Sunday, December 21, 2008

Boilers tame stubborn Lions

To the surprise of many Purdue fans, injured senior quarterback Joey Elliott started the game under center.

But Justin Siller finished it, leading Purdue to a hard-fought 35-28 win over Penn State.

After throwing an interception on his first series of the game, Elliott was yanked from the game.

"I think that elbow is still bothering him," Coach Matt Adams said. "He came over to the sideline cringing and pointing at it. The only thing we could do was put Siller in the game. I can't have an injured quarterback out there."

"He said that? No, the docs cleared me this week. My elbow feels fine," Elliott insisted. "I'm serious. Need me to prove? Come and arm wrestle me!"

Elliot hit for a first down pass on his first attempt. He finished 2-3 for 16 yards and an interception. His replacement, Siller, was 24-30 with three passing touchdowns. He added two rushing scores to the mix.

Penn State struck first, when quarterback Pat Devlin hit Kevin cousins for a 23-yard touchdown pass on the opening series of the game.

Purdue responded with Elliott's interception. On the very next play, safety Gavin Roberts stepped in front of a pass from Devlin and intercepted it. The play led to a long drive and a game-tying touchdown run from Siller.

"Gavin's interception was key," Adams said. "And after we had to pull poor Joey out of the game, Justin stepped up."

With the game tied at seven all, Penn State drove down the field. But the drive stalled, and the Nittany Lions settled for a field goal from kicker Jonathan Everett to pull ahead 10-7.

Purdue took a 14-10 lead after Siller found Aaron Valentine for a 35-yard score. It wasn't easy.

A holding penalty negated a long pass from Siller to Waynelle Gravesande. It backed the Boilers up to second-and-20. On the very next play, Siller found freshman Luke Campbell for a 17-yard hookup. On third and three, he hit Valentine for a short gain. The senior broke a tackle and outraced PSU's defense for the go-ahead score.

"That play was all Aaron," Siller told the media after the game. "All we wanted to do was pick up the first down there. We did a lot more than that. All the credit to Aaron for breaking that tackle."

Purdue stuffed Penn State's offense on the next drive. With good field position, Siller made quick work of the Nittany Lions defense, eventually finding Anthony Kellner for a nine-yard touchdown. Just like that, the Boilermakers led 21-10.

"I was feeling pretty good after that," Adams said. "We had an 11-point lead going into halftime. At least, that's what it looked like at the time."

Penn State wouldn't relent. With 15 seconds left to play in the first half, defensive tackle Mike Neal sacked Devlin. Penn State called a timeout. With Purdue's nickel defense in place, Devlin hit receiver James McDonald for a 62-yard score. Suddenly, the score was 21-17.

"Terrible. Absolutely terrible. I chewed the defense' (expletive) after that one. I also challenged my defensive coordinator to a fistfight, Uwe Boll style. What can I say? My temper gets to me sometimes," Adams admitted.

Siller guided the Boilermakers on an efficient drive to start the second half. It culminated in a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Adams.

The Nittany Lions refused to go away. Quickly, they drove down to the two-yard line before Purdue's defense stiffened, forcing Penn State to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Everett.

"They still gave up too many yards, but I was happy with the effort. They weren't going to give up the touchdown there," Adams said.

Siller picked the worst time of the game to make a mistake. Rolling to his left, he tried to loft an off-balance throw to Adams. Penn State picked it off. Three plays later, the Nittany Lions made it 28-26 with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Devlin to Cousins. Devlin found Cousins again on the two-point conversion to tie the game.

"I wasn't worried about it," Siller said. "I knew we'd come back and score again."

Siller's optimism proved unfounded as Purdue punted on its next possession. A huge run from running back Evan Royster took the ball all the way to Purdue's 15-yard line.

The defense came up with a big one.

Facing first and ten, Devlin tried to find Cousins over the middle. Linebacker Kevin Green jumped up and intercepted it.

"I don't know if he didn't see me or what," Green said. "I mean, I was standing right in the middle of the field. Kind of hard to miss. We needed that play bad, man."

The interception set up Purdue's final drive, which ended with a short touchdown run from Siller, his fifth TD of the game. The score made it 35-28.

"We were just trying to churn some clock and get the big score," Siller said. "As long as we got into the endzone, I knew the defense would step it up."

With little time to work with, Devlin couldn't get the ball past the 30-yard line. Siller ended the game with a kneel down.

"Tough game, tough game," Siller admitted. "We eventually took care of business."

Notes

Penn State outgained Purdue 324-311 in total offense...Purdue dominated in time of possession, 11:36-8:29; the Boilermakers were incredible in the redzone, converting all four redzone opportunities into touchdowns...Dan Dierking ran 11 times for 36 yards...Kellner narrowly missed another 100-yard receiving day, catching eight balls for 98 yards...tight end Kyle Adams had another big day, reeling in eight receptions for 39 yards...tight end Aresenio Curry had a breakout game, catching five passes for 67 yards...Aaron Valentine's only catch of the game was a 35-yard touchdown...Ryan Tyson again led the Boilermakers with eight tackles, cornerback Charlton Williams added seven...punter Chris Summers had to ice down his leg after a busy day in which he punted twice.

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