Instead of having a competitive half today Purdue was rolling for all of 12 minutes. The Boilers opened with a field goal drive, then used an interception and long return by C.J. Parker to set up a short field. Purdue capitalized with a short TD drive and was suddenly ahead 10-0. Everything looked good. Purdue even forced a punt and had a chance for more.
That’s when Northwestern arrived, however.
David Blough threw an ugly interception to Montre Hartage that set up Northwestern’s first touchdon. The teams then traded punts, with Hunter Niswander shanking one to give Purdue possession at the Northwestern 24 early in the second quarter. This was a key moment. Purdue had survived their first interception and had a chance to build on their lead. That’s when the game’s most critical play occurred.
Facing 3rd and 11 Blough was flushed from the pocket and took off. On the replay it looked as if his final diving effort gained him a first down at the 24, but he was ruled out two yards short at the 26. Coach Gerad Parker never called for a replay review, that like would have been won. Purdue ran the playclock down, did not call timeout, and DeAngelo Yancey and Blough were not on the same page on the 4th down pass.
It was one of those plays that probably does not make a difference in a 28-point blowout, but maybe it does. Purdue should have had a first down, and maybe they score to regain some momentum. Maybe it changes the entire complexion of the game. Instead, Northwestern took over on downs and needed only 8 plays to score. Purdue got a critical interception inside the red zone to keep it at 14-10 at the half, but the game was really over. Northwestern was unstoppable in the second half as Purdue’s beleaguered defense, already down its two best players, had a host of walk-ons and seldom used players playing big minutes.
Northwestern scored on five straight drives. Purdue managed a long TD to Bilal Marshall, but a couple more interceptions and ineffective play turned the game into a blowout. It likely did not matter. Purdue had absolutely no hope of stopping Northwestern’s first team offense in the second half.
And that is what Purdue is right now. The front lines on both sides of the ball are banged up and there is no experienced depth to replace them. Purdue is getting manhandled by everyone with a pulse. There are still some good players. Markus Bailey was solid today. Markell Jones started strong before the line couldn’t open a hole and, once again, he got banged up. Blough was solid until his line could not protect him. There are too few good players and many of the good players like Jake Replogle, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Markell Jones (arguably Purdue’s three best players) are banged up. Bentley and Replogle didn’t even play.
Mercifully, the season is almost over. I would propose that Jones, Bentley, Replogle, and anyone else who is even remotely injured not play a single down against Wisconsin. We’re not going to win that game unless they suffer a Ryker Fyfe level meltdown. There is no point in risking Purdue’s front line guys further injury in that one. Play the seniors and play the backups for the entire game to get some experience. It won’t matter.
Then, anyone who is banged up can come back against Indiana to give that game everything we have left (which is not much). It is flat out embarrassing that another Indiana win matches their longest streak in the series achieved 69 years ago. Purdue needs to throw everything it has into winning that game. If that means essentially throwing the Wisconsin game, so be it. We’re not going to win it anyway.