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October 19, 2013
Purdue didn't win Saturday at Michigan State Saturday - didn't even score, actually - but the Boilermakers did show a measure of progress in a highly competitive 14-0 loss.
Purdue didn't score and never really threatened to get in the end zone, its only scoring opportunities being a pair of missed field goals. But for a team that's been blown out so many times this season, going into the fourth quarter down just 7-0 in a game in which it was a four-touchdown underdog marked a much closer game than most anticipated.
The Boilermakers did function on offense, running the ball effectively early and having success on third down, while its defense held Michigan State without any offensive points until just nine minutes remained.
In the game, though, when the Boilermakers' margin for error was zero, two turnovers - one of which directly resulted in a TD - and a number of missed opportunities doomed Purdue's chances at an upset.
After barely averting a shutout against Nebraska last weekend, the Boilermakers were blanked for the first time since 2010 at Ohio State.
Some instant impressions from the loss
In part due to the physical presence Brandon Cottom brought to the field to start and in part due to the offensive line's markedly different level of physicality, Purdue's running game functioned better than it probably has in any game this season, against the nation's No. 1 run defense no less.
Michigan State's pressure really began getting to the Boilermakers in the second quarter, including the game's biggest play, the scoop-and-score for the Spartans that marked the only points of the first half.
Danny Etling was sacked five times - same as last week vs. Nebraska - and forced into a number of throw-aways.
One of those sacks led to the fumble Denicos Allen returned for a 45-yard TD to open the scoring in the second quarter.
Sign of progress for the offense, along with the running game producing: Purdue converted half its third downs in the first half, including Etling hitting Cameron Posey for a couple of third-and-long conversions.
On both sides of the ball, Purdue was much improved on third down.
Thank heavens for punter Cody Webster, who was brilliant in a matchup between the top two punters in the Big Ten.
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