Friday, December 05, 2008

Big House of horrors for Michigan

After an unconvincing win against Northwestern the week before, fifth-ranked Purdue dominated a rising Michigan team in a lopsided 52-20 win.

No question about it, this one was all Boilermakers.

They outgained the Wolverines 357 yards to 251 yards in total offense. And senior quarterback Joey Elliott, despite another "Joey Elliott special," was particularly effective, throwing for three touchdowns and adding two short TD runs. He finished 31 of 46 for 345 yards.

"I thought Joey finally had a pretty good game," Coach Matt Adams said. "People get the impression that I don't have faith in Joey. That's not true. I just don't have any faith in the decisions he makes or the way he leads this team. Other than that, I think he's doing a great job."

"He said that?" Elliott responded, tears beginning to well up in his eyes. "That's the nicest thing coach has ever said to the media about me."

On the season, Elliott has 13 touchdown passes. He's added four TD runs as well.

"You know, you have to lean on a guy when you throw the ball 46 times in a game," Elliott said with a sniffle. "And that's what the game plan called for."

Don't call Elliott's 345 yards an aerial assault, however. He averaged just over 11 yards a completion. He had only three passes that went more than 20 yards, including a 53-yard TD pass to Aaron Reid and a 27-yard scoring connection with Anthony Kellner.

"I'm very impressed by our freshmen receivers," Adams said. "They've been a fantastic class. Their ability to run after the catch really helped today. Michigan simply wasn't going to give us the deep ball."

On Reid's big pass reception, the wide receiver side stepped a defender and broke a goaline tackle for the score. Kellner showed off similar evasiveness, spinning out of a tackle and racing past Michigan defenders to make it to the end zone.

"One thing coach preaches is that he doesn't want Elliott taking many shots downfield," Kellner explained. "So we work in practice a lot on juking and spinning and stuff. It's our way of creating extra opportunities."

The Boilermakers' running game has been non-existent throughout the season so far. In fact, Purdue's only four rushing touchdowns this season have come from Elliott.

"It's not that we're afraid to run the ball, it's that we're so polished in the passing game, even with all these freshmen in the game," Adams said. "It's been the legacy here at Purdue to spread the field and throw. So that's what we do."

The Boilermakers bolted out to a 14-0 nothing lead and appeared to be in control after stopping Michigan on a fourth down play near Purdue's 15-yard line. The good fortune was short-lived; Elliott was intercepted. Michigan's Donovan Warren returned it for a 20-yard score near the end of the half.

"I thought (tight end) Kyle Adams was open. Obviously, I was mistaken," Elliott conceded.

"I'll give Elliott credit for coming back strong and getting that last-second field goal. It was good work," Adams said.

After a 47-yard kick by Chris Summers at the end of the half, Purdue blew the game wide open. They scored back-to-back touchdowns. Elliott hit Reid for a 53-yard score. Less than a minute later, Kyle Jones picked off a pass from Steven Threet and returned it 80 yards for a score.

"The offense started off great in that second half," Adams said. "But the defense keyed this win. Jones had that great return and it really gave us momentum."

Jones had been close to getting an interception three times in the game. He tipped the ball once, but surrendered two long completions on the other occasions.

"Finally got one," Jones said. "That was a very, very sweet feeling. And I even took it to the house...at the Big House! Man, that was awesome."

David Pender also got into the action, setting up a touchdown and scoring one of his own. Pender picked off a pass from Threet and returned it to the ten-yard line. One play later, Elliott hit Adams for a touchdown. On the very next series, Pender reeled in another interception and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.

"We changed our defensive coverage a little bit," Pender explained. "We'd given them a 4-3 look for most of the game and showed them some nickel. But we went with three lineman and I just stayed in my zone. Threet threw both of those passes to the flat, where I had coverage. It was easy, man...like a 'user pick' on the Xbox. You know what I'm saying?"

The Boilermakers (astoundingly ranked behind Florida State despite their win over the Seminoles) take on eighth-ranked Ohio State next week. That game is in Columbus.

Notes

Kellner had seven catches for 97 yards; Reid finished with six receptions for 108 yards; Adams had six catches for 44 yards; all three had a touchdown catch...the Boilers ran only six times...heralded recruit Luke Campbell had just two receptions for 13 yards..the Boilermakers were 5-7 on third down conversions...Elliott's 46 pass attempts are a career high...Boilermakers receivers had four dropped passes...freshman linebacker Ryan Tyson led the defense with six tackles...Pender's TD return was his second of the season...redshirt freshman Gavin Roberts leads Purdue with 24 tackles.

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