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June 22, 2012
No. 8: Playing 21 versus Michigan State
Chris Daniels had a relatively quiet start to his career. By the time his senior year rolled around, he was one of the best, if not the best, at his position in the Big Ten.
Sure he had Drew Brees throwing him the ball, but Daniels made it look easy. His 21 receptions also came against one of highest ranked teams Purdue has faced in Ross-Ade Stadium, the No. 5-ranked Spartans.
His 301 yards receiving and reception total in the Oct. 16, 1999 contest remain conference records, as only teammate Randall Lane with 18 catches a year earlier in a losing effort at Wisconsin was close.
The fact the Boilermakers pummeled Nick Saban's squad 52-28 was just an added bonus to one of the great receiving efforts ever in Big Ten play.
No. 7: Running over IU again and again
Saving the best for last wasn't necessarily Mike Alstott's style. The bruising fullback gave his best on every play during his four-year career from 1992-95.
Still, in his final game as a Boilermaker played on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Alstott ran around and through a beleaguered Indiana defense which helped Purdue to a surprisingly easy 51-14 win.
Alstott had touchdown runs of 1,1, and 62 yards and would have likely surpassed Otis Armstrong's single-game rushing mark had he not been removed from the game midway in the fourth quarter. The effort, played in front of an ESPN audience on a day and time when there wasn't a lot of other games on, served noticed to college football fans and even a few pro scouts, that Alstott could play at the highest of levels.
No. 6: Stopping the Hoosiers 27 times
The pure numbers of this are astounding. Middle guard (a middle linebacker, nose tackle designation for the 1960s) Chuck Kyle's 27 tackles were the most in a game in Purdue history.
The NCAA, which only records single-game tackle records dating back to 2000, has its high-water mark at 26 stops. So there is little quibbling that Kyle's Senior Day effort was one for the record books.
And the fact that the Purdue defense was able to shut down the Hoosiers when it counted, allowing the Boilermakers to rally from an 11-point fourth quarter deficit, adds to the lore of this being a very special effort by the '68 All-American.
No. 5: Bookends Slam Kansas State
Okay, we are taking some license here as we are talking about the job senior defensive ends Chike Okeafor and Rosevelt Colvin did against fourth-ranked Kansas State in the 1998 Alamo Bowl. But it was as if the two acted as one, and certainly Wildcats quarterback Michael Bishop probably couldn't tell the difference.
After all, the Boilermaker bookends were as dominant as few Boilermaker defensive lines have ever been, especially against a team that was ranked No. 1 in 1998. Colvin and Okeafor combined for 5.0 sacks for 39 yards and 6.0 tackles for loss for 40 yards.
And the Boilermakers needed everything they could muster from this duo as special teams mistakes did much to keep KSU in the game until the bitter end. But it was the play of Okeafor and Colvin that did much for beginning Purdue's great tradition at defensive end that it would enjoy for much of the next dozen years.
No. 4: Hitting a homer in your last at-bat
It's been 40 years and Purdue hasn't come close to having a tailback like Otis Armstrong. After all, he is Purdue's most recent consensus All-American at the position and the only former Boilermaker to lead the NFL in rushing for a season.
But, as great players do, Armstrong left an indelible mark on Purdue football history. Not only did he smash his own single-game rushing mark by 43 yards, but he also led a second-half onslaught that blew out Indiana 42-7. Having to negotiate and navigate a treacherous Ross-Ade Stadium turf due to wet conditions, Armstrong was magnificent.
Making his final statement the last time he carried the ball as a Boilermaker, Armstrong rambled 53 yards for a touchdown to put an exclamation point on a remarkable Purdue career.
No. 3: Brees' near perfect game
A week earlier, sophomore quarterback Drew Brees had thrown two late interceptions that cost his team a chance for a rare road win at Notre Dame. But on a cold, rainy day against Minnesota, Brees told himself that he had no time to begin the path towards redemption.
And Brees was literally perfect against the Golden Gophers. He connected on 31-of-36 passes for a then school record 522 yards. Of his five incompletions, four were drops, something the 1998 receiving corps occasionally struggled with.
Brees' 262.9 passing efficiency rating was the highest in Purdue history. It also served notice of other great games still to come and this guy's was special. Brees never surpassed this total again as a Boilermaker, but his 11,792 passing yards is not only a Big Ten record, but a number akin to Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron's home run totals that Boilermaker fans should be able to recite from memory.
No. 2: Rapid Robert comes of age
Thirty-three years earlier and 14 fewer passes, but Bob Griese's 19-of-22 performance against top-ranked Notre Dame was a slight notch higher than Brees. Like Brees, Griese's performance against Ara Parsegian's Irish was a coming out party for the junior Boilermaker quarterback, though this game was shown to the nation on news-reel highlights instead of on national television.
There was drama in this one, too. Griese had to rally the Boilermakers in the closing minutes to pull out the surprising victory. Trailing 21-18 with 5:22 left, Griese drove the Boilermakers 67 yards on the game-winning drive hitting sophomore end Jim Beirne with the game winner.
Purdue's 25-21 victory put the Boilermakers atop the coaches' poll for first time in school history and made Griese a household name in college football circles, something he would parlay into Hall of Fame status in both college and professional football.
No. 1: Just plain Superman
It may be a coincidence, but six of the great performances mentioned on our list were true curtain calls, accomplished in the final game of a Boilermaker career. Such was the case with our top item on our list.
Rod Woodson was determined to leave it all on the field. Football was nearly 25 years removed from the days of two-way players, but the Fort Wayne native had dabbled a little in playing on both sides of the ball. But early in the '86 season it was at receiver and not running back.
In the season finale against IU, Woodson had convinced Leon Burtnett to give him a chance at running back. Sure, Woodson, a consensus All-American in the defensive backfield, would continue his play trying to slow IU, but it was his 93-yards rushing that gave the heavily underdog Boilermakers life. Woodson also amassed 67 yards receiving as well as 76 yards on kick and punt returns.
In the end, Woodson played 85 percent of the snaps in the contest, and also had 10 tackles and a pass breakup in the contents. When the clock struck zero, the gold-jerseyed Boilermakers had pulled off one of their bigger surprises of the 1980s, a 17-15 win over Indiana.
While Woodson's great two-way performance was made more special because of the time frame for which it was played, Leroy Keyes' 1968 showing against Notre Dame also needs to be mentioned. In that battle of two No. 1-ranked teams, Keyes threw for a touchdown, and ran for a score in an era when two-way players were rare, but not unheard of (as was pretty much the case in Woodson's day with the exception of Holy Cross' Gordie Lockbaum). Keyes also was called on as a defensive back to shut down receiver Jim Seymour, when the All-American receiver went wild early in the game. He did, and it had much to do with the Boilermakers winning in South Bend, 37-22.
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