For a team that scored 51 points and led 42-14 with the ball before halftime I was sure nervous in the fourth quarter. After the extra point by Paul Griggs was blocked when we went up 51-35 I knew the game wasn't over. Their offense was too damn good on the day to think any lead was safe, especially one of just two possessions.
That's what makes this game so difficult to judge. I feel like the defense gave up 439 yards passing and still played well. Rakeem Cato not only is an excellent quarterback, but he is a master of the fast-paced offense that thrives on precise route running and getting rid of the ball ahead of the rush. His teammates are also excellent at getting to the line and getting plays in motion.
The defense ended up being the difference, however. The offense went into a malaise that last most of the final three quarters, but we picked off three passes and returned two for scores. It was also the defense that got just enough key stops to prevent Marshall from getting an early lead or getting too close when the offense was struggling late.
Positives From The Marshall Game:
Ricardo Allen - Rico now stands alone with his fourth career interception returned for a touchdown. Coming into the day he was tied with Mike Rose and Rod Woodson for the most interception TDs in school history. He now not only holds that record alone, he is also the active FBS leader in career touchdowns off of interceptions.
Josh Johnson - For all the press that Rico has gotten I feel like Johnson has been the better corner this year. He now has two picks on the year, and his second was a well deserved touchdown that was read perfectly and resulted in a very easy touchdown. Given that the offense kind of stopped before the two pick-sixes JJ' pick made a huge difference.
Antoine Lewis - Mrs. T-Mill will attest to this: right as Lewis was making his play I had said, "I feel like the only way we're going to stop them is with a turnover and we could use one right here." At the time, Purdue led 21-14, but the Thundering Herd was driving, having already gained 25 yards. Lewis' first career interception gave us the ball at midfield and we scored five plays later for some much-needed breathing room.
Gary Bush, O.J. Ross, and Antavian Edison - All three of our starting receivers had a big day and combined for 22 catches, 251 yards, and four touchdowns. Each did it in different ways. Bush was deadly on the screen and his third TD was the result of being patient on the scramble. Edison was simple lost in the shuffle a lot and was wide open on most catches. Ross was best after the catch.
Caleb TerBush - Caleb wasn't perfect, but he was better. I am confident that today's defensive numbers were an anomaly. First, seven point are not on them because of the blocked punt. Second, the defense was protecting against the big play and giving up the short stuff all day. I won't be disappointed to see Tommy Shuler leave, but the D was good against everyone else. Today's TerBush performance was one that is enough to win any Big Ten game if the defense returns to form against the lesser offenses it will face. Of his 10 incompletions only a handful were really bad throws. The interception was bad again, but he still set personal bests for passing yards and TDs.
Kawann Short - Three tackles for loss, a pass breakup (that he damn near pick-sixed himself), a blocked field goal, and a forced fumble that Will Lucas recovered. Once again, KK is a rampaging beast that cannot be stopped.
Akeem Shavers - He earned the hard yards today as their run defense was surprisingly stout.
Akeem Hunt - Hunt needs the ball more. He showed on his kick return and in the few times that he touched the ball offensively that he is a threat for a big play any time he has the ball. I want to say the same for Raheem Mostert too, who had a big catch erased due to a penalty.
Negatives From The Marshall Game:
J.B. Gibboney - The dumbass punt protection scheme led to another block and a touchdown today. We had our second extra point of the season blocked and we've now missed five extra points as a team. I don't think we've missed five extra points in the last five years combined. At least Thomas Meadows was solid on kickoffs.
Penalties - We had been a very disciplined team all season, but today we had nine penalties for 80 yards. Many was killers too. A roughing the passer kept alive Marshall's last TD drive. Peters Drey and Gabe Holmes got dumb personal foul penalties. Even Jesse Schmitt, the friggin' long-snapper, got a penalty for a false start, which is pretty much impossible to do. That was the same play where the officials managed to somehow call three penalties on one play.
Playcalling - I don't understand why we didn't simply pound the ball with a stable of running backs after we were up 42-14 at the half. We're facing a team with a poor run defense. They have a fast-paced offense that wears down defenses and can score quickly. We're a Big Ten team with Big Ten athletes. Run the ball in the second half, wear the clock down, and keep it out of their hands. It's not hard. Brandon Cottom had only two carries when that time is made for him.
The biggest thing to take away from this game is that we won and Danny Hope avoided the bad non-conference loss that has plagued his teams the last three seasons. Purdue went out and scored 153 points in three games against teams not named Notre Dame. In those games the defense scored three times, gave up only a handful of points on the turnovers our less-than-perfect offense. Defensively, we only had problems today, and that can be written off because we faced a damn fine offense that can drop 40 on almost anyone.
When you consider that Purdue has looked less than perfect defensively so far and it is still averaging better than 40 points per game I think we can live with it. The bottom line is that Purdue is getting it done even if it isn't the prettiest way to do it.
Now we enter a gigantic three-game stretch. By the way that Indiana and Illinois looked, the Wisconsin game in two weeks is by far the most important of the next three games. The Michigan game can say a lot, however. Should we beat the Wolverines there is a very good chance that a ranking will be in front our name before the Badgers come to town. The first two of the next three are at home as well. I don't think I am alone when I say that a 2-0 start in the conference we stand an excellent chance of reaching Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game.
Indiana or Illinois are not going to win the division. That means the spot from the Leaders Division is down to Wisconsin or Purdue, and even a 5-3 record in the conference might be enough to get to Indy where we have a one-game shot to go to Pasadena.