Thursday, December 04, 2008

Boilermakers toy with 'Cats, almost get burned

A sold-out Ross-Ade Stadium crowd saw the Purdue Boilermakers thoroughly dominate the Northwestern Wildcats for three quarters.

But the Boilers had a few problems putting the 'Cats away in the 28-21 victory.

"This was a lot closer than I wanted it to be," Coach Matt Adams admitted. "I was sure the game was over when we went up 28-7. Those purple creampuffs had some real fight in 'em."

Purdue led 21-0 at halftime. But on their first possession of the third quarter, the Wildcats connected for a quick 72-yard touchdown from Mike Kafka to Thomas Cox.

"That was quite a metamorphosis there in the second half," Adams said. "That play really got them going. How we let a guy get wide open like that in a cover two defense is beyond me. You just can't have that."

Even more intriguing was Purdue's attempt to cement the win. Leading 28-7 after a third quarter touchdown pass from Joey Elliott to tight end Kyle Adams, Purdue went for it on fourth and short near midfield. The result was an interception from Elliott, his sixth of the season.

"He just overthrew (freshman wide receiver) Luke Campbell on that one. It was an easy play for the DB," Adams conceded.

The Wildcats marched the ball downfield for a score to make the score 28-14. After a failed onside kick, the Boilermakers again tried to chomp some clock. Facing a third and short near midfield, Adams called for another pass. It was also picked off.

"I guess the fortunate thing is, we didn't see any Joey Elliott specials this week."

After another failed onside kick, the Boilermakers were able to run out the clock.

"I learned a valuable lesson about humility today," Adams said. "You can get too greedy. There's nothing wrong with a punt. I just have so much confidence in Elliott, well, the players around Elliott, that I think we can make plays when we need to."

"Yeah, coach has been riding me hard," Elliott said after the game. "But things are really going pretty well. I feel like I have his full confidence as a starter."

The Boilermakers had three turnovers in the game. One was critical in first half. After Elliott hit tight end Arsenio Curry for a short gain near the Wildcats' four-yard line, he had to leave the game with a bruised elbow. To the delight of many Purdue fans, athletic quarterback Justin Siller came into the game. He proceeded to run two option plays that went nowhere. On third and goal, he tried a QB keeper up the middle and fumbled the ball. Northwestern recovered.

"We've preached ball security from day one, but no one listens," Adams said. "We have some special packages for Justin, but that was not what we wanted, obviously."

Elliott had another efficient passing day, finishing 27 of 33 for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Dan Dierking had a Kory Sheets-like day, running 11 times for 54 yards and catching four passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.

"He was a big part of our offense. Coach said he wanted to lean on some of the other guys more so I wouldn't have to shoulder the load. It's great to have a safety valve like that," Elliott said.

"What's wonderful is that you can say just about anything to a college kid like Elliott and he'll believe you," Adams said, smiling.

Anthony Kellner proved dangerous yet again from the slot, catching four passes for 61 yards. The biggest play was a 48-yard touchdown from Elliott.

"Just a short pattern there," Kellner said. "I had man on man and blew by my guy. Easy money, baby. Easy money."

Elliott completed 19 of his passes to running backs and tight ends.

"They were playing a lot of zone," Elliott explained. "And the openings were over the middle. That's why I threw to Kyle (Adams) so much."

Adams had 11 catches for 88 yards and a short touchdown catch.

Defensively, freshman safety Gavin Roberts sparked the Boilers. In the first quarter, he forced a fumble that helped Purdue stop an early Wildcats drive. In the second quarter, Roberts intercepted a pass from Kafka and returned it 43 yards for the score.

"I noticed after those plays they didn't want to come near me," Roberts said. "I think they came into the game thinking they could pick on the freshman. They found out otherwise."

The #6 Boilermakers are now 2-1 and have won two straight after a disappointing home opening loss to Cincinnati. They face tough road games back-to-back. Next week, Purdue travels to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan. After that, they go to Columbus with hopes of toppling top-ranked Ohio State.

No comments: