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Rutgers 14, Purdue 12: From Piscataway

This was my fault.

Purdue v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

I am sorry.

Yeah, this was all my fault. I came to Rutgers with a 1-10-1 record in seeing Purdue on the road for the first time in a Big Ten venue. I felt this was going to be a win. Purdue was playing much better football this year than it had in a while. We had confidence. We even had the magical chrome gold helmets that worked so well in the sunshine of Columbia, Missouri a few weeks ago.

But I was there.

We came to the stadium in a good mood. We parked in downtown New Brunswick and caught the bus to the stadium with plenty of other Purdue fans. As I was going to the official Purdue alumni tailgate the God of Tits and Wine even blessed me with two beers, free of charge, that were unopened and lying on the ground.

It was a test. Coors Light is not beer. It is beer-flavored water, but I fell for it under the ruse of “free beer”. We were barely settled into the stadium when Gus Edwards broke a 74-yard run on the second play from scrimmage for the Scarlet Knights. Combined with the second touchdown play, Edwards and Raheem Blackshear (on a 35 yard pass from Giovanni Rescigno) went a combined 109 yards for 14 points in 2 plays.

I should have known then. In fact, I did. I tried everything I knew. I moved seats and the fake flea flicker lead to a lengthy D.J. Knox run. I moved saets again and we drove for a tocuhdown late. It didn’t work. When I see Purdue in a Big Ten stadium for the first time we just suck, and with Iowa and Nebraska to go I need to just stay away.

The rest of the day Rutgers went 108 yards in 53 plays. In said 53 plays they had 6 first downs. Somehow, that was enough when Purdue racked up 474 yards and 25 first downs. This is a game where Purdue football broke math. It more than doubles Rutgers in first downs and yardage. It won the time of possession. Purdue ran for 279 yards and gave up 56 yards on 37 rushing attempts aside from the Edwards score. For many series Rutgers didn’t even seem interested in generating offense, as it had 9 three-and-outs.

But two plays were enough.

It was frustrating to watch in person. A Rutgers defense that hemorrhaged points and yards only gave up points today. Ryan Anderson had 12 punts for an impressive 523 yards and continually put Purdue inside its own 25-yard line. Purdue could then gain 45-55 yards, but not much else. Twice Purdue was stopped on downs in Rutgers territory. The most painful was a 4th and 1 drop at the Rutgers 30 with 11 minutes left. If Purdue kicks a 47-yard field goal there it is the difference. We also had a pair of ill-advised sneaks in the first half on 3rd and 2 near midfield.

It didn’t matter. Rutgers was content to stop Purdue short, then do nothing and punt the ball 50 yard so we could gain it back and do nothing. If we needed a big play a dropped pass was in order. Cole Herdman and Brycen Hopkins, Purdue’s sure-handed tight ends that had done a ton of work so far, coated their hands in Crisco before the game. They combined for 1 reception, 6 yards, and 324 dropped passes. One even occurred on Purdue’s final play with a chance to tie.

And that was really the story of the game. Everyone was dropping passes, whether they were thrown by David Blough or Elijah Sindelar. Herdman dropped them. Hopkins dropped them. Anthony Mahoungou dropped them. Gregory Phillips dropped them. Terry Wright dropped them. Jackson Anthrop dropped them. It was maddening. Purdue dropped passes when it should have run, as D. J. Knox, Richie Worship, and Markell Jones were virtually unstoppable. It dropped them when we didn’t have to run. It was like watching a basketball game where Caleb Swanigan was trying to rebound with his hands cut off: the effort was there, but there was no execution.

And that was enough for Rutgers to win. That in itself is embarrassing because Rutgers is Rutgers in the Big Ten. They only beat Indiana and that is about it (of their 6 Big Ten wins, 2 are against the Hoosiers). This was a game Purdue was expected to win even before we exceeded expectations to start the year. Since we were performing above expectations a win was even more expected today.

It didn’t happen.

So what do we do now? Well, a Hazell team would wallow in self-pity and lose the remaining 5 games to undo any positive work already put in. We’re not a Hazell team. I know coach Brohm is furious not only with the execution today, but with some of the playcalls (seriously? Consecutive sneaks on 3rd and 2?) He’ll adjust, and the remaining 5 games are winnable. Nebraska is a mess that struggles defensively. Illinois is far worse than even Rutgers. Northwestern has been far from impressive. Iowa is not that great. Indiana is a good defense, but not much offense and an S&P champion. Three of these games are at home. As long as Purdue does not lose at home, it will go bowling.

This sucks. Losing to Rutgers is not a highlight. We can either find a way to build from it or move forward. I think we move forward because Brohm is not Hazell and dammit, I don’t doubt him yet.