Late in the game, as the clock ticked down and the student section dwindled, fans held their breath as fifth year quarterback Aidan O’Connell and the Purdue football offense took the field for what they hoped would be the last time.
All day, it had seemed, the Boilermakers had built hope with their offense only to tear it down a moment later. The Boilermakers finished a total of seven drives on the Gopher's (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) side of the 50-yard line, yet only scored a total of three times, two of the scores being field goals.
Surprisingly, the defense held strong through most of it. The gloomy weather perfectly embodied the mood going into the final minutes as Purdue struggled to find points, despite largely managing to gain significant yardage.
Finally, after a third down stop and a field goal, the Boilers were given the ball with 1:46 on the clock. There seemed to be no safety net beneath the offense. The defense could no longer save them after a failed drive. O’Connell needed to do the impossible and score a touchdown. This drive would directly encapsulate the entire game.
Losing 20-13, the offense came onto the field. And in what seemed like a sign of hope, the rain ended and the field brightened. A whole part of the student section now had their shirts off to wave them in support. The drive started with two electric, promising passes to Bell.
All seemed well for O’Connell, who had thrown a game-winning touchdown against the Illinois Fighting Illini just a week before.
O’Connell threw two incompletions in a row, almost getting one picked off. With two interceptions in each of his last two games, this was not a game in which O’Connell could afford such a luxury.
Stepping back on third down, he looked down to his receiver and threw him the ball. But O’Connell’s mistakes caught up with him as the double covered receiver was picked off. The game ended on an interception that left fans in disbelief.
“I do think our guys played hard and they do want to win,” head coach Jeff Brohm said after the game.
The effort just wasn't enough.
The highlight for the team came at the end of the first quarter, when Minnesota held a 4-point lead over the Boilermakers.
Even though the crowd remained alive, proudly shouting out “IU sucks” after kick off, Purdue dug itself into a hole early and needed to find a way to remain motivated after the early adversity.
O’Connell carried the team into the red zone after stringing together several first downs. After getting stopped at the nine-yard line with just one yard to go, Purdue had a decision to make.
Down 3-7, Brohm decided to risk it. They immediately handed it to junior running back King Doerue after the snap, who leapt and outstretched his arms over the opposing lineman for an ever important first down. Two plays later, the Boilers did what they failed to do for the first three quarters of the Illinois game.
It looked as if Purdue had to overcome the adversity, and senior quarterback Aidan O’Connell found a way to end the team's mistakes. They scored a touchdown.
However, the rest of the game transpired differently.
“We wanna take shots and go deep sometimes, but I think holding onto the ball too long, turning the ball over, and getting it stolen in the red zone (was our problem),” O’Connell said after the game.
The failed red zone drives seemed to be everywhere for the Boilermakers as they failed to get a touchdown four times inside the 30-yard line today.
One of those failed drives came after O’Connell had strung together first down after first down early in the game. He was relying on his receivers’ abilities to run after the catch and the crowd was in a frenzy then, as the team seemed unstoppable. But like always, after two lackluster plays, the hope to score a touchdown seemed to dwindle.
Just before halftime, O’Connell stepped back on third down, desperately looking for an open man after the snap. But following what seemed like an eternity in the backfield and not trying to test his luck as he had against the Illini, O'Connell threw the ball away.
The Boilers left the half up 13-10 against a Minnesota team that was 0-17 in games it trailed at halftime under head coach P.J. Fleck.
Later in the game, O’Connell was in the same situation scrambling for his life after several breakdowns from the offensive line. O’Connell ducked in and out of defenders. The air stood still for half a moment as he collected himself and looked downfield. He had one chance to throw a miracle shot and keep the drive alive. But the experienced fifth year waited just a second too long, and he was brought to the turf once again by the Minnesota pass rush.
As he crumpled to the ground, it seemed as though doubt had once again cast itself upon the offense.
But O’Connell doesn’t deserve all the blame.
“Today there were a few times I thought the offensive lineman did not play up to par,” Brohm said after the game.
It was a disappointing loss for the team, Brohm said, but hope still remained within the players.
Junior running back King Doerue played a decent game, with 95 yards rushing on 21 carries, and is optimistic about the team’s future.
“We are going to keep improving each week and we just got to correct our mistakes,” Doerue said after the game.
Purdue will return to action at No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 16 after its bye week. No broadcast information has been announced yet.
• The Boilermakers' 77 points against are the fewest they have conceded in the first five games since the 2004 team surrendered just 66 during a 5-0 start.
• Purdue's 10 big plays of 15-plus yards included eight receptions and two rushes. David Bell (4), Milton Wright (3) and Broc Thompson contributed the catches; King Doerue had runs of 16 and 19 yards.
• Despite running 85 offensive plays to Minnesota's 52, the Boilermakers were held off the scoreboard in the second half of a game for the first time since losing 35-7 at Penn State in October 2019.
• Purdue had a 28-13 advantage in first downs, converting 6 of 17 third downs and 2 of 3 fourth downs.
• The Boilermakers have scored 13 points in three consecutive games, a total that was good enough for a win last week vs. Illinois.
• Minnesota punter Mark Crawford averaged 51 yards per kick on his six punts, pinning Purdue inside the 20 four times. The Boilermakers' best starting field position was the 25-yard line after four different kickoffs.
• Purdue lost 44 yards on Minnesota's four sacks.
– Purdue Athletics contributed to this report.