Finally, the moment we have all been waiting for. College football is BACK!
Purdue kicked off the new season on Thursday night, as they hosted the Northwestern Wildcats. Ross-Ade Stadium was sold-out, the environment was unbelievable, and the sun was setting as the game kicked off. Not too much more a Boilermaker fan could ask for.
Well, except for how the game started.
Northwestern capitalized off their turnover as running back Jeremy Larkin went untouched for a one-yard touchdown as the Wildcats took a quick 7-0 lead.
Then, after a quick three and out for the Boilers, Northwestern drove 65 yards in just five plays, capped off by John Moten IV’s two-yard scamper. The deficit was now 14-0, the stadium was silent, and Purdue looked lost on the national stage.
A little over a minute after the Wildcats second touchdown of the quarter, Sindelar through an absolute dart from 32 yards out to Moore for a quick touchdown. Suddenly, the fans were re-engaged and life was detected from the Boilermakers.
This was what all Purdue fans were expecting to see. A gritty, bend don’t break defensive approach, sandwiched with an explosive offense capable of scoring in a wide variety of ways.
Unfortunately, the second quarter looked a whole lot like the beginning of the game.
The Wildcats imposed their will on an inexperienced Boilermaker defense in the second quarter, methodically moving the ball up and down the field. By halftime, Northwestern tacked on an additional two touchdowns on the ground, along with a field goal right before the half. All Purdue managed to muster was a field goal, leaving the halftime score 31-17.
This was not supposed to be the way Brohm and co. were expected to start the season. The offense was going to be explosive with a great combination of veterans and newcomers. The defense was expected to have a slight learning curve following last season, but 31 points in one half?
With 30 minutes left in the contest, there was plenty of time for a comeback. But this was about so much more than just coming back in this game.
This was about verifying the campus’ energy and excitement for this season. Proving to the Big Ten that this team is not the Purdue of previous years who would fold in times like these. The second half answered those questions.
The Boilers came out fast, scoring in under four minutes into the third quarter on a D.J. Knox on a tough run from two yards out to cut the lead to 31-24. The remainder of the third quarter was a slug-fest between two defenses quickly adjusting to each other’s offensive schemes.
To open the fourth quarter, a great drive from Purdue‘s offense stalled at the 10-yard line, as Brohm’s team had to settle for a field goal. With the lead cut to 31-27, Northwestern showing no signs of life since halftime, and the crowd back into the game, the Boilers were in position to steal one.
As the quarter went on, defense continued to be the name of the game. The Boilermakers’ halftime adjustments were sensational, but in typical Purdue-fashion, they shot themselves in the foot.
With just two and a half minutes left in the contest, Northwestern was facing a 3rd-and-11 from the Boilers’ 33-yard line. The Wildcats elected to run it and Larkin was met behind the line by a host of Purdue defenders. Now looking at 4th-and-12 from the 34-yard line, Northwestern was faced with the choice of pinning the Boilermakers deep or attempt a 52-yard field goal.
That is, until they weren’t.
When wrapping Larkin up, lineman Lorenzo Neal tossed him to the ground far after the whistle had blown, resulting in a personal foul, 15 yards and an automatic first down.
The Wildcats gratefully accepted the gift Purdue‘s defense gave them and effectively ran the clock out, winning by the score of 31-27.
The reason I say gift is completely due to the fact that the Boilermakers outplayed them in every category numbers can count. Except for the ones that matter most: time of possession, turnovers, and penalties.
Northwestern had the ball for seven minutes longer, thus wearing down the Purdue defense while keeping theirs fresh. The Boilermakers gave up 39 more yards due to penalties, including the personal foul that effectively ended the game. Lastly, the Wildcats committed zero turnovers compared to three by the hosts.
There is a lot to be excited about if you are a Purdue football fan. The offense and defense both showed their capabilities of dominating their opponent, but the lack of consistency needs some work. The Boilermakers also out-gained Northwestern, 472 yards to 401. Even more impressively, they displayed a more effective balance offensively as Purdue both rushed and threw for more yards than their opposition.
On top of everything, Rondale Moore garnered a school record 313 all-purpose yards on only 18 total touches. He looked nothing like a true freshman by displaying versatility not common for a man his age. Moore totaled 125 yards on returns, 79 yards and a touchdown on the ground, along with 109 yards and another touchdown, receiving.
What about this kid could you not be excited about?!
But here sit the Boilers at 0-1, both total and in conference, knowing that discipline and consistency are the reason they lost. Purdue is talented enough to win nine to ten games. However, until they stop beating themselves, teams like Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State will always have the upper hand.
And if they don’t make these necessary adjustments, the less-talented although well-coached teams will continue to steal games from the Boilers.
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