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MINNEAPOLIS -- After an 0-2 start in the Big Ten, the Minnesota Golden Gophers have fought their way back into the race for the West Division title. Cheap St.Louis Blues Jerseys . Heres where it starts to get interesting.Rodney Smith ran for 153 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Mitch Leidner ran for 74 yards and two more scores Saturday as Minnesota defeated Purdue 44-31.The Gophers (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) opened conference play with an overtime loss at Penn State and a home loss to Iowa. But theyve rattled off four straight wins over admittedly lesser foes -- Maryland, Rutgers, Illinois and Purdue, who have combined for five conference victories this season.Now the schedule gets tougher, with road games at Nebraska and Wisconsin sandwiched around a visit from Northwestern. Minnesota can win the Big Ten West if it wins out, which seemed and unlikely position for them to be in four weeks ago.After our first two conference games nobody gave us a chance ... to be in here, Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said. They kind of said the season was over. We just kept battling one game at a time and we fought our way back into this thing.Smith and Leidner put the points on the board on Saturday, but the Gophers resurgence in the past month and against Purdue was due in large part to its defensive effort. Trailing 28-23 at halftime, Minnesota forced three second-half turnovers, and the offense turned each of them into touchdowns as the Gophers outscored the Boilermakers 21-3 in the second half.We cant keep beating ourselves like that. Its frustrating, said Purdue quarterback David Blough, who threw four touchdown passes in the first half but was held in check after the break. They gave us every single coverage in America in the second half, they kept throwing wrenches in (our offense).Purdue (3-6, 1-5) again was competitive but continued to be plagued by second-half woes in its third game since head coach Darrell Hazell was fired. The Boilermakers have been outscored 83-10 in the second half in their last three games.It puts tears in my eyes not to be able to get them to a point they can finish, Purdue interim coach Gerad Parker said. Thought it was a chance for us, got into the third quarter and had a chance to win the game. We got to do that and relay to them its not okay to finish short and just be close.As Purdue tries to regroup, Minnesota gets ready for the most important stretch of its season, beginning with a game Saturday night at Nebraska. That leaves little time to celebrate its recent success.It feels good, but we have bigger goals, Smith said. This week is a big week coming up for us and we know that.STREAKINGPurdue receivers racked up more than 100 yards after the catch in the first half thanks to two long touchdowns off short passes. In the first quarter, Cameron Posey caught a ball one step ahead of Minnesota safety Damarius Travis and ran the last 60 yards untouched for an 89-yard touchdown. De Yancey later shook off a tackle and ran the last 45 yards of a 60-yard touchdown playYou never know until you get into the games how youre going to match up, Claeys said. Speeds hard to tell on video -- it really is. So after those two big plays we went to more safety help on them.OFF TARGETMinnesota linebacker Nick Rallis was ejected after being called for targeting in the fourth quarter. Hell miss the first half of the Nebraska game as a result. Replays appeared to show that Rallis made a clean hit with his shoulder but the replay official confirmed the ejection.That was the sixth targeting call against the Gophers, and though Claeys admitted to frustration over the inconsistent way the rule has been interpreted and implemented, he knew better than to say anything about it after the game.I would add more but Christmas is coming up and I would much rather use my money on Christmas presents than send it to the Big Ten, he said.THE TAKEAWAYPurdue: Blough ended the day with 391 passing yards, the fifth time hes passed for 300 yards this year. . Yancey and Posey each topped 100 receiving yards with a touchdown for PurdueMinnesota: Smith topped the 100-yard mark for the fourth straight game and sixth time this season. . Gophers running back Shannon Brooks missed the game due to an unspecified injury. . Minnesota rushed for five touchdowns for the second straight game. . Sophomore Emmit Carpenter became the first Gopher in 19 years to kick two 50-yard field goals in a game. Carpenter converted from 52 and 53 yards in the first half. . Sophomore linebacker Blake Cashman, a walk-on filling in for two injured teammates, finished the game with two sacks.LAST WORDI know to you guys it seems like a theme: Purdue cant finish in the second half. But we were just as ready in the second half as we were in the first half. It was not anything about lack of effort. They just made more plays in the second half. -- Boilermakers linebacker Markus BaileyUP NEXTPurdue hosts Northwestern on Saturday afternoon.Minnesota travels to Nebraska for a Saturday night clash with the Cornhuskers. Adidas Nail Yakupov Jersey . -- The Missouri Tigers might not have a roster full of superstars. Cheap Adidas NHL Jerseys . 31, the CFL club announced Monday. The team also has yet to decide on the future of Doug Berry, who began the season as a consultant to the head coach but took over the offensive co-ordinators duties in July. http:///...kar-sundqvist-jersey . This should be celebrated because it will not always be this way. With the amount of money given to players by their clubs these days, it is a wonder that so many of those teams allow the sport to continue to take away many of their assets so they can play for a different team in the middle of their season. One of the best things about being a season-ticket holder is getting to know the people who work at Wrigley Field. If you sit in the same seats, year after year, you build relationships with security workers, ushers and vendors. Folks who get jobs at Wrigley Field tend to keep them.Now that the Cubs are back in the postseason, I look forward to discussing the playoffs with two Wrigley workers in particular.If youre headed up to Section 416, the odds are good that you will run into my favorite beer vendor at her stand on the mezzanine level at the top of Aisle 211. She stands out not just for the quick and efficient way she does her job, serving up cold ones and changing empty kegs in five seconds flat. Because of her, Cubs fans who come to watch the major leaguers at Wrigley can get their beer from another world-class athlete; when shes not tending to thirsty customers at the Friendly Confines, my pal is better known as roller derby star Val Capone.Currently a member of the Chicago Red Hots, and a two-time Ivy King Cup-winner for being champion of Chicagos Windy City Rollers league, Val also coaches the U.S. mens national roller derby team, and is working to get the game into the Olympics.She does all of that while slinging suds not only at Wrigley, but also at the United Center during Bulls and Blackhawks tilts.Val has worked at Wrigley for 11 years, and grew up in Wrigleyville as an ardent Cubs fan, which makes her work personal. I still get chills, she says of arriving at the ballpark on game days, thinking to herself: I work here!Her goal as a vendor is straightforward: For many visiting fans, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Im here to make it awesome. She loves being part their memory, and if you hang out by her stand for a while, youll see her direct fans seeking a particular beer to a fellow vendor rather than trying to up-sell them on her higher-end brands. Given that vendors work for commission and tips -- You make what you sell, as she puts it -- its clearly not all about her pocketbook.Vals lifetime highlight at Wrigley -- The happiest day of my life, she says -- was singing the seventh-inning stretch with Drew Barrymore in 2009. The movie star was in Chicago to promote her roller-derby film Whip It, which Val consulted on. A picture of that moment can be seen as her twitter avatar (@valcapone). For her, the only thing greater would be a Cubs World Series.With the playoffs still to come, 2016 already has been packed with highlights for Val. The whole season has been an overflowing wealth of awesome, she says. All of it.Val even comes to the games on her off days, as she splits season tickets with a friend. What will happen if the Cubs are still playing at the end of October? Will she work or take her seat?Val will be behind the stick, and her father will have her seat.That, my friends, is family values.Card tricks in the upper deckThen theres Leo, a guest services ambassador -- aka, an usher -- in the upper deck. Cheap Adidas Blues Jerseys. riginally from Cleveland and an Indians fan, Leo -- whose real name is Stan Klein, but who goes by Leo while working at Wrigley -- adopted the Cubs as his team after sitting with Bill Veeck in the center-field bleachers in the 80s. Leo bought a beer for the former White Sox owner (and the man who planted the ivy at Wrigley when his father was Cubs GM), and Veeck regaled Leo and other bleacher creatures with insider details about players and the park, bringing Leo into the Cubs fan fold.Leo is a Renaissance man: An actor and artist, he manages Firecat Studios, an art gallery in Bucktown, along with noted Chicago artist, writer, actor (and White Sox fan) Tony Fitzpatrick. Leo also works as an usher at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, pretty much covering all of the citys cultural bases.What sets him apart is a bit of performance art he does before and during every game he works. Beyond just helping people find their seats and gently keeping the aisles clear of loiterers, Leo gives fans of the opposing teams baseball cards featuring their teams players.Why?Its a great way to greet visiting fans, families and patrons, he says, and points out that the Cubs promotional giveaways are all, naturally, aimed at Cubs fans; he wants visitors to feel welcome. It promotes the game and its history as well. Little kids get a card, and their dad recalls that player, and it starts a dialogue about the game and its history. It also introduces modern youngsters to baseball cards themselves, beloved hands-on analog artifacts many have never seen before.While Leo would love to cut a deal with Topps or another card company, that hasnt happened yet; he gets his stock at flea markets and garage sales, and donations from fans. Several other upper-deck ushers have joined him in this project, and he gives away between 200 and 300 cards every game. Some travel agents and school groups even contact him in advance to request a certain number of cards, as his generous gesture has become part of the Wrigley experience for their annual trips to the corner of Clark and Addison.An unexpected gift at an unplanned time is the best thing you can do for somebody, he says, after handing cards to several children -- and their accompanying grown-ups -- wearing Pittsburgh Pirates T-shirts.Leos 2016 highlight? While heading for his bike after one day game, he ran into pitcher Kyle Hendricks, the current MLB ERA leader. Hendricks lives within walking distance of Wrigley, and he and Leo chatted about neighborhood restaurants as they walked down Waveland. Hes just a nice guy, Leo says.The downside to his job? The cold in April and, hopefully, October, he says.But hell take it. I can bear it in October, no problem. 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