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Aidan O’Connell = Mariano Rivera

When O’Connell gets the ball down a score late just play Enter Sandman.

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

For over 15 years, especially in the playoffs, whenever Enter Sandman played over the speakers at Yankee Stadium the game was over. The Yankees won four World Series in five years mostly because they knew if they got to the ninth inning with a lead in the playoffs the game was over. He was so consistent for so long that his extremely rare failures like against the Diamondbacks in 2001 and the Red Sox in 2004 are almost more well known because of their shocking nature.

Right now, Aidan O’Connell is basically Mariano Rivera for Purdue football.

I saw a surprising statistic this morning regarding fourth quarter comebacks:

That’s only nine such comebacks in the last 19 years. Two were by the current starter if he was not injured. Two were by the greatest quarterback in human history. Two have now been done by a 4th string walk-on that likely was not going to see the field at all had Elijah Sindelar, Jack Plummer, and Nick Sipe all not gotten injured. Not only that, but they were in consecutive weeks.

I know Nebraska and Northwestern are not good teams right now. They are a combined 5-13 overall and 2-11 in the Big Ten. They are still teams filled with Division I athletes that are incredibly talented.

Let’s look a little bit deeper here at the nine such drives. One can slightly be eliminated because it lasted one play. Curtis Painter handed off to Kory Sheets against Central Michigan and he raced 46 yards for the winning score. Brees vs. Ohio State was two plays, but one happened to be the most memorable play in program history and one that Brees himself said he would throw to that specific read 1 time in a thousand on that play (thus further showcasing his greatness).

A drive of 10 or more plays makes it more impressive because that is sustained great play under pressure. There are only five drives that were 10 plays or more: Brees vs. Michigan, TerBush vs. Middle Tennessee State, Blough vs. Iowa, and the two by O’Connell.

What O’Connell has done is very impressive. Against Nebraska he was 6 of 6 on the drive for 62 yards while also executing a great misdirection flip to David Bell on the reverse for the win. Yesterday was not quite as good. He was 4 for 6 for 26 yards, but was aided by the Northwestern defense committing a pair of pass interference penalties, including one on 4th down that would have been a game-ending interception. O’Connell also just missed Bell in the flat on one of the incompletions that would have been a TD if he had hit him in stride.

Still, O’Connell has delivered. He is 2 for 2 in such situations, which is incredible when you consider THIS GUY WAS NEVER EXPECTED TO PLAY SIGNIFICANT MINUTES! As fans, we always got on Curtis Painter for his inability to deliver in such situations.

Juan might be on to something here. Clearly, O’Connell should have been playing in the fourth quarters only to this point like a baseball closer. I don’t know how his career will finish at Purdue, but right now he has his own special little chapter in the Cradle of Quarterbacks history as one of our best closers ever.