Give Us Back Our Cannon! Boilers Win On Homecoming Over Illini 21-14

Our Boilers made us all proud on homecoming today is West Lala, beating Illinois and embattled coach Ron Zook, 21-14. And while I definitely want everyone to enjoy this one, you have to wonder how much of this was Purdue winning and how much was Illinois/Zook opening the door and inviting the Boilers in.

Let's talk positives first, because there definitely were many, especially early on. I had mentioned to B-dowd this week that I couldn't remember that last time the Boilers came out "shot out of a cannon" as he likes to say. Hope always seemed to be able to get these guys up for certain games -- even if they didn't result in wins. But lately it didn't feel like the guys were ever starting well. That all changed today as TerBush orchestrated arguably his best drive so far this season, and definitely his best if you consider the competition This was a ranked opponent who rolled into town with a 6-1 record. And Caleb takes them 91 yards in four and a half minutes on Purdue's first scoring drive.

The second drive was 88 yards in just over three minutes, ending with a 21 yard rushing TD by Raheem Mostert. Mostert's TD run was also wonderful to behold, running through a hole and sprinting nearly untouched to the end zone....and nearly into the arms of a waiting Purdue fan. How sweet.

Special teams redeemed themselves a bit today, too. While there were no returns to speak of, there weren't any catastrophic errors, either. And they were swarming early on, collapsing on a bobbled punt attempt by the Illini that wound up giving the Boilers the ball on the Illinois 14. Another impressive thing we saw out of the Boilers today was the ability to finish these drives off and not having to settle for FG attempts. A 21-0 lead is a lot more demoralizing to a team on the road than, say, a 13-0 lead would have been. That was huge.

The defense played solid today as well. Tackling seemed to get a little sloppy in the second half, but they, too, were swarming on Scheelhaase, who does not seem to have a whole lot of football awareness in general. He held on to the ball too long many times and made a ridiculously head-scratching decision at the end of the first half with his team down 21-0. The Illini were driving, such as it was, and were into Purdue territory. They got the ball to the Purdue 21 on a weird, 34-yard rush and lateral play and had :01 showing on the clock as they reset the chains. And what did Scheelhaase do? Why, he gave everyone the spike signal and lined up and, true to his signal, clocked the ball. Of course, at least a second has to run off the clock and so the half was over. Really? You're at the college level and still don't know how the clock works? Incredible. And fortunate for the Boilers. I like it when the other team makes the really stupid mistakes.

As for what didn't go as well, we need to look no further than.... everything after halftime. The Boilers played a very different game after the break, when they must have enjoyed the Joe Tiller staple of halftime meals -- pasta, turkey and warm milk. Purdue had three whole first downs in the entire second half, two of which came on one drive. Drive is a generous term, really, as the Boilers never got inside the Illinois 40 in the second half. Yeah, not good at all. It sure is a good thing they had a 21-0 lead.

Why was this? Was the team tired? Did they actually eat fettuccine? Or did the coaching staff go into its Tiller-mode of protecting the lead? Because, and I know I'm crazy this way, but I don't like sitting on a lead with more than half the game to go. Why not continue the play calling in a similar way in the second half? It was working and it's not like the Boilers were doing crazy things on offense. B-dowd texted me that he felt it was the best play-calling all year in the first half. Well, that may be, but the bar isn't exactly very high, and I wasn't thrilled with it.

Statistically, the Boilers had a decent day, especially if you consider the way they mailed in the second half offensively. Purdue was outgained overall but had 178 yards passing and 126 on the ground. However, the 126 was on 42 rushing attempts, which only works out to 3 yards per rush. Purdue's leading rusher was Shavers with 29 yards, followed by Bolden with 28. Mostert was third with his lone 21 yard TD rush.

Passing, Caleb TerBush played the entire game, throwing for a tidy 16/25 and two TDs. Robert Marve didn't see the field on homecoming. Take from that what you will.

Ricardo Allen had an INT that even Boilerdowd would have hauled in, as it looked more like a fair catch opportunity as the Zooker (or his coaching staff) made the wise decision to have a cold QB come in and air one out to RA's side of the field. Curious decision, to say the least.

So what do we take from this? As I said, I don't want to be the constant Debbie Downer, but I do worry a little bit about the Boilers after seeing that second half. If Illinois executes their on-sides kick attempt well, this could have been a very scary ending. But it is what it is and this team is what it is. They're not going to beat good teams handily and it seems the coaches know that, so when they get a lead like this, they play not to lose. A dangerous approach, to be sure. But how much can you complain about a win over a ranked team? Not much.

I said on the Handsome Hour that if they were to win this game that it indeed changes my outlook on the season, and it does. Now our Boilers are just two wins away from bowl eligibility. Can they win at least two of their final five games? Hard to say, but it's a lot better question to ponder than can they win three of their final five....right?

In the meantime, to the handful of you who showed up to cheer on your alma mater, good on ya. You got rewarded for your loyalty.

And for those who've been of the opinion that Danny Hope has to go, well, he may have just earned himself a stay. 

The State of Things

I'm Boilerdowd, and I was WRONG. Boilers roll in Homecoming victory