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One by one they took turns trying to explain what happened during the previous 3½ hours.

"We just couldn't find our groove, and that falls on my shoulders,'' coach P.J. Fleck said after the Gophers lost 20-10 to Purdue on Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium.

"We've got to get a lot better,'' quarterback Tanner Morgan said. "I've got to get a lot better.''

"That's not us," linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin said before quickly adding, "That is us because that's what was put on the field today. But we're gonna work to improve it."

Just who are the Gophers five games into the season? Are they the efficient squad that saw offense, defense and special teams feed off each other during a 4-0 start? Or are they the group that couldn't run the ball, turned a touchdown pass into an interception, gave up uncharacteristic big plays and missed a chip-shot field goal against Purdue?

The answer likely sits somewhere between those extremes. The 183-24 scoring dominance from New Mexico State through Michigan State wasn't sustainable in the long term. Conversely, the Gophers under Fleck have seldom been as error-prone as they were against the Boilermakers.

After a bye this week, the Gophers will begin to rediscover who they are and where they stand on Oct. 15 at Illinois. That game suddenly takes on more importance after the Fighting Illini throttled Wisconsin 34-10 in Madison to join a six-way tie for first place in the Big Ten's West Division.

What the Gophers lost Saturday, along with their spot in the Associated Press and coaches polls, was complete control of their destiny in the West race. Purdue now has the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Gophers, should it come down to that. Both have games remaining against the teams most likely to be West contenders: Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

The bye week followed by the trip to Illinois come at the right time for Minnesota. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim will have added time to heal from the ankle injury that kept him out against Purdue. His value to the offense never was more apparent than it was without him on Saturday.

The Gophers also will have a chance to regroup and correct mistakes during the bye week, preparing for a physical Illini team that features the Big Ten's leading rusher in Chase Brown (146.6 yards per game) and the nation's top scoring defense (8.4 points allowed per game). By Fleck's admission, the Gophers didn't block well up front against Purdue, and the challenge Illinois presents will show how well the offensive line responds to its first substandard game of the season.

Fleck said the team's preparation didn't seem to be an issue entering Saturday. The problems came during the game when Purdue "forced us not to play well." It's a sentiment Sori-Marin echoed.

"I'm not going to sit here and say that we didn't prepare. We prepared our best, as we have all season long," he said. "But the preparation only takes you so far. It only gives you a chance. You just have to take that preparation and execute from it."

While the loss to Purdue stings for the Gophers and raises questions about how good they might be, players see an opportunity, too.

"I'd say it's going to be a good thing for us coming together," tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford said. "And the thing that Coach Fleck always tells us is you got to be humble enough to know you can lose to any team and confident enough to know you can beat anyone. So, we're excited to get back to work with this group."