-Dustin Keller knocks Illinois' Antonio Steele silly...on the play, three Illini defenders couldn't get the brawny & macho Keller to the turf.
The inconsistant Purdue Boilermakers' football team is once again bowl eligible. After playing an infuratingly frustrating first half versus a young and poorly-coached UI Fighting Illini squad, Purdue's defense gave the offense short field opportunities on which they capitalized. A couple things are good to see, if you're a Boiler fan, a couple things are not-so-good.
First the good- Purdue has beaten two straight opponents on the road while playing the role of underdog. To tell you the truth, I cannot remember a Joe Tiller-coached Purdue team doing that. It's really good to see this team show some guts and come up big on the road. Curtis Painter and the offense were brilliant at times in the second half. But, my favorite plays by the offense were when Jaycen Taylor knocked Illinois linebackers and lineman on their sorry cans to finish off runs. The funny thing is that Taylor is usually one of the lightest-weight players on the field...but he doesn't run that way.
The defense, although it had lapses at times, looked solid for chunks of the game. Anthony Spencer still acts like ball-carriers and quarterbacks alike have been calling his mother names in pre-game interviews (none have done so, that I know of). Opposite him, Avril has made some big plays (tipping the pass in the second half) and not only is a solid pass-rusher, but also seems to be learning how to stop the run. Ryan Baker and Alex Magee seem to get stronger and smarter each week and as a result of this pressure up front, the much-maligned defensive backfield has become a bit respectable. Al Royal being named a starter has been huge and George Hall and Dan Bick seem much more solid than about four weeks ago.
The bad- Curtis Painter struggled mightily at times and continues to sail the ball when he gets anxious. It didn't help that Orton and Bryant used Crisco-brand wide reciever gloves during the first half...Bryant replaced his at halftime, 21 did not. Kory Sheets, Greg Orton and Dorien Bryant; you're on my list! Don't get too down about it though gentlemen, you can get off of the list with a solid showing this week v. IU. Well, maybe not Bryant, but Dorien, we need a positive attitude from you for two halves of football for the next three games; play like the player that you think you are. Another thing that continues to frustrate me is the offensive play-calling is offensive. Coach Z and Coach Legg, run the stinking ball...but use Taylor as the number one back! The defense, although much better than they looked the first 6 games, continues to allow sub-par players look like Heisman candidates. Case in point- Isaiah williams looked a bit like Michael Vick during his last season at VTech, but only during the first half.
Now, my Boilers are in the scenario that I requested a few weeks ago- IU has everything to lose and should come out pretty tight; Purdue has very little to lose and should play loose. Plus, Purdue is better than IU at nearly every match-up on both sides of the ball. The one exception is that James Hardy seems to be better than about any 5'10" corner in the league...but someone's gotta deliver him the ball. Look for Purdue to be well-prepared for Lewis' style of play since the defense played Stanton and Williams (also extremely mobile) two weeks prior to playing IU.
-Hoeppner's going to the Rose Bowl!! I mean, he got really good seats for the game from Cuban and Mellencamp.
Stone-cold lock pick:
Purdue 37 IU 22
Bucket stays in West Lafayette.
Question- Have we witnessed Purdue's program's upward turning point? Many have argued (myself included) that the fumble v. Wisconsin in 2004 changed Purdue's program mentality from a winner into one that doesn't believe it can win the big game.
Was the game-winning field v. MSU a turning point for a soon-to-be championship-minded Purdue club? I don't know, but time may tell that it was just that.