To call today disappointing is an understatement. When I was looking at stats and writing previews this week there were a lot of positives. Michigan State had given us a blueprint of what we needed to do in order to beat Michigan. We needed to build a lead, get after Denard Robinson, and run the ball against linebackers that, according to the Wolverine Blog, were suspect. After one possession we looked like the upset I predicted was possible.
This is where I have to give a ton of credit to Michigan. They answered our drive, held after a pair of ugly turnovers, then they were able to turn the game on two plays. Once they had the momentum in their favor after those two plays, it was over. The rest was merely an exercise in running the clock down and waiting for the game to be over. We quit after those two key plays went in their favor. It is as simple as that.
The first play we could have survived. The first key play was Caleb TerBush being sacked in the end zone for a safety. It came after we couldn't force the issue following a nice interception by Joe Holland and a key pick by Josh Johnson. The safety gave them a 9-7 lead, and we could have easily survived because we were only down 12-7 after we held for a field goal following the safety, free kick, and key dumbass penalty for 15 yards on the free kick.
The second key play was the interception as we were driving after that field goal. Robert Marve had entered the game (despite learning last week that we need to settle on one quarterback), and he was moving us down the field well. On a third down play all we had to do was keep control of the ball and we kick a field goal to cut the lead to 12-10. It's not much, but it stymies their momentum and shifts it a little our way. Instead, Marve's pass went off of Justin Siller's hands and was intercepted. Michigan went down and turned it into a Fitzgerald Toussaint touchdown.
Basically, the game was over after that.
It was very disturbing to see our defense fold like that. Our offense didn't give them a lot of help by being unable to hold on to the ball for long, but in reality, the interception was a gigantic shift because it took three points off the board for us and gave them seven. When we did nothing and gave up a field goal before the half it turned into a 13 point shift. The defense then did its job by holding them out of the end zone on the opening drive of the second half, but the offense could only get to midfield before giving it back. We needed points on that drive. A touchdown cuts it to seven or eight, yet we only advanced half as far as we needed to go.
Once we gave it back and they marched for a score, this time finishing instead of stalling at the one, we had missed any chance to regain the momentum, and most of the third quarter had been killed by two lengthy drives that did little to the scoreboard, but they advanced the clock.
Once again, we saw Purdue drop a game in a very frustrating manner. Yes, the final margin was 22 points, but we were close through three quarters and the difference of a few plays swung the scoreboard wildly in their direction. Things got wildly out of control after a few key mistakes, as often happens in college football. it was frustrating to see lack of discipline penalties like a 12-men on the field after a timeout and a few brutal personal fouls, but those were part of the snowball effect after the key plays mentioned above.
As frustrating as this game was, however, the goal remains the same. It would have been nice to win this one, and I even felt a victory was possible, but Michigan is a good team and we did not make them pay for their mistakes. We can't beat them unless we do that. Going forward, a win at Wisconsin next week is highly unlikely. That returns to my mantra I have been saying all week. As long as we split the final two home games and beat Indiana, we go to a bowl game.
Some will still get on coach Hope and place this at his feet, but I feel this one is not really on him. I also want a bowl game for the players and yes, for coach hope because he is at least trying out there to get victories. This team has improved greatly from the Rice loss, and even the Notre Dame loss. As we can see with the epic 0-0 game in Happy Valley right now, beating Illinois does still mean something. None of the current players on the roster have played in a bowl game, and they deserve to go to one for their efforts. Seniors like Joe Holland, Gerald Gooden , and Dennis Kelly who have busted their ass over the past four years deserve to end their careers in the postseason.
There is still a third of this season left. Win half of those games and we'll have a successful year as defined at the beginning of the season. If we get even more, then so be it. When these Boilermakers return home in two weeks against a bad Ohio State team let's get behind them and get the one more win we need before the Bucket game.