"You get what you deserve in football, and Pat Fitzgerald's team had this coming."
- Adam Rittenberg
What do we say about this one? The Boilermakers found a way tonight in Evanston, beating the Wildkittens 20-17. The disturbing trend of winning games people don't think they'll win and losing games they're expected to win continued for this team.
Let's not sugar coat this. It was an ugly win. Let's also remember that Northwestern wasn't exactly a powerhouse 5-0, ranked team. However, they were 5-0, they were ranked and they were at home. In recent years, winning road games against undefeated and ranked teams has not been part of Purdue's bag of tricks. I'll let someone else look that one up, but it hasn't happened many times.
The somewhat hilarious irony of it all is that Purdue's offense is still a shell of what we thought it might be in 2010. Sure, some of that -- a lot of it -- has to do with the injury issues. But now we're looking at a team that really just runs the ball -- and doesn't have any true running backs available other than Dan Dierking.
This is a team whose QB was 6-of-18 for 47 yards and a pick. Yikes. I mean....yikes.
That said, Rob Henry continues to grow up before our eyes. No, he's not yet confident with the throws. But let's also remember his receivers didn't do him a whole lot of favors tonight. The pick in the end zone was pretty clearly an underthrown rainbow and yet OJ Ross simply watched it sail majestically into the arms of a NU defender. No, I'm not blaming OJ. But he could help out a little there. And on that subject, too many times when Henry did throw the ball, the receivers reacted like Wile E Coyote had just thrown a lit stick of dynamite at them.
But Rob Henry led this team tonight. They believed in him; that much was clear, at least to me. And Rob ran for 132 yards on 16 carries, including a TD. Best of all, he never looked panicked. He never looked spooked. He never made critical bad decisions.
Purdue was once again outplayed. Let's state that as well. But a solid defensive effort and some special teams magic can make special things happen. But let's look at the numbers. Purdue only had 279 total yards in this game. Northwestern had 305....passing. Purdue had 13 first downs; NU had 23. Purdue held the ball for eight fewer minutes than Northwestern.
But Kawann Short got his paw on a FG attempt by NU that would have made it 20-13 and, I think it's safe to say, effectively ended the evening's festivities. Purdue then looked like they had more life than we've seen in a long time -- perhaps all season. Henry led an inspired drive that made me proud of the boys all over again.
Earlier in the game, things looked as bleak as they have recently. Predictable, boring play calls, too many draws...the usual. The amazing thing was that there were flashes of excitement when Coach Nord did get a little creative. Mind you, I'm not talking about wild and crazy plays.... I'm talking about an end around, some creative misdirection on an option play, that sort of thing. These aren't nutty, crazy play calls...but compared to the boring crud we've been witnessing, they were refreshing. Let's see a few more of these and maybe a really fun play mixed in here and there.
I know that winning this game might lead the coaching staff to think they should keep doing what they're doing -- but let's not kid ourselves. Purdue was outgained and out played for much of this game. They took care of the ball, though, and NU missed a game-tying FG and had the aforementioned one blocked. For a change, the Boilermakers were the recipients of the kind of good fortune that seems to always land on teams like Northwestern.
Let's enjoy this one. 1-0 in conference. Can't be better than that.