Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE
Purdue's bowl hopes now rely on Keeping the Old Oaken Bucket.
Purdue has rarely been pretty in Big Ten play this season. Today was no different. The first half was far from an offensive showcase as we managed two Sam McCartney field goals to one 54-yard bomb from Taylor Zalewski. The second half did not start much better, but at least we had a touchdown halfway through the third quarter when Akeem Hunt got loose on a nice throwback screen with three blockers and all green in front of him. Sadly, this account for nearly a third of Purdue's yards passing.
Of course,t hat is when the Big Ten's worst offense woke up for a 10 play, 69 yard drive where the Fighting Illini converted a third and long over the middle (of course) to Darius Millines and Dami Ayoola (who only had 106 yards rushing on the season) rushed for a 16 yard score.
The offensive explosion continued when Ralph Bolden broke a 63-yard one-legged run on a bad hamstring and set up a touchdown run from Akeem Shavers to put us back in front 20-10. For most teams, this would be enough against a punchless Illini squad. In fact, the punting contest continued and Cody Webster appeared to win with a 60-yard bomb of a punt that backed up at the nine and pinned the Illini at around there own five.
That's not enough for a Danny Hope coached team. With 8:26 left Purdue gave up a 13 play, 95 yard drive to an offense that ranked 119th nationally in scoring. Fortunately, Antavian Edison recovered the onside kick, Purdue surprised many by NOT going into the fetal position offense, and clinched the game with a pair of first downs.
So the Cannon stays in West Lafayette and Purdue needs only to pair it with a Bucket to salvage an improbable bowl berth from the once totally lost 2012 season. We only need secure Purdue's first in-season three-game win streak under Danny Hope to reach a bowl game in Dallas or Houston. Does it save Hope's job? I don't know. I would say a loss to Indiana is a 100% chance he is gone, with a win over IU dropping that to 75%.
Enough about that, however. Let's look at some of the positives from today:
Shavers and Bolden - once we finally went away from the Nordfense both Shavers and Bolden combined to rush for over 200 yards. In fact, Bolden would have joined Shavers over 100 had he not come up lame halfway through his big run and stepped out at the 15. Bolden has been like the Bolden of old the last two weeks, so we need to unleash them both on an IU team that has no run defense at all.
Josh Johnson - JJ continued to play like the best corner in the Big Ten with several pass break ups and two forced fumbles. For good measure he also recorded a sack. He might be in line for Defensive Player of the Week.
Kawann Short - He had a fumble recovery, but the fact it was originally ruled as a pass meant we were robbed of a fat guy touchdown. Sadness abounds.
Robert Marve - No ACL in his knee, but he throws for 173 yards, doesn't turn the ball over, and even had a few scrambles, one for a tough first down. Damn, this kid is tough.
The Reamer Club - Mrs. T-Mill and I ended up sitting with the Illinois crew that came over with the Boilermaker Special for most of the game. It was the most fun I have had at a Purdue game in years as we led the upper deck section of Purdue parents and fans in first down cheers and they even got me up for crowd pushups after Hunt's TD. Unfortunately, they threatened to kick me out if we did it again, so the ushers got a kick out of us doing it with a bag of kettle corn after Shavers' score.
No, Mrs. T-Mill did not do crowd pushups. Something about, "but I'm pregnant!"
Of course I filmed it:
The return of the Nordfense - Nord was not calling plays, but his patented "No downfield throws whatsoever" offense returned as we had a steady diet of screen pass after screen pass. One of the longest catches was by Crosby Wright off of a tipped pass. O.J. Ross caught seven passes, but for only 41 yards.
Fortunately, we should be able to run with impunity next week. That is, f the coaches are smart enough to realize that.
Really,t here isn't a lot else to say about this one. It was a very dull game and way to close considering that we played the worst team in the Big Ten by far. Everyone else has two conference wins or more, but Illinois had lost by at least two touchdowns to everyone else in the league except Purdue today. I can't get too picky, however. At least we won.
So now Indiana awaits and the equation is simple: A win means a bowl game. At worst, it will be the Heart of Dallas Bowl in the Cotton Bowl. If Michigan State loses at Minnesota we are likely in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas in Houston since the league would then have only six eligible teams. Either way, it means a game against a Big 12 team.
Since losing the Bucket at home is never acceptable I am looking forward to a Texas holiday trip.