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October 19, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Although the final statistics might not show it, Purdue's rushing game exhibited some toughness against the nation's top-ranked ground defense.
The Boilermakers gained 101 yards on the ground - five sacks and Danny Etling's scrambling brought that down to 66 net - on 34 carries. The Spartans' defense came in allowing only 58 per game.
In an effort to spur a rushing game that had produced only 32 net yards the week before, Coach Darrell Hazell says the Boilermakers widened their splits (spacing) on the line of scrimmage. And Brandon Cottom started and was a featured back for the first time this season.
"We changed some schemes up front and I thought the offensive line did a good job creating some of those creases for Brandon and the other backs," Hazell said after the 14-0 loss. "Those guys keep getting better."
Cottom, a 260-pound physical back, finished with 39 yards on 12 carries. Akeem Hunt, who is better suited on the perimeter, had 43 on nine attempts. The duo gave the Boilermakers a nice combination at running back, one that generated 82 yards on 21 yards, nearly four a tote.
That allowed Purdue's play-action passing game to be more effective, relatively speaking, as the Boilermakers were, of course, shut out.
"It was good," Etling said of the rush. "Any time the offensive line takes an attitude like that, and the offensive line was really pushing guys and moving them around, I thought we did a good job in the run game."
Purdue's attack, though, took a hit when Cottom left in the third quarter with an apparent upper-body injury.
Hazell didn't have an update on his status immediately after the game, but Cottom returned to the sideline late after spending time in the locker room. But he did not see any action.
Hitting into the wind on his two field goal attempts, place-kicker Paul Griggs had a rough day.
His 51-yarder into a stiff breeze at the end of the first half was well short, and might have been extremely difficult to make considering the circumstances. But his 41-yarder in the third quarter seemingly should have been much easier.
But it was short, too.
"I thought I struck the 51 pretty well," Griggs said. "But we knew going in to that side we were going to have some wind in our face, that's a tough shot. The 41, we'll look at the film and see what happened. I didn't have as good a hit on that, but I still gave it a chance. It looked like it finished up right down the middle, but going into the wind it's a tough kick."
Griggs had come into Saturday having made his last three field goals, but hadn't attempted one since Northern Illinois on Sept. 28.
"I feel like I've been practicing really well," the sophomore PK said. "Obviously, I need to carry that over onto game day."
Purdue had peculiar time management at the end of the first half.
After taking over with 49 seconds left, and three timeouts, at the MSU 44-yard line, the Boilers rushed Hunt for three yards. Rather than take their first timeout, Etling hit Hunt for a loss on second down; Purdue's first timeout came then, with only 21 seconds on the clock.
A couple snaps later - and after it had used its second timeout - Purdue got the benefit of a pass interference call on fourth down, setting it up with a first at Michigan State's 34 with the clock stopped at nine seconds.
But rather than run a play to gain yardage, Hazell burned Purdue's last timeout and set up for a long field goal into the wind.
"We talked about it," Hazell said of running one more offensive play, then taking the timeout before a field goal attempt. "The concern was not doing anything stupid with the ball on the previous down. There was nine seconds left on the clock - we did have a timeout - we wanted to make sure we kicked the ball going into the half. We talked about throwing the slant route, throwing the out cut, but I didn't want to take a loss yardage play or perhaps have the ball tipped and not have a chance to kick the field goal."
In need of a second receiver to complement DeAngelo Yancey, Cameron Posey came up big Saturday, hauling in five passes for 50 yards.
"Posey is a good player," Hazell said. "He's a guy who runs with posture. He looks like a receiver when he comes off the ball. He'll continue. He's a young player and is starting to play a little bit older each week. He'll be a good player for us."
Purdue thought Posey, working in the slot, could get openings against Michigan State's safeties. And he did, often on third down. Three of the receptions moved the chains.
"We have a good relationship," Etling said, "and in the position he was in this week, we were really trying to work the safeties. He was running some great routes and doing some things. We watched last week's film and looked at how to get open vs. guys who were trying to play you one-on-one. We really worked hard this week and the results are starting to show."
Senior linebacker Ruben Ibarra was a surprise contributor against the Spartans.
The former JUCO transfer had four tackles, including one for a loss.
"He's been practicing well the last two weeks," Hazell said. "And he's a physical guy who comes downhill. He'll strike you, so he'll continue to play for us."
Cody Webster, who had struggled for the last couple weeks, had a huge game in East Lansing.
It was particularly critical considering the battle for field position the teams waged for much of the afternoon. Webster, who came into Saturday's game with the second-best average in the Big Ten (to MSU's Mike Sadler), hit six punts for an average of 44.8. Four landed inside the 20 without a touchback.
"He did a good job of dropping it inside the 10-yard line a couple times and had some big punts to flip the field," Hazell said. "It was good to see him come back and respond after we had challenged him this week."
Sadler had a 38-yard average on seven punts, with three inside the 20. He had one touchback.
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