Purdue's upset bid of Sparty stumbles short, 45-31
“It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” basically sums up every feeling I could summon as I recovered from Austin Appleby’s game sealing pick-six, falling short to the Spartans 45-31. As the bosses of this lovely establishment pointed out, even though we felt that familiar stab of failed dreams, it feels good to put up a truly valiant effort on network television against the current standard-bearers of the Big Ten. On offense, it was clear that John Shoop's gameplan shifted Appleby into a very west coast-y system, with his primary reads running quick horizontal routes. Danny Anthrop, in particular, made Michigan State pay with some stunning runs after the catch, and it seems like the Appleby-Anthrop chemistry was present right off the bat. Akeem Hunt and the offensive line did a tremendous job complimenting Austin’s great first half performance, and even though Purdue didn't manage a touchdown in the first quarter, the improvements made over the past month were clear.
Those feelings were vindicated in the second quarter, as Purdue put up two touchdowns against a normally-stout Sparty defense that seemed suddenly flustered. Hunt and Keyante Green bulldozed a trail for the first, and BJ Knauf scored the second after a series of very precise Appleby completions.
Why haven’t I talked about the defense (or Michigan State’s offense) yet? Because my goodness they were virtually nonexistent in that half. MSU QB Connor Cook was not pressured at all today, and that gave him plenty of time to exploit Purdue’s poor secondary with a nuclear weapon otherwise known as Tony Lippett. Lippett finished with 138 yards (119 came in the first half) on 7 receptions, and completely ran amok early in the game. Poor arm-tackling allowed Michigan State to put up 24 points in the first half, but solid execution of a very effective gameplan helped Purdue keep up with 17.
The second half began with Frankie Williams dropping a sure-fire interception at midfield, which might have caused a three-quarters-filled Ross Ade to explode with…what’s that word again….oh, JOY. Instead, Cook led MSU on a clinical drive down the field that finished with a spectacular Aaron Burbridge reception in the back of the end zone. After another MSU touchdown and several failed Purdue drives showcased MSU DC Pat Narduzzi’s halftime defensive adjustments to shut down the quick passing game...it really looked like the Boilers were done for the day. But lo, with 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Purdue defense finally forced a punt out of the Spartans. A quarter wasn’t much to work with, but hell if Hazell and co. weren’t going to take a shot at the W.
Purdue opened the final quarter by converting a huge fourth down on a tasty Appleby-Anthrop completion that exploited a gap in MSU’s defense. Which would have been great if Appleby wouldn’t have botched a hand-off and fumbled the ball away on the very next play. At this point, I was ready to start writing a “Purdue wasn’t good enough, that’s the end of the story” post…when Frankie Williams woke up with his best Rico Allen impression and picked off Cook's sideline pass. Purdue capitalized by driving down the field on the back of Hunt’s 32 yard touchdown run (aided by a picture-perfect offensive line) bringing the game to within two scores. Per GBI and the incomparable Chris Forman, Purdue has scored a touchdown on 8 of their 9 takeaways this season, which sounds like a pretty ideal thing to do.
The defense forced State’s next drive to a 3-and-out, and that familiar feeling of hope-against-logic started to rise from my gut like post-burrito indigestion. I’m ready to see what the return will give when, all of a sudden, the usually-brilliant Sparty HC Mark Dantonio calls for a horrible fake that is stopped well short of the chains. It was instantly clear to me that Dantonio didn’t see Purdue as a viable threat, even after what the Boilers showed in the first half. That move screams “not afraid of your offense”, and the Good Guys seemed to hear that message loud and clear. Appleby started the drive aggressively, which had me a liiiiittle worried.
(Look at the timestamp. Being able to inadvertently see the future is a curse.)
The short field got even shorter when MSU was called for interference in the end zone, setting up a devastating Hunt touchdown run that seemingly dislocated cornerback Darian Hicks’ shoulder. 38-31, and the Boiler players looked like they had no doubts about stealing this one away from the #8 team in the country.
After a supremely confident Purdue defense forced another 3-and-out, Dantonio decided that punting wouldn’t be a bad call this time and pinned the Boilers inside their own 5 yard line. Unfortunately, instead of a game-winning drive towards a touchdown and two point conversion, our story ends exactly where this post began.
I know, it’s not the most storybook ending in the world. But it sure feels good to be respected by postgame show ‘pundits’, rather than the butt of Kirk Herbstreit’s awful jokes.
- I thought the helmet/jersey combo looked fantastic. I know there are a few curmudgeons out there who hated it, but this football program desperately needs an injection of fun.
- The EsPN/ABC broadcasting team is on top of their game, as always.
- The same crack broadcasting team decided to interview the absolutely-perfect=in-every-way Joe Tiller, who told a random story that I never wanted to hear the end of….during Purdue’s comeback bid. The emotions of what was happening on the field completely drowned out Cowboy Joe, proving once again that Disney sports broadcasting is dreadfully mediocre and Joe is absolute perfection.
- I’ll end this post with a picture of Bdowd, as even-keeled as ever, right after the Appleby interception.