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October 13, 2012
Back from his third major knee injury, Ralph Bolden really wanted to play this season.
Lost in the disappointment of Purdue's loss to the Badgers might be the fact that the senior running back got to.
It wasn't the glorious return to the field Bolden might have hoped for - he carried four times for seven net yards for an offense that couldn't get a whole lot done - but it was his return nonetheless, a little less than 10 months after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee for the third time since the end of his senior season in high school.
"I wasn't hesitant at all," Bolden said. "I got a lot of practice reps. I'm pretty comfortable with my knee and pretty confident in it. I'm not holding it back at all."
Bolden wouldn't say, though, he's back to full strength after a series of major injuries.
"I felt pretty good," he said. "I think the '100-percent' thing is over-rated. Everyone is playing hurt. It's football. It's more about how you work through the pain. I felt pretty good about it."
With one game in the books, Bolden now hopes to improve with every game from here on out.
"I'm trying to get better every day, every practice, every game," said Bolden, one of five Boilermakers to carry the ball out of the backfield Saturday.
- Brian Neubert
Purdue played without starting left tackle Justin Kitchens, after the junior aggravated a knee injury, first suffered in the summer, during the loss to Michigan last week.
He missed the game, as did backup cornerback Normondo Harris, who was sidelined a second consecutive week with a knee injury.
Hope says Kitchens didn't practice much last week, but tried to work out in the hour before Saturday's kick.
"He didn't look good in pregame warm-ups, so we decided not to go with Justin Kitchens in the game," Hope said, "and go with Kevin Pamphile."
Kitchens' wasn't the only notable injury on the day. Purdue also lost kickoff return man Raheem Mostert after a long return to start Purdue's second possession, when a tackler came down awkwardly on his leg. He had it iced on the sideline afterward.
And wide receiver O.J. Ross and D-end Ryan Russell had to leave due to various injuries. Safety Taylor Richards also missed a series due to an apparent shoulder injury.
Bruce Gaston played a week after having a hamstring injury that limited him against Michigan. And Hope said fellow defensive tackle Brandon Taylor and end Jalani Phillips were limited in practice last week.
"That makes it tough when you're trying to match up, particularly on the defensive side," Hope said. "When you have people getting injured around you, it makes it a struggle to get lined up and get things done on time, and I felt like we got out of sync from a defensive standpoint."
Purdue gave up more than 450 yards rushing, of the 650 yards allowed overall. Considering the Boilers had considered the defensive front to be a strength early in the season, the numbers are even more staggering.
"One of the strengths of our football team has been numbers across the defensive front," Hope said, in noting the injuries to D-linemen. "We could roll guys in and keep them fresh. We've been big and strong and physical and we were not as big and strong and physical today.
"I'm disappointed in the performance, but I think there's things we can get corrected, guys can step up and we can increase our level of play."
- Kyle Charters
Kawann Short says nothing unusual happened on his record-setting field goal block on Saturday.
With the help of Gaston and Taylor, Purdue was able to get a good push, and Short deflected a 33-yard attempt in the second quarter. That gives him six field goals blocks, snapping a tie with Rosevelt Colvin and Bobby Iwuchukwu.
"It's always good to hold a record," Short said.
But he'd like to be able to share it with Gaston and Taylor. He figures field-goal units try to account for the group of Purdue's linemen, but it's just not working.
"It's just a lot of power coming that way," Short said. "I'm 300-plus, Bruce is 300-plus. That's close to 700 pounds. We're both pretty strong, and Bruce gets that initial knock, and I just stick my hand up.
- Stacy Clardie
For the fifth time in six games this season, Purdue suffered a major special teams blunter.
And for the third game, it was a blocked punt.
Purdue had one rejected on the second-to-last play of the third quarter, with Wisconsin turning into a touchdown, and 31-7 lead, a couple minutes into the fourth.
Hope says the first two blocks of the season, vs. Eastern Kentucky and Marshall, were due to blocking alignment issues. Saturday's was a breakdown in Purdue's shield, the three defenders just in front of punter Cody Webster.
"You have to perform well in the shield," Hope said. "We had enough hats (to match rushers to block) but we didn't get fit up properly with the guys in the shield. As a result, someone got through and blocked the punt."
The block sullied the day of Webster. Purdue's punter kicked eight times for an average of 43.1 yards. But he felt two were too short, and a third was blocked.
"Those three I wish I could have back," he said.
Webster pinned four kicks inside the opponent 20-yard line, and gave Purdue's struggling defense an opportunity to get back off the field. He says that's his mindset when things might be going bad around him.
"I try to stay in the game and do my job, do what I am supposed to do," the junior said. "My position, I kind of look at it as if I could be the momentum for them.
"After the one that I put inside the five, Ryan Russell came up and said 'Man, I appreciate that.' It helps out the defense and really gives them a good feeling and me a good feeling."
Webster did have his first touchback in two seasons, a seemingly unbelievable streak. Of course, it came when a 72-yarder trickled into the end zone.
"I was upset when I put it in for a touchback," he said. "I was upset coming off the field; I don't want them. But if you calculate it out, it was a 52-yard net. That's pretty good, but in the end I try to eliminate the touchbacks as much as possible."
- Kyle Charters
• Purdue's quarterbacks - Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve and Rob Henry - were not made available to the media following the game. Each had been requested; but reporters were told that sports information personnel that the trio would not be coming, per Hope's decision.
This week, following TerBush's Tuesday press conference, media were informed that Purdue's QB were off-limits.
• In the last question of his postgame press conference, Hope was asked about his team, which he has previously called his best in four years at Purdue. Hope was asked what he'd say to a Purdue fan who noted that the Boilers have been beaten 82-27 the last two weeks, having given up 1,000 yards with Ohio State next.
Reporter: "What do you say to that fan, who says 'Is this really the best team we've had the last four years?' Do you still believe that."
Hope: "The last two weekends we have not been. But we still believe that we can be an outstanding football team. Then again, this is Big Ten football. And sometimes at Purdue, it's tougher. It's football at Purdue is tough. You've got to work hard and you've got to be tough and be mentally tough because the competition is always very, very tough. The same thing with school at Purdue. School at Purdue is tough; we don't give away grades at Purdue. You have to work really hard and sometimes that's a challenge and those are some things we should take pride in and those are the reasons why we should be more successful as a football team and football program, based on our work ethic and what we put into being players and students here at Purdue.
"Big Ten football is no place for the faint hearted or the squeamish and Purdue football is no place for the faint hearted or the squeamish, so we have to rally up and be better as a football team. We have talented players and we're going to bounce back and prove our worth to one another and also to our fan base, as well. That's what we have to do."
- Kyle Charters
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