Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cats no match for Painter, Boilermakers

After a few ho-hum performances, Curtis Painter returned to the top of his game.

But don't start the Heisman Hype Machine yet.

After all, the team he torched was Northwestern.

"Those guys always play for pride, I'll give them that," Painter gushed following the game. "They're, um, high effort guys."

Painter's effusive praise for Northwestern belied a much-needed bounceback performance. Though Painter played admirably against Ohio State, he was knocked out of the game for a short time. And multiple interceptions have plagued him of late.

The Northwestern game solved all that. Painter was razor-sharp, completing 30 of 41 passes for 320 yards and five touchdowns. He also added a score on a scramble in the 42-21 rout.

"That's the Curtis Painter I'm used to seeing," Coach Matt Adams said, the glow of another win apparent in his enthusiastic delivery. "I mean, last week we really struggled to beat Ohio State. And they were number one. So Northwestern was a chance to catch our breath. No disrespect, but they're no Ohio State. But that Bacher kid can play."

Fifth-year senior C.J. Bacher did his best to match Painter. He finished 23 of 30 for 262 yards and three touchdowns. He might've matched Painter blow-for-blow, had it not been for several unproductive possessions early in the game.

"They (Purdue's defense) came out fired up from the start," Bacher said. "Two sacks on the first two drives will really set you back."

Those sacks resulted in punts that fed Purdue's momentum, allowing the Boilers to shoot out to a 14-0 lead.

Purdue's first score of the game came on a pass over the middle to Brandon Whittington.

"I just found a little soft zone over the middle and sure enough, Curt was right on it," Whittington, the team's leading receiver, said. He grabbed nine passes for 90 yards.

Purdue's second score of the game involved Mr. All-Around Kory Sheets. After Painter hit him in the flat, Sheets did the rest, avoiding a tackle and sprinting into the endzone for a 13-yard score.

Painter and Sheets rolled early

"Good to see Kory get back on track, too," Adams said. "Defenses have been keying on him lately and it's been hard to feed him the ball."

Sheets even ran well, averaging almost eight yards a carry on the ground. He finished with 55 yards rushing.

"I thought we'd keep feeding Kory the ball, but Curtis got hot," Adams explained. "When he gets in a zone like that, you have to ride it till it stops."

Northwestern answered with long drive, culminating in a nine-yard touchdown pass from Bacher to Rasheed Ward. That pulled the Wildcats to within a touchdown.

Painter came back with another drive, hitting Joe Whitest for a short score. It followed a mad dash by the Purdue quarterback, who tried to dive into the endzone but fell short.

After Whitest's TD, the Wildcats never pulled closer than to within 14 points.

By early in the fourth quarter, Purdue held a commanding 14-point lead. The Boilers' final score came later in the fourth when Painter hit Greg Orton for a 46-yard strike.

"That was really the capper," Painter said. "I mean, we were up by a lot, but Northwestern just kept coming. You saw what they did in the fourth quarter. And they didn't have a single turnover."

Painter and Orton with the dagger

Northwestern scored 14 of its 21 points in the fourth, but it wasn't nearly enough.

Defensively, Purdue was impressive. Northwestern converted only three of its nine third downs, a 33% conversion rate. The unit surrendered just three rushing yards. While the team yielded 262 passing yards, Purdue's early stops paved the way for a rout.

Getting pressure on Bacher was the key. Three Boilermakers combined for four sacks. End Keyon Brown had two sacks, while junior Ryan Baker and senior Jason Werner added one apiece. The Boilermakers were unable to force a turnover, but they kept the pressure on throughout the game.

Werner's sack on the first series sparked Purdue

Keyon Brown had two sacks on the day

"I still wasn't 100% happy with the coverage," Adams admitted. "But the effort was there. And the pass rush was effective.

The only mistake Purdue made came from Painter, who floated a pass to Orton just before halftime as the Boilers were driving toward a possible score.

"Curt just kind of threw that one up there. The defender just wanted it more, I guess," Orton said of the interception. "I never really got that close to it."

Despite that rare miscommunication, Painter and Orton combined for a fantastic effort. Orton caught eight passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns.

"I was feeling really good. Wasn't sure how I'd feel after last week," Orton said, referring to the Ohio State game that he left because of an injury. "Doc cleared me and I'm glad he did."

After winning two straight road games, the 14th-ranked Boilermakers (7-0, 2-0 Big Ten) get to return home. They host Minnesota next week at Ross Ade Stadium.

Notes

Purdue has played three out of its last four games on the road, winning all four games...Painter's five TD passes matched his season high against Oregon, when he also found the endzone five times...since Big Ten play began, Painter has thrown seven interceptions; three each against Penn State and Ohio State, one against Northwestern...on the season, Painter has thrown 27 touchdowns in seven games...Brandon Whittington and Frank Halliburton lead the team with five TD catches each; Kory Sheets, Greg Orton, and Kyle Adams have four apiece...Keyon Brown's two sacks put him ahead of Nickcaro Golding for the team lead with four total...Painter boasts an 83% completion rate and has been sacked just five times this season.

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