Can you call what happened tonight magical? I guess you can, but before the stars in your eyes completely block your view of reality, let's remember Purdue was playing the MAC champ...This wasn't the Rothlisberger-led Miami of Ohio squad...it was an 8-5 team that had allowed over 70 points twice this season. It's always better to win than lose and this one had some extremely fun and promising moments that will make me think of what might be coming in '08...But, CMU took Purdue to the ropes, knocked our Boilers down a few times and looked like the better team during stretches of the contest...Here's my synopsis:
Curtis Painter and Dustin Keller prepare their lipgloss as the cameras roll
Curtis Painter played an amazingly-good game. He threw on the run accurately, took some good risks, was very accurate and showed a wide array of passes. 546 yds. 3 TDs and no INTs (see below)...That's an incredible night, I don't care whom you are playing.
The receiving corps was what I thought they could be all season...no thanks to Lymon or Bryant...the two players in this unit that the media seems to think were the best of the bunch. Standeford made key blocks that Lymon never would have and made catches with his hands that Lymon wasn't capable of making. Keller showed why he's a nearly-impossible match-up by torching Chips with his speed and knocking others on their tails. Orton found his hands again and showed why I think he is the best receiver in this talented bunch.
The defensive youth movement showed us why, despite losing quite a few players at the end of this season, Purdue's defense should be a bit better next season. Why? Well, the pass rush is the main reason I'm stoked for the future. Kerrigan & Brown were lightning fast on the ends and sure-handed tacklers when they got their hands on the QB. They caused the pocket to collapse from the backside over and over...and veteran Cliff Avril looked darned good too. Jason Werner, who I am a big fan of, hit hard on the opportunities he was given and looks like he is a rare Purdue LB who can actually play pass coverage.
Chris Freaking Summers nailed the game-winner right down the center. Let's all remember that he was the WORST kicker in the Big Ten just one season ago...and this year he was one of the best in the league. I was absolutely confident that he would hit the kick if the offense could get him inside 45...both parts did their job perfectly. Also note, Summers is a Fishers, IN product...greatest place to live in all of the land!
The Play-Calling was great at times...Most notably, Greg Orton's reception for a TD was set up by a double-fake by Curtis Painter. This play was one we hadn't seen all season. It was like the coaches had actually added new wrinkles to the system during the last month. Also, the defense stunted and blitzed and schemed in a manner that CMU was confused for most of the first half.
The Play-Calling made me nearly pull out the remaining hairs I have atop my shiny dome. Colletto-esque draw plays on first down and prevent base defenses during the third quarter nearly cost Purdue the game. What in the heck is wrong with our Boilers in the third quarter? Oooh, I know this one- No adjustments during halftime and Tiller's traditional turkey dinner banquet while the team was in the locker room have something to do with that.
Dorien Bryant infuriated me with he fear of being hit all day...and the two interceptions that will show up in Painter's stats deserve to be in Dorien's stat line, not Curt's. Even Curt showed that he was pissed at DB following a pass in the fourth quarter that Bryant simply gave up on because he was bothered by the idea of being hit. I've said it before, I'll say it again, I won't miss him...especially on offense. Welcome Desmond Tardy.
Kory Sheets who seemed to have figured out how to hold onto the ball earlier this season regressed and had a horrible fumble that helped CMU's comeback bid nearly succeed.
The dancing that was shown by ESPN on Purdue's sideline showed a lot about this team. With a cushy three-touchdown lead the receivers all seemed to believe that the game was over...Central Michigan didn't seem to see it the same way. On one hand, I love the emotion and the fact they were enjoying the game...on the other, you can do that after the clock hits 0:00.
Zone pass coverage is not in itself a bad thing...but it is a bad thing when the linebackers and safeties don't know their role. CMU had at least two TDs simply because Purdue's defenders didn't know their assignments. That's pretty horrible. Plus, this defense allowed 28 third quarter points...and 48 points overall. I guess we should be used to this as we've seen Spack-coached defenses do this versus Minnesota, Michigan and others in past seasons.
My alma mater's football team is the lead story on ESPN this evening...and it's not because they were beaten by a national-title-contender or because their opponent had a record-setting night. They're the lead because the game was entertaining and had a great ending. It's great to be nationally important...even if it's only for this evening.
Hats off to Joe Tiller for trying something new in his bowl preparation. It actually worked as Purdue scored not one, not two, but three first quarter TDs. Not bad for a team that hadn't scored a first quarter TD in a bowl game in the previous 6. Now that you've fixed that Joe, work on the third quarter.
All that said, Purdue just beat a MAC opponent in the Motor City Bowl. Beating LSU in the BCS Championship it is not. But, it was like playing CMU at home...so they did a good thing in beating an OK team on the road...something they really haven't done since 2004.
Like I said, I'm pleased that Purdue won, but I'm not making this into more than it is. Tiller still needs to make adjustments to his staff before next season in order for the program to progress...and Brock Spack has not earned the head coaching position, in my opinion simply because his defense is one of the most mediocre defenses in the nation. Tiller is now just one victory from tying Jack Mollenkopf; let's hope this team doesn't have to wait too long to get Joe past fat Jack on Purdue's victory list.