Sept. 24, 2005
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A familiar feeling washed over Glen Mason after his Minnesota Gophers gave up a touchdown to Purdue in overtime.
"I was dreading having to go, look in their eyes in the locker room and have to give them one of those talks that I've had to give too many times," Mason said. "We've kind of been snake-bitten against Purdue."
Maybe this year is going to be different for the Gophers. Saturday certainly was.
Gary Russell scored three touchdowns, the last a 3-yard run in the second overtime to lift Minnesota to a 42-35 victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak to the 11th-ranked Boilermakers.
Laurence Maroney put himself right in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race with a career-high 217 yards rushing on 46 carries for the Gophers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten), who held on in another thrilling back-and-forth game between these rivals.
"Maybe this is payback for all those close games in the past few years," said quarterback Bryan Cupito, who threw for 271 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. "It feels great to win this game. We finally beat Purdue! I hope people start to realize that we're a legit team."
Purdue had a chance to tie the game in the second overtime, but Jerod Void was stuffed on third-and-1 from the Minnesota 17, and Brandon Kirsch's fourth-down pass glanced off Charles Davis' hands. The Gophers charged the field in celebration of Mason's first victory over Purdue in seven tries as Minnesota coach.
Kory Sheets rushed for 101 yards for Purdue (2-1, 0-1), and his 5-yard touchdown gave the Boilermakers a 35-28 lead in the first overtime.
But the Gophers came right back and tied the game on Cupito's 8-yard touchdown pass to Logan Payne.
The Gophers took the ball to start the second overtime, and Cupito hit Payne on a 15-yard pass to set up Russell's game-winning score two plays later.
It was a bit of vindication for Mason and the Gophers, who have been criticized for scheduling weak opponents in nonconference play, then folding against superior competition in the Big Ten.
That has especially been the case against the Boilermakers, who beat Minnesota 35-28 in overtime in 2001.
"I hate overtime," Mason said. "I love double overtime."
The Gophers nearly let this one slip away, too, during a wild fourth quarter.
Russell's 5-yard TD reception in the third gave the Gophers a 17-7 lead, but it was all Maroney for the first three quarters.
Purdue came into the game with the No. 1 ranked rushing defense in the nation after yielding just 16 yards a game to Akron and Arizona.
The Boilermakers found out quickly that they were facing a much more difficult task against Minnesota's top-ranked rushing offense, which churned out 301 yards.
"It was a great defense we went against," Maroney said. "Everybody was like, 'Can we run the ball against them?' We just proved that we can and we're feeling good right now."
Maroney ran for 96 yards in the first quarter alone and 147 yards in the first half as Minnesota's superb offensive line opened huge holes and manhandled Purdue's experienced defensive front.
"The run came at them very, very fast," Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack said. "It took us a while to get used to that speed. They run the football better than any team I've seen in a long time."
Purdue's defense stiffened in the second half and Maroney began to wear down as Purdue clawed its way back.
Kirsch's 8-yard strike to Andre Chattams with 6:39 to go in the fourth gave the Boilermakers their first lead of the game, 21-20.
Linebacker Dan Bick returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown on the next series to extend the lead to 28-20.
"They had the edge early, but our guys came back and competed and got themselves in a position to win the ball game," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "It was a heck of a game."
Kirsch finished with 246 yards passing, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Gophers came right back after Ben Jones kicked the ball out of bounds. They drove 65 yards in 12 plays, culminating with an 8-yard scoring pass from Cupito to Matt Spaeth. Cupito then kept the ball on an option play to the right and plunged in for the 2-point conversion to tie the game with 1:34 to play.
"You know what I said in the huddle?" said the slow-footed Cupito. "You guys aren't going to believe what they just called.
"Hey, it worked."