Boilers Struggle Past Wolf Pack, Lurch Toward Conference Play
For those of you who watched the game, my condolences. It must have been hard to spend 3 hours on a beautiful Saturday afternoon watching a single serving of football-like substance when you could have been watching ESPN Goal Line or something better. I know I wished at times that I'd volunteered to write a recap of a different game ... like one from next season.
For those who chose otherwise, here's the scoop: Purdue did not punt, they recorded 6 sacks, Markell Jones topped 100 yards again, Bilal Marshall made a heck of a catch for a long TD ... and yet the game was still in doubt until a sweet play-action call on a late third-down play led to a wide-open Brycen Hopkins and the clinching TD.
Ghosts of previous mistakes haunted the Boilers all day. David Blough hit a Nevada defender in the hands just outside the end zone, pretty much nailed another (thankfully when his back was turned), and nearly threw a Favre-like interception during an aborted scramble. Jones put the ball on the ground on back-to-back touches, once at the end of a 24-yard gain. DeAngelo Yancey got banged up yet again (but did return and was reasonably effective).
Still, there were enough differences between this Purdue team and the one we saw in the first two games to take a possible loss and turn it into a 10-point win. Time and time again in the second half, Blough was put in positions to make plays that built his confidence after a shaky first half. Hazell continued to gamble, running a fake punt (well, from the Nevada 33, so it shouldn't have been a surprise), going for it on fourth downs, and of course there was the pass on third down that iced the game.
On the other hand, this entire post is about a home game against a very bad I-A team. Cal Poly scored 27 against them in their opener. Buffalo even posted 14 last week at Nevada. 466 total yards of offense, solid returns on both kickoffs and punts (Malik Kimbrough had a 42-yard punt return, Brian Lankford-Johnson returned the opening kickoff 45 yards) ... and 24 points. Ross Els' defense wasn't terrible for a change, and in fact the pressure they got helped keep the Boilers in the game when the offense was misfiring, but again, this was against a woeful I-A team, one that couldn't take advantage of a series of Purdue mistakes, including letting a receiver open deep for a possible TD (the pass was caught out of bounds and holding would have wiped out the play anyway) and leaving a hole in the middle of the defense for a team that loves to run its QBs (on the drive where Nevada missed a 27-yard FG).
There was nothing today that showed the Boilers can be competitive against Big Tenteen opposition, which is a shame. Wisconsin's blowout of Michigan State in East Lansing does make them seem more like the team that beat LSU than the one that nearly lost to Georgia State, but overall, the West is much more open than the East, similar in a way to the 2000 season that got the Boilers to the Rose Bowl. It's too bad that in his fourth year, Darrell Hazell has yet to show he can move Purdue in that direction.
Feature image from @BoilerFootball