The end of the first half did not go the way Minnesota wanted it to.
The Gophers had the ball at their own 23-yard-line with 15 seconds left in the first half and a 23-21 lead.
Instead of running out the clock, quarterback Mitch Leidner threw an interception to cornerback Antonio Blackmon, who returned it to the 2-yard-line. The Boilermakers scored a touchdown on the next play to give them the lead at halftime.
The Gophers were met with boos from the crowd as they walked into the locker room.
“It’s definitely something frustrating at first, but once I got in the locker room, I could see the guys start rallying,” Leidner said. “We knew we were going to come back. We weren’t going to let that instance define us as a team.”
The interception was later passed off as a miscommunication between the coaches and the offense.
“I told the offense, ‘throw it deep,’” said head coach Tracy Claeys. “Let’s see if we can get behind them for a play and see what happens, and if we don’t, we’ll run the clock out. Obviously that didn’t get communicated correctly the way that I wanted it. That’s my fault completely.”
As a result, Minnesota faced a five-point deficit at halftime, and what looked to be an easy home win now appeared in jeopardy.
But the Gophers came out firing in the second half, outscoring Purdue 21-3 and winning 44-31.
“[We] just told our kids that we have to have a next-play mentality coming out of the locker room at halftime,” Claeys said. “Defensively, we only gave up three points in the second half and about 150 yards, and so they did an awful good job of shutting them down.”
Purdue quarterback David Blough was the main problem in the first half for the Gophers.
The sophomore had completed 12= his 15 attempts and had 231 passing yards with four touchdowns.
But in the second half, Blough went 17-33 with 160 passing yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
“That was a big deal for us,” said cornerback Jalen Myrick. “We had to come back … We were backed into a corner and you know we had to fight our way out of it as a defense..”
All three of Purdue’s turnovers came in the second half.
In addition to Blough’s interception, defensive lineman Steven Richardson and linebacker Nick Rallis both forced fumbles, one by Blough and one by running back Jack Wegher.
All of Minnesota’s second half came off of those turnovers.
The second half started with a bang for Minnesota when safety Duke McGhee intercepted Blough on the third play of the quarter.
McGhee ripped the ball from the receiver’s hands and set the Gophers up at Purdue’s 42-yard-line.
“I think [McGhee’s interception] was big,” Claeys said. “We knew they had the ball coming out for the second half, and I’ll be honest … probably the worst thing that could happen was if they would have scored that first possession of the second half, and that really would have tested us.”