College football: Late interception helps Minnesota hold off Purdue

Minnesota linebacker Josh Aune holds the ball after he intercepted a Purdue pass on Nov. 20, 2020, in Minneapolis.
Minnesota linebacker Josh Aune’s late interception sealed the Gophers’ 34-31 victory over Purdue on Friday night in Minneapolis.
(Stacy Bengs / Associated Press)

MINNEAPOLIS — Josh Aune’s interception with 44 seconds left at the Minnesota 13-yard line after a disputed penalty on Purdue gave the beleaguered Gophers defense a big lift and preserved a 34-31 victory over the Boilermakers on Friday night.

Jack Plummer completed 35 of 42 passes for 367 yards and three scores in his first start of the season for Purdue, which took the ball with 2:01 left at its 39.

The Boilermakers, boosted by a career-high 15 receptions for 116 yards from Rondale Moore in his long-awaited return, moved in position for what they believed was a 19-yard touchdown catch by tight end Payne Durham in the final minute. Durham was flagged for offensive pass interference, angering the Purdue sideline after replays revealed scant evidence of a foul.


“I think you know what I think. I didn’t like it a lot. I can’t really comment on it. It’s part of the game,“ Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm said. “We’ve got to move forward.”

As Durham approached the goal line on his corner route, he extended his arm against the chest of cornerback Phillip Howard, whose pursuit did not appear to be significantly altered by the contact.

“Refs made a call, but we still had to finish the game,” Howard said.

Aune picked Plummer off on the next play.

“It was really who was going to turn the ball over first. It was so hard to get a takeaway,” said Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, whose defense forced just one punt, in the first quarter.

Mohamed Ibrahim, the Football Bowl Subdivision leader in rushing yards per game, scored his third touchdown of the game — and 13th of the season — early in the fourth quarter to give Minnesota a 34-24 lead before a missed extra point.

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Purdue used a fourth-and-one conversion on a drive capped by Durham’s scoring reception that cut the lead to three points with 8:31 left. The Boilermakers got the ball back quickly after Seth Green, the wildcat quarterback for the Gophers, was taken down for a three-yard loss on fourth and one from Minnesota’s 31. But Edward Dellinger, who had a 27-yard field-goal try blocked in the second quarter, pulled his 33-yarder wide right to keep the Gophers (2-3, 2-3 Big Ten) in the lead.

David Bell caught eight passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns for the Boilermakers (2-2, 2-2), who racked up 492 total yards. Moore, who in 2018 became the first true freshman in Big Ten history to be named a consensus All-American, took the field for the first time since injuring his hamstring against Minnesota on Sept. 28, 2019. Plummer, who started six games last season, seamlessly replaced the injured Aidan O’Connell.

Playing their second consecutive Friday night home game, a schedule quirk that’s hardly a blip in this strange season, the Gophers were missing 22 players either for injuries or COVID-19 protocols. Offensive line coach Brian Callahan and two other team staff members were also absent, confirmed by Minnesota for positive tests for COVID-19.

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Tanner Morgan’s junior year was off to a rough start, but he produced a crisp and commanding performance marked by pinpoint throws on third downs and deep routes to Chris Autman-Bell (129 yards) and Rashod Bateman (59). Cam Wiley added a touchdown run, Ibrahim notched his sixth straight 100-yard game, and the Gophers had their offense back in 2019 form.

“He had an edge to him,” Fleck said of Morgan. “He played gritty.”

Minnesota’s defense, missing top pass rusher Boye Mafe, played with plenty of energy despite the mismatches on the outside against Bell and Moore. Micah Dew-Treadway came up with the key block, just after a touchdown catch by Moore was overruled by replay review because he didn’t have possession in the corner of the end zone.

“It’s one that’s going to sting, but that’s what losses should do to you,” Brohm said. “I am proud of the fact that we played until the end and showed some fight, showed some want to win. The defense rised up at the very end and gave us some opportunities. But when you miss a field goal, get one blocked, get a touchdown called back, that’s hard to overcome against a good opponent.”

Louisville 30, Syracuse 0

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Malik Cunningham accounted for two touchdowns to offset three first-half turnovers, and Louisville held Syracuse to a season-low 137 yards with three takeaways for a victory.

All of the turnovers occurred before the break, though Cunningham’s two interceptions around a fumble in Orange territory weren’t as costly. That’s because the Cardinals’ replenished defense created just as many opportunities, two of which the offense converted into 10 points for a 13-0 lead in the second quarter.

Cunningham added a four-yard touchdown run with 29 seconds left in the half before connecting with Tutu Atwell for a 19-yard score midway through the third. The junior quarterback finished 19-for-28 passing for 219 yards as the Cardinals (3-6, 2-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) ended a two-game losing streak.

Syracuse (1-8, 1-7) never got going in losing its sixth consecutive game.

Air Force 28, New Mexico 0

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Brad Roberts rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns, Haaziq Daniels added 56 yards rushing and a score, and Air Force overcame three second-half turnovers to beat New Mexico.

Air Force scored a touchdown on its first three possession of the game while New Mexico punted on three of its first four — along with a fumble. The Falcons fumbled it on three straight drives in the second half, but the Lobos followed each with a missed field-goal try.

Roberts, in his second game with Air Force, had scoring runs of five, 12 and 44 yards. Daniels scored from the four-yard line and also completed four of five passes for 66 yards.

Air Force (2-2, 1-2 Mountain West) secured its first shutout in a conference game since the 2011 season — also against New Mexico.

Trae Hall was 23 of 42 for 221 yards and an interception for New Mexico (0-4, 0-4). The Lobos missed field-goal attempts of 37, 40, 50 and 51 yards.

Florida Atlantic 24, Massachusetts 2

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Freshman Javion Posey passed for 203 yards and rushed for a 70-yard touchdown to help Florida Atlantic beat Massachusetts in the first meeting between the schools.

FAU (5-1) scored the first 21 points before Tanner Davis blocked a punt, resulting in a safety for UMass late in the third quarter. BJ Emmons scored on a one-yard run, and Nick Tronti connected with Brandon Robinson for a 13-yard score. Vladimir Rivas capped the scoring with a 30-yard field goal.

Posey completed 13 of 27 passes and carried it 19 times for 90 yards in his second career start. Last week, he passed for two touchdowns and set a program record for rushing yards (182) in a game by a quarterback.

TJ Chase caught four passes for 79 yards for FAU. David Belvin III and Teja Young each made an interception.

Will Koch, Garrett Dzuro and Andrew Brito each threw a pass for UMass (0-3) — with Koch and Dzuro each throwing an interception.

Fulmer, Diaz test positive for COVID-19

Ex-Tennessee coach and current AD Phillip Fulmer, left, talks with former Florida coach Steve Spurrier on Sept. 21, 2019.
Former Tennessee coach and current athletic director Phillip Fulmer, left, talks with ex-Florida coach Steve Spurrier last year. Fulmer said Friday that he’s in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.
(John Raoux / Associated Press)

Tennessee athletic director and former Volunteers football coach Phillip Fulmer said Friday that he is in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. And Miami’s Manny Diaz became the latest active coach to announce he has contracted the virus.

Fulmer, 70, posted on Twitter that he is “feeling fine“ and was deemed not to have been in close contact with any Tennessee athletes or “sport-specific staff members.”

Tennessee plays at No. 23 Auburn on Saturday.

Fulmer is a College Football Hall of Famer who coached the Vols for 17 years and won a national championship in 1998. He has been Tennessee’s AD since 2017.

Diaz made a similar social media post earlier to announce he tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolating. Diaz, 46, said he will work virtually with the No. 12 Hurricanes until he can return to the field.

Utah’s reputation for stopping the run should provide a test for a USC squad that has struggled to get rushing yards on third and fourth downs.

Miami is not scheduled to play again until Dec. 5 at Wake Forest. The Hurricanes this week were forced to postpone games scheduled for Saturday and Nov. 28 because of coronavirus issues.

“I have tested positive for COVID-19. I am currently in isolation and feeling good overall,” Diaz tweeted.

Diaz was the second coach from a Power Five school to publicly acknowledge testing positive this week, along with Maryland’s Mike Locksley. Locksley’s team, like Diaz’s, had its Saturday game called off because of COVID-19 issues within the program.

As of Friday evening, 17 of the 62 games across major college football had been postponed or canceled. That’s the most disrupted games in any week of this season, one more than last week.

The latest addition was Washington State’s game at Stanford, which got canceled before the Cougars left for the Bay Area. The Cougars fell below the Pac-12 minimum of 53 scholarship players available due to positive coronavirus cases and contact tracing.

“I’m disappointed for our team and our players. They have battled through so much this year,” Washington State coach Nick Rolovich said in a statement.

Letters to the Los Angeles Times Sports department.

Among the other active coaches to have said they tested positive for COVID-19 are: Florida’s Dan Mullen, Florida State’s Mike Norvell, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm, Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin, Kansas’ Les Miles and Troy’s Chip Lindsey, who will not be with his team when the Trojans play Middle Tennessee on Saturday.

Alabama coach Nick Saban also tested positive but did not miss a game after that result was later deemed false.

Elsewhere in the ACC, Pittsburgh said its players will be outfitted with face coverings to use on the field and sideline during its home game against Virginia Tech on Saturday, in accordance with recent guidelines handed down by state officials in Pennsylvania.

Pitt later clarified that players will not be required to pull up the face coverings while they are competing.

In a statement, Penn State said the new orders include exceptions for competition to be played without face coverings “in the context of rigorous and stringent University and Big Ten testing, health and safety protocols.” The Nittany Lions host Iowa on Saturday.