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November 10, 2012
IOWA CITY - Few might have thought Ralph Bolden could get back to this point.
But against Iowa on Saturday, the former All-Big Ten running back returned to form, picking up 102 yards rushing on 14 carries, helping to lead Purdue to a 27-24 victory over the Hawkeyes.
"I'm just here to help out the team in any way I can," said Bolden, who has suffered three ACL tears during his career, the latest keeping him out 'til midseason, "whether that's 100 yards, 100 receiving yards, blocking, whatever it is, that's what I'll do."
Bolden, and teammate Akeem Shavers[/db], ran with authority against the Hawkeyes, churning out tough yards and breaking off big runs when available. The latter helped Purdue maintain a two-score lead late in the third quarter, answering after Iowa had cut the margin to three.
On the first down, Bolden got the corner on the right sideline, then danced through some defenders, stayed inbounds, and found room again. He raced 56 yards up the sideline - perhaps only his top-end speed has been lessened by the knee injuries - before being caught on an angle at the 10. Purdue scored a play later.
"I pretty much thought I was done and then I saw that a little daylight to the sideline and hit it," he said.
Bolden would have liked to have scored, he said, but he'll take the 100-yard day. Only a few weeks ago, the fifth-year senior was still rehabbing from his knee injury, suffered against Indiana in the season-finale last year.
Now, he's a big part of the offense.
He and Shavers, who had 64 yards, helped Purdue to 211 yards rushing on 44 carries.
"All week, we kind of knew we were going to have to tot the load, carry the team or whatever," he said. "They were already prepping us up for it during the week. We kind of came in with the mentality that 'If we have to carry the team to get this W, then we'll do it.' And that's what we did."
The 100-yard day was Bolden's first since the season-opener last year, when he went for 120 against Middle Tennessee State. But even through the injury, he thought his day would come again.
"Because I'm a warrior," he said. "I'm always trying to work hard, get back and get better."
Coach Danny Hope agreed.
"I would never count Ralph Bolden out," the fourth-year coach said. "He has an unbelievable amount of courage. Ralph is one of my heroes in life."
The Boilermakers gave credit to Gary Nord's game plan, wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins' play-calling and Robert Marve and Co.'s execution.
"Coach Higgins called a great game," said Marve, who threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns. "He had faith in me. He did a great job with the running and passing game. I give him a lot of credit. He put us in plays that we felt comfortable with. Plays that put us in the best position at the right time."
Nord was hurt early Wednesday, when he injured his back and was hospitalized. He didn't make the trip to Iowa City. Hope called the injury severe, speculating that it could be weeks-long recovery that could keep him sidelined.
"We wanted to win for Coach Nord," said Marve, who was looking forward to delivering Nord a game ball. "He's been in the fire with the rest of us. I talked to him last night. He sounded kind of hurt by not being with us.
"Coach Higgins is an organized guy. So he had X, Y, A, B, C, D, E, F for us when he came in. He called a great game. I'm very excited to give the ball back to Coach Nord when we get back.
By Tuesday, before Nord's injury, Purdue's game plan was in. But it was called by Higgins and executed by the Boilermakers. Perhaps the only noticeable game-day change was that Higgins was in the box, where he normally resides on Saturdays, rather than on the field, where Nord usually calls the game.
"It really wasn't all that difficult to pass the baton," he said. "Most of the work had been done and the game plan prepared. Patrick is an excellent playcaller anyway. It was a smooth transition, and I thought Coach Higgins did a great job. But the collective effort of our staff and our players is what made the difference today."
In his second consecutive start - the first back-to-back starts since the beginning of the 2010 season - Marve was 25-of-33 for 266 yards and the two scores. Of his eight incompletions, three were tipped and one was spiked.
The only blemish was a couple of lost fumbles, one returned for a score.
"(But) it was a great performance," Hope said of Marve, who is playing with a torn left ACL. "He's a fantastic arm and a tough guy and a fighter. That's what we need on our football team right now. We've got to keep swinging.
"I thought we did a great job play calling wise to help him manage the football game. A great game plan and very nice play-calling by Patrick Higgins, but the credit goes to Robert Marve and his teammates, not to the coaches."
The stats would seem to show that's true. Purdue allowed only 264 yards of offense, and only 74 on 31 attempts on the ground.
Defensive tackle Kawann Short thought Purdue had a more intense week of practice.
"Everybody talking, everybody communicating on the field," he said. "The communication was better. I guess it's true what happens in practice can carry over to the field."
Short being healthier certainly helped. A week ago, the senior was limited by an injury to his ankle suffered a week earlier, but Saturday he said he was feeling better. It showed; Short had six tackles, four for loss and a sack.
"I feel a lot better," Short said. "I told you guys Tuesday, there wasn't much tape. I tweaked it a little bit (today). I still didn't think it would hold me back."
And the Boilermakers committed 10 penalties, every one of them in the second half, for 100 yards. The two negatives almost ruined Purdue's day.
"We definitely have to be more disciplined," wide receiver Antavian Edison said. "I know we know that we didn't play a perfect game, and I'm sure we're going to go back and coaches are going to get on us about a few things, even though we came out with a big victory. We hang our hat on being perfect."
• After missing the last two-and-a-half games, O.J. Ross was active vs. Hawkeyes. He had four receptions for 57 yards.
• Linebacker Robert Maci and tight end Gabe Holmes didn't play much in the second half. Asked after the game, Hope said Maci had been battling an injury for a few weeks.
• Defensive tackle Brandon Taylor did not make the trip to Iowa because of his high ankle sprain. Kick returner Raheem Mostert was in Iowa City, but he didn't dress.
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