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Purdue 40, Michigan State 29: Bowl Eligible

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What other top 5 teams want a shot at us?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 06 Michigan State at Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It appears that Purdue football in 2021 has an M.O.: We will absolutely wreck your shit if you’re a top 5 team when you play us.

You could not have asked for a better day in West Lafayette. On the drive up there was not a cloud in the sky. Once we were parked the beer in our cooler was cold and it was great to watch some other games on our phones and drink in a parking lot. For November 6th, the weather was perfect, and you could feel it in the parking lot as everyone was vibin’.

Then there was the actual game.

My natural Purdue-ness as a fan was in full gear all game long, but in retrospect, it was a game that the Boilers controlled throughout. We should have known early when Kenneth Walker III had his first fumble of the season, forced and recovered by George Karlaftis. When a player of his caliber makes a mistake it is a big deal.

It was not the end all/be all though. Purdue went down and scored, but Michigan State answered on their next drive. Purdue appeared to take advantage with two more TDs before the half, but the Spartans scored on a well designed third down play just before halftime and then reversed Purdue just after the half by forcing their own fumble and scoring on the following possession.

Tie game, 21-21.

How many times have we seen Purdue have a double digit lead, only to lose it and fold? The 32-yard run by Payton Thorne looked like a hinge point. That was the moment. Michigan State had survived its early challenge and with 12:19 left in the third quarter. They were going to take over.

From that moment on, Purdue absolutely dominated the game.

This latest upset was a total team effort, Aidan O’Connell was flawless, throwing for an astounding 536 yards and never really coming close to an interception. He was reading the defense and the game was called perfectly for him. Purdue didn’t even need to establish a running game, as the short game was moving the ball just as well. From the point where the Spartans tied the game AOC led five consecutive scoring drives. Sure, four were for field goals, but points are points and the defense picked him up. O’Connell’s total was the third best single-game total in school history, trailing only 546 from Curtis Painter in the 2007 Motor City Bowl and 572 from David Blough vs. Missouri in 2018.

David Bell was… David Bell. At one point I was talking to my wife and I said, “you know, Bell has had a good game, but I am not sure how good he has been.” I then looked at my phone and was shocked he was over 200 yards. He’s David Bell. Can we really be surprised by him at this point? He had 11 receptions for 217 yards and a score, and it looked effortless. In the last four games he has had two of the four best receiving days in Purdue football history. His 240 against Iowa is second only to Chris Daniels against MSU in 1999. Today is now fourth, and he was three yards short of that Rondale Moore guy vs. Vanderbilt in 2019.

There are so many others to cite. Broc Thompson had his first Purdue touchdown. Jackson Anthrop weaved his way through the defense like big brother Danny was out there with his police baton directing traffic. King Doerue had a huge 46 yard catch and run. Dedrick Mackey had a gigantic interception at the goal line (that Mrs. T-Mill will attest that I called as they were lining up). Purdue’s defense held the Spartans in check for much of the second half, surrendering only a 4th quarter TD drive that served to pucker some buttholes before Purdue answered with the clinching field goal drive.

Overall, Purdue held the ball for 10 more minutes than MSU and ran 22 more plays. That makes it very easy to hold a Heisman-caliber player like Walker in check. He still had a solid game and is very worthy of the hype, but Purdue did a very good job of not letting anyone else hurt them. For the third time in four games Purdue was in firm control throughout the second half.

Today Purdue turned back the clock to 1999. Back then, Michigan State was ranked in the top 5 and undefeated after a big home win over Michigan. Drew Brees and Chris Daniels went absolutely batshit to send them back to East Lansing with a double-digit loss. Today it was just Aidan O’Connell and David Bell.

Now, for the first time in 14 years Purdue is bowl eligible before the Bucket game. There is a faint hope of winning the Big Ten West. At minimum, an 8-4 season looks very plausible at this point, and it could mean a Florida bowl game on New Year’s Day. The tangible progress of a bowl game is secured.

Let’s go get some more.