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Michigan State 24, Purdue 21: Your Signature Moral Victory

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Purdue finds itself at a football crossroads yet again after playing No. 2 Michigan State tough.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

So Purdue's defense can look awful, the offense can look cowardly, and a spate of penalties can lead to a loss at home to Bowling Green, who had a lousy defense and just looked better all day. That same Purdue team can fall behind 21-0 on the road to the No. 2 team in America and somehow claw its way back into the game with a dominant second half, only to fall 24-21 after having the ball with a shot in Michigan State territory.

Yep, we can't figure out the Boilers, either.

As I mentioned in the earlier wrap, this feels like another frustrating , oh-so-close loss. At Marshall Purdue had a lead and the ball in the fourth quarter, but could not get a few first downs to ice the game. Against Bowling Green Purdue had a pick six that would have given it the lead called back on a questionable pass interference and a missed field goal that prevented it from getting the lead. Today it was a stunning comeback, only to have the drive that could have changed everything we have seen over the past 10 years fall short.

Much is being made about this being a moral victory. Yes, it is a moral victory. Purdue was a major underdog, looked like it was going to get destroyed, and still had a chance to win in the end. Unfortunately, it is still a loss in the standings. We have seen a lot of moral victories but far too few real victories. This is a team that likes to come close to that breakthrough win, but can't get there yet.

On that note, I do have to give credit to the three top Purdue coaches in Darrell Hazell, Greg Hudson, and John Shoop. I admit I was reaming them early on, but we were still playing Michigan State. Maybe the Spartans are just that good to open up a 21-0 lead on a team that made mistakes (two critical fumbles) that had nothing to do with the coaches. In fact, they probably should have been up more.

This coaching staff managed to take Purdue into the locker room, get them re-focused, and made some adjustments to make a nearly miraculous comeback. Everything in the second half needed to go perfect for Purdue to have even a chance. They did go nearly perfect.

While last week was mostly on some coaching decisions, today was on Michigan State simply being better than Purdue on some key plays:

  • Credit to MSU for scoring touchdowns after two Purdue fumbles. One was on a short field, but the other was a genuine drive that was earned.
  • The play of the first half, and maybe the game, was when David Blough found DeAngelo Yancey with a step on his man in the end zone. It certainly looked like Yancey short-armed that reception attempt. When he later had a big contested catch on the sideline you have to wonder why he did not lay out for a play that would have been a touchdown if he had laid out. Instead, Purdue did not score on the drive.
  • Michigan State brought pressure on a freshman quarterback when they needed to in the final drive and it was effective. The Spartans definitely made some plays when they needed to and were up against it. David Blough had some chances and did not turn it over, but couldn't make plays.

Yes, it is encouraging to somehow be down 21-0 on the road against the No. 2 team in America and have the ball 48 yards from winning the game. It is still not a win. As much as I have railed on coaches, the administration, and everything, it still feels like Purdue is right there. They need things to go their way in a critical moment and today, once again, they did not. If they ever figure that out, maybe things will change for the good in the long term.

If you want the crazy optimistic T-Mill he is taking over for the rest of the column:

Purdue is 1-4, but they have been dreadfully close to being 4-1 if they can stop killing themselves. This team can still play in a bowl game because Minnesota has an awful offense, Illinois and Nebraska aren't that good, Indiana may have spent its wad today (and is devastated by injuries) and perhaps a miracle can happen on the road somewhere. At the least, Purdue, if it plays like it did in the second half, should have a very good shot in its remaining home games. Markell Jones is a huge play waiting to happen on every play. Second half Purdue today is good enough to beat any of the 7 teams left on the schedule (yes, even Wisconsin, who scored an embarrassing 6 points at home today).

The Boilers can either build on this or crumble. Maybe we have already crumbled enough. I hope we have already crumbled enough, because moral victories like today mean nothing if you don't learn from them. Now Purdue needs to win, period, against an awful offense in Minnesota.