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5 things that stood out in Gophers' disastrous defeat at Purdue

The Gophers' season continues to fizzle.
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The Minnesota Golden Gophers fell to an embarrassing 49-30 defeat on the road to Purdue on Saturday. Here are the five takeaways from the game:

1. Big 10 West hopes all but done

With the Gophers entering the day with a 3-3 Big 10 record, a win was crucial for them to stay in with a chance of overhauling Big 10 West rivals Iowa, who entered the day 4-2. 

The Gophers' conference record is now 3-4 and with Iowa winning at Rutgers to move to 5-2, the Gophers will now need to win on the road to No. 1 Ohio State and at home to Wisconsin, hope that Iowa lose to both Illinois and Nebraska, and hope that other results go their way as well.

2. Gophers defense can't stop the run

It was a first half horror show for the Gophers defense as Purdue ripped off big play after big play, racking up 28 points through more than 300 yards from scrimmage, 170 of them on the ground.

The Gophers had no answer to the Boilermakers' running game in the first half, with Tyrone Tracy Jr. and Devin Mockobee averaging double digits per carry, while quarterback Hudson Card made more than 30 rushing yard including a touchdown.

In the air, Card was 7-for-10 for 140 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 20 yards per completion as his offense torched the Gophers' secondary. It wasn't until 42 seconds were left in the first half that Purdue had to punt.

It was more of the same in the second half. On Purdue's second drive, Mockobee gaining 32 yards on a single carry before Card found Deion Burks all alone beyond the Gophers' secondary for an easy 42-yard touchdown. It took three plays and 50 seconds for Purdue to get from their own 26 to the Gophers end zone.

Mockobee and Tracy Jr. added another rushing touchdown each in the fourth quarter, with Purdue finishing the game with more than 300 rushing yards, and more than 600 scrimmage yards in total.

Nov 11, 2023; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Purdue Boilermakers tight end Garrett Miller (88) runs a catch in for a touchdown against Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive back Tyler Nubin (27) during the first half at Ross-Ade Stadium.

Nov 11, 2023; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Purdue Boilermakers tight end Garrett Miller (88) runs a catch in for a touchdown against Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive back Tyler Nubin (27) during the first half at Ross-Ade Stadium.

3. Another fast start for Minnesota

P.J. Fleck's men have struggled to finish games, but have had few problems starting them, and Saturday's game brought another fast start from the Gophers.

A four-play opening drive comprised two rushes for 14 yards from Jordan Nubin, and two passes for 51 yards from Athan Kaliakmanis, a 31-yard completion to Daniel Jackson, and a 20-yard touchdown to Brevyn Spann-Ford.

It was a second consecutive touchdown game for Spann-Ford, but in this instance the Gophers defense was unable to consolidate the lead, with the Boilermakers responding immediately with a touchdown of their own.

4. Good first half offense disappears after the break

The Gophers offense has proven a volatile beast this season, but Kaliakmanis, Nubin and the receiving corps had plenty of joy with the Purdue defense – in the first half at least.

The first four Gophers drives went TD, FG, FG and missed FG, and after having to punt on the fifth, their sixth drive saw Kaliakmanis find Chris Autman-Bell in the end zone for a spectacular falling catch.

But while Purdue were able to keep the momentum going in the second half, making big plays when necessary, the Gophers offense was just unable to get up the field after the break.

In the second half, Kaliakmanis completed just five throws prior to a late garbage time drive that saw him find Elijah Spencer for a consolation TD. The QB finished the game with 292 yards and three touchdowns, despite only going 18-for-42.

5. Another miserable day for P.J. Fleck

The Gophers head coach has come under increasing scrutiny during this season, with fans frustrated by genuine moments of success being swiftly undermined by humiliating defeats.

The high point wins over fellow Big 10 teams Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan State have been tempered by ignominious defeats to Illinois and Northwestern, and a shellacking by Michigan. This has spoiled an at-one-time genuine chance for Minnesota to win the Big 10 West.

With the next game taking the Gophers to Ohio State, Fleck will be hoping at the very least for a respectable showing in Columbus before ending the season on a high at home to the Wisconsin Badgers.