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September 15, 2013
In the first couple weeks of the season, Purdue's offense was still searching for some playmakers.
But Saturday in Week 3, it came up with some, with wide receiver B.J. Knauf perhaps leading the way; the redshirt freshman scored his first career touchdown, an 18-yard catch and go that helped Purdue answer a score in the third quarter. It was among his four receptions for 51 yards to go with six rushing yards on a couple carries and 68 yards on kick returns.
But that it came in a 31-24 loss to Notre Dame took away from the break out, Knauf said.
"I'd say my performance tonight was mediocre," he said. "Even though I scored, I wasn't really pleased with some other aspects of my game. I'm still learning a lot. It was an improvement from the last game, so as long as I'm improving each game, I'm somewhat happy."
But Knauf was a key to the Boilermakers' suddenly effective offense. Purdue looked for him often, whether it be hitting him underneath Notre Dame's defense or giving him the ball on jet sweeps.
Coach Darrell Hazell says Purdue would have liked to have found him more late, as the Boilermakers were trying to get back into the game.
"There was an emphasis to do that, even those last couple drives we were talking about things to get it in his hands because he can make some plays for us," Hazell said. "And we need to continue to do that."
With Gabe Holmes out for the foreseeable future - and possibly the entire season - the Boilermakers needed production out of others at tight end.
They got that, and more.
Purdue's three top tight ends combined for eight catches, including six for 45 yards, and a fourth-down touchdown, from Justin Sinz.
"He really did step up," Hazell said. "I thought he did a good job of making some tough catches in some tight coverage. Sinz has been a warrior for us, since Day 1, and he continues to make plays."
Sterling Carter picked up a third-down catch in the first half, and Patrick Bade had a redzone reception, the first of his career, in the fourth quarter.
Holmes was injured on Tuesday, rolling on his wrist while making a catch. Hazell has said his injury is serious, but the full length of recovery isn't yet known.
In a primetime matchup against their rival, the Boilermakers came out full of energy.
It probably helped that the fan base did too. More than 61,000 attended in Ross-Ade Stadium, falling just short of a sellout, and were energized from the opening kick.
"The atmosphere was great," Ricardo Allen said. "Our crowd was into it the whole night. Our student section was amazing. The family and everybody around, everything was good. I wish we would have come out on the better side, but we loved the way Ross-Ade was rocking tonight."
Purdue's pass protection was better than its been all season, keeping Rob Henry largely upright and allowing him time to operate Purdue's passing game.
Henry threw for 256 yards and was sacked only once. He often had a pocket to work from, and seemed to be rattled only on a few occasions. The Boilermakers, however, rushed for only 38 yards on 21 carries, leaving some to be desired in rush blocking.
"Especially against the defensive line of Notre Dame, which is a good front, I thought they did exceptionally well," Hazell said. "Obviously we need to go back and look at the film and see how well they great out.
"But I thought they did play better, and the protection was good for the most part. Not sure how many rushing yards that we had, but it's probably something we need to get better at. I thought they took a step forward."
Henry was happy with what he saw.
"I thought they did a phenomenal job," the QB said. "They held up great and fought they tails off, and we scored points. You don't score points if your offensive line isn't playing well."
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