophers (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) needed after last week’s shocking loss at home to Bowling Green.
But Minnesota cleaned up those mistakes and took advantage of their opportunities on a cool, rainy day at Ross-Ade Stadium — despite seeing the Boilermakers (3-2, 1-1) run 33 more plays and picking up 144 more yards.
How’d they do it?
After trailing most of the first half, the Gophers struck quickly in the third quarter. Tanner Morgan opened the second half with a 54-yard completion to Mike Brown-Stephens. Potts ran for 17 yards on the next play and then overpowered the Boilermakers defense for a 4-yard touchdown run for a 17-13 lead.
The Gophers defense took care of the rest. It ended one scoring threat with a sack, ended two more with good coverage and finally sealed the win with an interception on third-and-10 from just outside the Minnesota red zone.
“We weren’t very opportunistic in the red zone again,” coach Jeff Brohm said after his fourth straight loss to Minnesota. “It’s something we’ve got to get better at – producing points when we get down in there tight. There were some things we did better but it wasn’t good enough.”
More Big Ten
► (At) No. 4 Penn State 24, Indiana 0: Sean Clifford threw for 178 yards and three touchdowns to help Penn State beat Indiana.
Jahan Dotson caught a pair of touchdown passes, Brenton Strange added one and Penn State (5-0, 2-0) forced eight punts, two turnovers and blocked a field goal for their ninth straight victory.
Penn State opened the scoring on its second drive when Clifford scrambled left and flung a 10-yard pass to Strange with 5:28 to play in the first quarter.
Raheem Layne intercepted Clifford’s pass in Penn State territory on the Nittany Lions’ next possession. Although Layne returned it to the 13, the Hoosiers couldn’t crack Penn State’s stout red zone defense. They ran four plays inside the 5 only to turn the ball over on downs on a fourth-and-short try.
The Hoosiers (2-3, 0-2) wouldn’t get any closer to the end zone the rest of the night.
► No. 11 Ohio State 52, (at) Rutgers 13: C.J. Stroud threw for 330 yards and a career-high five touchdowns after sitting out a game to rest his shoulder and Ohio State won its 20th straight Big Ten game.
Stroud connected with Chris Olave on touchdown passes of 56 and 11 yards, found Garrett Wilson on a 32-yard catch and run and hit tight ends Jeremy Ruckert and Mitch Rossi on scoring passes of 19 and 1 yard, respectively. The freshman finished 17 of 23 and did not throw an interception. Olave finished with five catches for a team-high 119 yards.
Ohio State (4-1, 2-0) has beaten Rutgers (3-2, 0-2) eight times in as many games. The Buckeyes outgained the Scarlet Knights 530-346, flowed through a defense that had give up 54 points in its first four games and intercepted Noah Vedral three times.
Freshman TreVeyon Henderson opened the scoring with a 44-yard touchdown run on the Buckeys’ second play from scrimmage. Freshman Denzel Burke scored on a 23-yard interception return 40 seconds later and the rout was on.
Rutgers’ only major play in the game was a 75-yard catch and run by Aron Cruickshank on a short pass over the middle on the next series. The distance was a career best for both players. Vedral finished 16 of 26 for 152 yards.
► (At) Nebraska 56, Northwestern 7: Adrian Martinez ran for a career-best three touchdowns and passed for another, and Nebraska broke big play after big play while putting away Northwestern early.
The Cornhuskers (3-3, 1-2) were sharp from the get-go and dominated a matchup that usually has produced close games. Eight of the previous 10 in the series were decided by eight points or less.
It was the Huskers’ most lopsided win in a Big Ten game since they joined the conference in 2011.
For Northwestern (2-3, 0-2), the losing margin matched the second largest in Pat Fitzgerald’s 16 years as coach.
The Huskers had seven plays go for at least 20 yards and their 657 yards were their most in two years. Their 427 rushing yards were their most since they ran for 458 against Illinois in 2014.
► (At) Illinois 24, Charlotte 14: Chase Brown rushed for 257 yards and two touchdowns for Illinois, which stands as the fourth best single-game rushing performance in program history.
Brown's 80-yard scoring run as time expired in the third quarter was the longest run of the year for Illinois (2-4). The last Illini to rush for more than 200 yards in a game was Reggie Corbin, who ran for 213 yards against Minnesota in 2018.
Brandon Peters was 10 of 19 passing for 78 yards and one touchdown for the Illini. Josh McCray rushed 16 times for 64 yards, while Daniel Barker caught one pass for a touchdown.
Chris Reynolds was 17 of 23 passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns for Charlotte (3-2).