WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Minnesota has seemingly mastered the art of the fourth-quarter comeback, although attempting to pull off a Houdini act each week in the Big Ten doesn't seem like a good plan going forward for third-year coach P.J. Fleck's team. The Golden Gophers' attempt to go 4-0 for the first time since 2013 and hope to avoid yet another nail-biter Saturday when they visit Purdue in the Big Ten opener for both programs.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2. LINE: Purdue -1.
Despite opening its season with a trio of non-Power 5 opponents, Minnesota has trailed well into the fourth quarter in every game, only to find a way to escape each with a one-score victory - including a 35-32 win on Sept. 14 over Georgia Southern in which Tyler Johnson caught the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds remaining. "This team has some of the most heart I've ever seen in my entire life," Fleck told reporters one week after the Gophers outlasted Fresno State on the road in overtime. The Boilermakers have dropped five of the last six meetings in this series - including last season's 41-10 rout - and were similarly dominated at home two weekends ago in a 34-13 setback against TCU. "They took us to the woodshed. It should hurt us and (show us what) we're made of. It doesn't matter who we are missing or not, we have to play better," Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said.
ABOUT MINNESOTA (3-0)
Oft-injured senior running back Shannon Brooks is expected to make his season debut after recovering from ACL surgery, and Fleck has to hope his return will help spark a ground game averaging 2.6 yards per carry - good for 124th in FBS - despite ranking 10th in the country in rushing attempts per game (47.3). Johnson (team-high 17 receptions, 239 yards and three TDs) tallied 10 catches for 140 yards in the win over the Eagles and became the first player in program history with three career three-touchdown games. Fellow receiver Rashod Bateman (15 catches, team-high 289 receiving yards) is seven yards away from becoming the second fastest to 1,000 career receiving yards in school history (993 in 16 games).
ABOUT PURDUE (1-2)
Elijah Sindelar, who led the nation with 932 yards passing after the first two weeks, was one of the players Brohm was referring to missing against TCU after he suffered a concussion the previous week; a call on his availability for Minnesota is expected later in the week. His absence played a critical role in one of the worst games of Rondale Moore's 16-game career, as the sophomore was held to three catches for 25 yards versus the Horned Frogs after averaging 12 receptions and 172 yards in his first two games. After losing decorated linebacker Markus Bailey to a season-ending knee injury in practice before the game, Ben Holt stepped up with a career-high 17 tackles against TCU - the most by a Boilermaker since 1997.
1. A Minnesota victory over Purdue would give the Gophers four straight road wins for the first time since 2003.
2. Moore's next 100-yard receiving game will be the 10th of his career and leave him one shy of Taylor Stubblefield (11; 2001-04) for third place on the school's all-time list.
3. The last time the Gophers won four one-score games in a season was 1990.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 31, Purdue 20