The Minnesota Golden Gophers have definitely given some fans some anxiety through their first four games of the season. After outlasting South Dakota State, Fresno State, and Georgia Southern to open the season, the Gophers spiked heart rates across the state of Minnesota on Saturday as they held on for a 38-31 victory over the Purdue Boilermakers.
While the Gophers looked sluggish throughout their first three games, Saturday's tilt with Purdue had a different tone. Minnesota came out of the gates strong thanks to a 75-yard drive that was capped off by a Rodney Smith touchdown to put the Gophers up 7-0 early.
After a Purdue drive ended with a field goal, the Gopher offense was at it again as Tanner Morgan kicked off a big day with a 70-yard pass to Chris Autman-Bell to extend the lead to 14-3.
On the following drive, Purdue would suffer a brutal blow as quarterback Elijah Sindelar (shoulder) and star receiver Rondale Moore (knee) would go down on the same play. Regardless, the Boilermakers would put up a fight as Jack Plummer connected with Zander Horvath for a seven-yard touchdown to bring the game to 14-10.
From there, the Gophers would start to attack Purdue through the skies. Morgan would heat up finding Rashod Bateman on a 45-yard touchdown pass and Tyler Johnson on a three-yard strike to give Minnesota a 28-10 lead going into the half.
In the third quarter, the Boilermakers would chip into the lead with a King Doerue eight-yard touchdown run, but the Gophers would answer with a field goal from Michael Lantz and another Morgan-to-Bateman touchdown, a 47-yard connection.
The touchdown would cap off a massive game for both Morgan and Bateman as Morgan threw for a career-high 396 yards and four touchdowns while Bateman racked up six catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
With a 38-17 lead, the game seemed to be on cruise control, but Purdue wouldn't go away. The Gophers seemingly forgot how to tackle in the fourth quarter and thanks to another a pair of Doerue touchdowns, the Boilermakers would have the game within a score with less than four minutes to go.
On the eventual game-winning drive, the Gophers appeared to be stopped, but a pass interference penalty by Purdue gave Minnesota a first down. A rush by Rodney Smith, who also had an excellent game with 115 yards and a touchdown, would put things away and the Gophers would improve to 4-0 on the season.
Minnesota will continue through the early stages of their Big Ten schedule by returning home to take on Illinois (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) next Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.