I don't feel like I am about to be punched in the stomach.
My heart rate is actually rather normal.
I am not questioning why I continue to follow this team.
That all makes for a good Saturday.
If you have followed Purdue much in the past five weeks, you know this is an odd feeling. Today was a pretty dull game in retrospect. Illinois got a lead (which was a stunner in and of itself). Purdue came back, built a bigger lead, then was able to cruise the rest of the way. Our offense didn't light up the scoreboard, but it didn't need it to. We ground the game out with the running game (and when was the last time we did that?). The defense seemed to be in control on all but two drives. The consistent ineptitude of Illinois' offense meant there wasn't much of a threat of them overcoming the deficit. All told, it was a business-like win.
I will take that.
You see, that is the mark of a good team: when you win a game where you don't have to play your best in order to win. This was a rather mediocre effort from us, yet it was enough for a comfortable win. That is a far cry from where we have been, as this effort would have resulted in a loss a few weeks ago. We simply did what needed to be done. Nothing more, nothing less.
Positives from the Illinois game:
No turnovers - If we are going to win three of our next four in order to qualify for a bowl game we must continue to have days like to day where we do not turn the ball over. The closest we came to a turnover is when inexplicably did not run away from a punt that was bouncing around on the ground. It is refreshing that we didn't put our defense in a bad position all day.
The Defense - The massive amount of sacks we all expected did not come at first, but we patiently waited and eventually got to both quarterbacks. I have absolutely no idea what kind of game plan Ron Zook had going. His QB substitutions had no rhyme or reason. We were getting gashed on the read option, yet he went away from it. I don't think our defense was lights out today, but we had some very nice plays to end drives.
David Pender, Brandon King, Dwight McLean, Torri Williams - I single out the secondary because they all had great games. They played solid coverage, didn't allow much after the catch, and batted down passes all day. Considering we were getting gashed through the air earlier this year, giving up just 142 yards is a very good thing. These guys were even tackling well.
Joey Elliott, Ralph Bolden, Jaycen Taylor - Elliott's touchdown was a thing of beauty. The way he saw the opening, tucked it, and ran reminded be of Drew Brees and his innate ability to do the same. Bolden and Taylor were great all day. Taylor had another big play, while Bolden worked some tough yards on the ground. We finally ran the ball until someone stopped us, and Illinois never truly did.
Al-Terek McBurse - ATM just looks like he is going to break a big return before the season starts. I can't wait to see him get more time. He looks like he is moving at a different speed than anyone else on the field.
Negatives from the Illinois game:
Run defense - Seriously guys? We've seen the read option before. Ohio State, Northern Illinois, and especially Oregon run some variant of it. If it wasn't for Illinois running it today well they would not have scored. We have to be better at reading this, at least at the level we were against Oregon, in two weeks against Michigan.
Blocking in the back - If you see the guy's name, don't block him. It is that simple.
I honestly don't have much else to say about this one. We got the win. It was never in doubt. That is good enough to show me it is a major step forward. We avoided a let down that would have caused serious damage to the program. Now we don't have to worry about a last place finish in conference play as Illinois is essentially done. As a result, the Cannon stays where it belongs.