WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Minnesota finally found a solution for its stagnant offense Saturday.
It gave the ball to powerful running back Shannon Brooks and let him beat up the Purdue defense.
The freshman carried 17 times for a season-high 176 yards and changed the game with a 71-yard touchdown run to help the Golden Gophers break out of their offensive funk in a 41-13 blowout at Purdue.
In the first five games, Brooks had 20 carries for 115 yards and two scores. He needed less than three quarters against the Boilermakers (1-5, 0-2 Big Ten) to nearly double those numbers as he rekindled images of former Purdue star Mike Alstott.
Brooks wore down Purdue with his powerful inside runs then broke it open by breaking tackles and outrunning the rest of the defense on the second play of the second half to make it 17-6.
The Boilermakers (1-5, 0-2 Big Ten) never recovered.
Minnesota (4-2, 1-1) sealed it 6½ minutes later when much-maligned quarterback Mitch Leidner fooled the defense on a 3-yard TD pass to a wide-open Brandon Lingen for a 24-6 lead.
The Gophers were just getting started.
Before the third quarter ended, Leidner threw a 17-yard TD pass to Lingen and Jalen Myrick returned his second interception of the day 27 yards for a score. Suddenly, the FBS’ second-worst scoring offense put 28 points on the scoreboard in the quarter — more than it had in any previous game this season.
Minnesota, which started the day as the Big Ten’s worst rushing team, finished with 326 yards on the ground and has won three straight over the Boilermakers for the first time since 1989-91.
Purdue has lost four straight overall, eight in a row in league play and has just two wins over FBS foes since third-year coach Darrell Hazell took the job.
The Boilermakers started fast, capping a 75-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run from D.J. Knox to take a 6-0 lead.
But after that Purdue looked every bit as inept as Minnesota was supposed to be. The Boilers didn’t score again until David Blough threw a 10-yard TD pass to Cole Herdman with 4:39 left in the game.
How bad was it for Purdue?
Paul Griggs’ first extra-point attempt hit the left upright. Trae Hart muffed a punt near midfield when he tried to make a diving catch. Blough finished 21 of 49 for 207 yards with one TD and three interceptions, and Purdue averaged 2.4 yards per carry.
Minnesota wasn’t that much better. Leidner finished 8 of 12 for 59 yards with two TD passes and one interception, and Lingen caught three passes for 22 yards.
But Brooks found enough creases to keep the Gophers offense chugging along.
Ryan Santoso’s 37-yard field goal early in the second quarter cut Purdue’s lead to 6-3.
Myrick’s first interception gave the Golden Gophers the ball at Purdue’s 37. Six plays later, Leidner capitalized with a 1-yard TD plunge that gave Minnesota a 10-6 lead. Leidner’s 19th career TD run broke a tie with Sandy Stephens for the second-most rushing scores by a Minnesota quarterback.
And Brooks’ long run broke open the game.