Both teams came into the game with a 5-3 record. The winner would have the inside track to a New Years Day bowl game. The loser would be shoved down into the pack of the Big Ten underbelly fighting for the Alamo bowl. Purdue was hoping the crowd at Ross-Aide Stadium would be their twelfth man. Penn State had a twelfth man of their own in the form of 35 mph gusting winds.
Both quarterbacks struggled with accuracy all day as passes sailed over the heads of some receivers and died yards short of others. Anthony Morelli only completed 14 of 31 passes and Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter only completed 22 of 39 passes on the day. It was evident early that the team that could adjust and put together the best combination of rushing offense and rushing defense was going to win. Penn State made the adjustments. Purdue didn't.
Penn State started the game moving against the wind and played accordingly. The 12 play 74 yard drive consisted of six running plays and several short passes. The drive was highlighted by a career high 23 yard run by Derrick Williams to move the ball to the Purdue 17 yard line. But a false start penalty and a dropped pass on third down killed the drive there. Kevin Kelly nailed the 29 yard field goal giving the Lions the early lead. (PSU 3-0)
With the wind at their backs, Purdue came out in their dink and dunk offense. The Lions committed to keeping everything in front of them and making tackles. The strategy worked as Purdue insisted on throwing 3 and 4 yard passes as they would all day. Penn State stopped Purdue on their first possession, but couldn't capitalize as the Lion defense was forced into a three and out.
Purdue started their next drive well as Painter hit tight end Dustin Keller for a 24 yard pass putting the Boilermakers in a position to threaten a score. But on 3rd down, Dan Connor read Painter's eyes and stepped in front of a comeback route intended for Selwyn Lymon and intercepted the ball.
The Lions came back with a 17 play drive that only gained 46 yards. A third down sack by Cliff Avril forced Penn State into a 50 yard field goal attempt which Kevin Kelly missed. The key effect of the drive was the time consumption which ended the first quarter and would force Purdue to fight the wind the remainder of the half.
Not surprisingly Purdue tried to turn to the running game utilizing Jaycen Taylor on 6 plays out of a 10 play drive that moved Purdue down to the PSU 19 yard line. On fourth down Chris Summers attempted a 37 yard field goal. His kick looked true when it left his foot. But as it sailed for the uprights the wind caught it and the ball died just a few yards short. (PSU 3 Purdue 0 Wind 3)
With time winding down in the half, Penn State had the ball on the Purdue 41 yard line with 15 seconds to go. Still about a dozen yards away from field goal range they made an excellent play call giving Hunt the ball on a draw play that netted 14 yards. Kelly hit the 44 yard field goal as the clock expired and Penn State went into the locker room with the lead. (PSU 6 - 0) Penn State dominated the first half statistics-wise, but they couldn't feel too safe with only a six point lead.
Purdue came out in the second half with the wind at their backs. They tried to come out running in their first drive, but the stingy Lion defense just licked their chops and forced them into a punt. Their next drive didn't go much better as Poz recorded 3 tackles and Connor had 2 to stop them at mid field.
Penn State brought their defense. Purdue brought their drum
At the end of the third quarter Penn State started a drive that called Tony Hunt's number on 8 out of 12 plays and saw him picking up yards in large chunks. The drive killed nearly five minutes and ended with the game's only touchdown as Tony Hunt plunged into the endzone from two yards away. Penn State failed to convert the two point attempt. (PSU 12-0)
Hunt took over in the second half
In the fourth quarter the Penn State defense has Purdue right where they wanted them. It was too late in the game to run, not that they could anyway. The Boilermakers had to throw, and the wind was going to make that difficult. Sensing frustration and desperation in the eyes of the Purdue players, the Lion defense pinned their ears back and played their most aggressive defense of the season. Corners played tight. Linebackers blitzed. Linemen stunted. It was evident the Boilermaker offense had no answer today. Anthony Scirrotto pulled in his third INT in two games. Painter was knocked down several times and sacked 3 times in the quarter. Purdue never threatened to score again.
Painter couldn't find any room in the fourth quarter
You know Tony has had a good day when he uniform is more greenish brown than white. Tony permanently retired another jersey today with a typical 31 carry 142 yard day. As always he saved his best for last as he took over in the beginning of the fourth quarter carrying the offense down the field and scoring the touchdown that put the game out of reach.
An equipment manager's worst nightmare
Dan led the team in tackles with 12. He also made a crucial interception in the first quarter as Purdue was threatening to score.
Poz didn't have as many tackles as Connor (9), but he showed a complete game you would expect from a Butkus nominee. All day he was stuffing holes against the run. He was making open field tackles against speedy receivers. He was getting in the quarterback's face on the blitz. And everything he did he did it with swagger and attitude. He makes the defense more fun to watch than the offense.
Poz and Connor were everywhere
Impressions of the Game
Bowl eligible, baby. Oh yeah. It won't be a BSC, but Penn State is still in the running for the Capital One, Outback, and Alamo bowls. Going to a bowl, any bowl, is huge because it gives your team an extra three weeks of practice at the end of the year. It's a great opportunity to evaluate some talent and fine tune things going into next season.
The Nittany Lion defense. Yeah, they're good. They have now gone 9 straight quarters without allowing a touchdown. Purdue came into the game averaging 448 yards per game. They were held to 246 yards and shut out for the first time since 1996.
In fairness to Purdue, the wind killed them. When you're throwing into 50 mpg wind gusts, you can't go deep. It gave the Lions the opportunity to play aggressive with the corners and linebackers. The Boilermakers were forced into reducing their playbook into draw plays, short crossing and comeback patterns. The Lions played bump and run and tackled well. There wasn't much Purdue could do.
Tony Hunt passed Matt Suhey and Ki-Jana Carter to move into seventh place on the Penn State all time rushing list. Hunt needs 568 yards over the last four games to pass Curt Warner for the all time lead. He will have to average 142 yards per game.
The fantastic play by the defense overshadowed another less than average performance by the offense. Indiana State scored 35 on Purdue. Miami scored 31. That's Miami of Ohio. Ball State scored 28. This team gives up points, and we didn't get many. You can say part of it was due to the wind and the thinned out play book, but there were several times where the Lions killed themselves with costly penalties, missed blocks, and dropped passes. Overall it was a better effort yardage-wise than they had against Illinois, but even in that game the offense managed to score 10 points.
Let's see how I did.
Hunt finished the day with 31 carries for 142 yards and 1 TD. This was an easy prediction given the hapless run defense Purdue has shown all year.
Keller had five catches but only 48 yards. Both statistics led the team. I thought he would have a big day based on the way tight ends tore us up against Notre Dame and Minnesota. The Lion linebackers did a great job of covering him all day and tackling him as soon as he made the catch.
This one wasn't hard. Painter has been inaccurate his past few games. The throw to Connor was all on Painter, but the pass intercepted by Scirrotto may have been a result of the wind catching it.
Yeah. Ok. I said this one was a stretch. Penn State made three trips into the redzone. The first drive was killed by a false start penalty on first down and a dropped pass by DWill on third down. Kelly made the kick. Their second chance killed by an illegal motion and some incomplete passes that forced the Lions into a 3rd and 15 play. Morelli was sacked and Kelly missed the FG. Their third attempt ended in the Tony Hunt touchdown.
Quarless tied Butler for the team lead with 3 catches. He averaged 12 yards per catch ending with 36 yards. It's fun to watch this kid get better and become a bigger part of the offense each week.
Here's another kid that's fun to watch. You can see each week he's getting closer to breaking one. Unfortunately, he only had one return this week as Purdue didn't score any points. Well, maybe that isn't so unfortunate afterall.
This prediction was somewhat tongue in cheek after the Illinois game where they only attempted three passes over the middle. But Penn State did complete a few passes to Norwood and Butler. The most encouraging sign was seeing Andrew Quarless emerge as a threat over the middle. If he continues to develop that should free up Williams and Butler on the outside.
Yeah. Ok. Not exactly what I had imagined. I would have liked to see more points for us, but I'll take the shutout any day.
The Lions travel to Camp Randal Stadium in Madison to play the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers are 8-1 (5-1 Big Ten) with their lone loss coming at the hands of Michigan. Wisconsin had a mild scare with Illinois this week. The Badgers rallied from a 14 point deficit with 20 unanswered points in the second half to pull out the win. The winner of this Saturday will have the inside track on the Capital One bowl. The loser will probably be looking at the Outback Bowl.