Time to hand out grades following Purdue’s 34-31 loss at Minnesota.
Not too much to quibble with. Jack Plummer was outstanding in his first start of 2020. Heck, this might have been his best game as a Boilermaker. The sophomore hit 35-of-42 passes for 367 yards with three TDs and a pick, which came in desperation time. He also ran for 22 yards. You wonder how Aidan O’Connell ever beat him out. Plummer was on fire in the third quarter, hitting all seven of his passes for 159 yards during a 14-point quarter. And he was 9-of-9 on third-down passing. Regardless, Plummer figures to be the man for an extended stretch as O’Connell deals with an injury. Can’t leave here without giving big nods to Rondale Moore and David Bell (eight catches for 104 yards and two TDs). They combined for 23 catches on 29 targets for 220 yards and two TDs.
It got off to a slow start, as the Boilermakers had just 31 yards rushing at halftime vs. the Big Ten’s worst rushing defense. But the ground game heated up thereafter (94 yards in second half), finishing with 125 yards on 25 totes (5.0 ypc). Still, Purdue needed to run better early to keep the ball away from a Gopher offense that it couldn’t slow down. Zander Horvath had 68 yards on only 10 carries. King Doerue doesn’t seem to be himself. Moore had three runs for 20 yards and a score.
Let me be the first to say: “Wow,” What a difference Rondale Moore makes. But, we all figured that. He went 33 yards on his second touch—his long play—but averaged just 7.7 yards per catch. Purdue beat NU last week if he plays, I think. But, I digress. The Boilermaker offense did its part on this oh-so-painful night in the Twin Cities that forever will be remember for the phantom pass interference call on tight end Payne Durham on what would have been the game-winning TD. Officials earlier overturned a TD catch by Moore late in the first half. Purdue out gained Minnesota, 492-394. What am I trying to say? Aside from early issues running the ball, the offense more than did its part in TCF Bank Stadium.
Gopher QB Tanner Morgan came into the game battling inconsistency. But he look good vs. Purdue, hitting 15-of-22 passes for 264 yards. Time and again, he found open receivers for big gains (17.6 yards per completion) … usually on third downs, of which the Gophers were 7-of-11 on. Chris Autman-Bell, Rashod Bateman’s sidekick, did the damage with five catches for 129 yards (25.8 ypc). It helped that Morgan was able to work largely unfettered, as the Boilermakers rarely sniffed him. Not having a 100 percent George Karlaftis hurt. Purdue’s sack total on this frigid night: 0.
Flummoxed. That’s the best word to describe the Purdue defense in the first half. The Boilermakers had no answer for the Minnesota ground game, as it chew up yards and time in the opening 30 minutes in building what was an insurmountable 21-10 lead. Mohamed Ibrahim got his 100 yards (102) but it took 25 carries. The guy still was money, scoring three TDs. Minnesota had 130 yards on 41 carries (3.2 ypc).
How about this: The Gophers scored TDs on five of their first seven drives. The other two drives? Punt and end of first half. You want big plays? Minnesota delivered over and over. There was a 42-yard pass, 39-yard pass, 20-yards pass, two 19-yard passes a 17-yard run … on and on it went. Yes, the Boilermakers were missing tackle Anthony Watts and Karlaftis wasn’t himself. And DaMarcus Mitchell was out most of the game with some injury. Still, Purdue was too often pushed around up front. And let’s not even talk about the blown coverages. For the first time this year, Purdue failed to generate a takeaway.
Let’s start with the field goals. One was blocked (27 yards) and one was missed (33). Neither miscue should have happened. If Purdue makes one, it’s a tie game. If it makes both, it wins. Gotta feel bad for Dellinger, who had made his first five field goals on the season. Purdue punted just one time. As usual, the return game produced nada. The field-goal fiascos alone doom this grade.
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