Midway through the 3rd quarter of today’s loss in Madison I tweeted that Purdue was playing well, but not playing well. It was true, too. The defense was giving up a ton of yards, but pitched a second half shutout and really only gave up 3 points in the last 51 minutes of the game. Purdue was creating turnovers and chances for points, but not capitalizing on said chances. We were Schrödinger’s Purdue: simultaneously dead and alive.
Schrodinger's Purdue. They are both winning and losing the game— Full Steam Ahead (@Boiler_Fanatic) October 14, 2017
When you look at some of the raw stats Purdue had no business being in this game. Jonathan Taylor ran for 219 yards and a touchdown. He could get 10 yards pretty much at will. As a team Wisconsin had nearly 300 yards on the ground and almost 500 total. Still, the defense held. It kept points off the board, and that is all that matters, Danny Ezechukwu and Da’Wan Hunte each had interceptions and Ezechukwu nearly scored on his pick. Lorenzo Neal forced and recovered a fumble to end another drive.
Unfortuantely, Purdue could not take advantage of those numerous changes. Whether it was because of a tackle by Alex Hornibrook on Danny E’s pick, the unfortunate slip on wet turf that caused an injury to keep Race Johnson out of the end zone after a blocked punt, of a late interception by Elijah Sindelar, Purdue couldn’t crack the end zone.
A lot of it was because Wisconsin has a really good defense. They kept Purdue at bay for most of the afternoon. It wasn’t until the 4th quarter that the Boilers got over 100 yards of offense. After the Ezechukwu interception the Badger defense held Purdue to a J.D. Dellinger field goal. After the blocked punt the defense got to sacks and forced a missed field goal. Purdue’s offensive line struggled to generate a ground game and Sindelar didn’t have a lot of time.
Through all this, as poorly (and as well as) Purdue played, it had a chance late. The good and the bad were balanced, and the Boilers faced a 2nd and 8, down only 8 points, with just over 8 minutes left. Sindelar made a poor throw that was intercepted by Leon Jacobs and the Badgers killed the final 8 minutes with a grinding drive.
It is hard to say what we take from this. It was a moral victory yes, but it still stings because Purdue had chances to win. It is like a repeat of the Louisville game, where our own mistakes negated a lot of the good done. Like the Michigan game Purdue was stymied by an excellent defense and worn down by a relentless offense. Yes, we outperformed expectations, but it was tantalizing to be so close to something bigger.
The good news is Wisconsin is the best team left on the schedule by far. Purdue played its best game against the Badgers in years. None of the last 6 opponents are scary, meaning we could be in for a great second half of the season. Beat Rutgers, Illinois, and Indiana and we get two trophies and a bowl game. Anything more is great.
It was also Purdue’s fight that stood out. The Boilers were down 7-0 before most people were settled into their seats. It was 14-0 and looked like an impending blowout before 10 minutes were up. The offense did the defense absolutely no favors. The defense fought to the end, not even giving up until a final first down by inches set up the victory formation. That exhausted and battered defense fought to the last and still somehow gave up only 17 points.
That fight is what carries through. Remember: We’re still doing this with 4 years’ worth of recruiting from one of the worst recruiters in Big Ten history. Coach Brohm has this team fighting as hard as it possibly can, and that will pay off. A tone has been set. A new program with new focus and identity is playing in West Lafayette. Those that play this year will set forth new expectations for those coming after, and that is where it will pay off.
Yes, it was just another moral victory, but it is still a building block to more. For now, we’ll take it.