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November 2, 2012

A look back: Brandon tames the Lions

For much of his career, Brandon Jones found himself buried on the Boilermaker depth chart at running back.

But during his time at Purdue, Jones capitalized when his opportunity finally came.

The Boilermaker sophomore running back - third on the depth chart behind classmate Jerod Void and redshirt freshman Jerome Brooks coming in - carried 29 times for 149 yards and two scores back on Oct. 11, 2003, helping Purdue to a 28-14 win over Penn State in Ross-Ade Stadium.

It is the only time Purdue has beaten the Lions in Ross-Ade Stadium since PSU joined the Big Ten in 1993.

"I think of that game often," said Jones, a Peru, Ind., native who is working on his Master's degree in occupational therapy at A.T. Still University in Mesa, Ariz. "It is true that they say football is a game of inches, and, and that was the case that day.

"Personally, it was my most memorable game."

Jones had a very productive career at Purdue when given the opportunity. He is tied for 17th all-time with four 100-yard rushing games. His 4.68 per carry average (1,661 yards in 360 attempts) also placed him 17th all-time heading into the 2012 season.

Jones spear-headed a Boilermaker rushing attack that racked up 234 rushing yards against Penn State. He became Purdue's No. 1 back when Void went down with an ankle injury on the Boilermakers' first offensive snap.

"Jones did some of the things we knew he could do," Coach Joe Tiller said after the game. "This was his type of game because he is a physical guy. After (Jerod) Void went down with an ankle injury, he took it upon himself to come through for the team."

Void was initially diagnosed with a low ankle sprain. Jones then jumped over Brooks, because Brooks missed some practice that week because of a death in his family.

Jones' running, and a outstanding defensive showing which was the case for much of the '03 season, got the job done for Purdue. It also helped that the Boilermakers made some big plays on special teams in their first win over the Nittany Lions since 1951 and first under Tiller.

After a dismal performance a week earlier, Purdue's specialists rebounded in a big way against the Lions.

After the defense forced a three-and-out on Penn State's opening possession, Anthony Chambers returned the punt 42 yards to the PSU 30. Seven plays later, Jones plowed into the end zone for a one-yard score, making it six games in a row when Purdue scored on its opening possession.

After Penn State tied the score at 7-7 with a 64-yard drive early in the second quarter, Purdue turned a Gilbert Gardner interception - which was tipped by free safety and surprise starter Kyle Smith - into a 42-yard Ben Jones field goal.

Then, Chambers came up big again. The defense forced a punt and Chambers fielded the ball at the Boilermaker 24, hit a hole up the middle, then raced toward the end zone. The 76-yard score made it 17-7 Purdue and matched the length of Chambers' punt return at Notre Dame a year earlier.

He wouldn't have scored had cornerback Jacques Reeves not dashed past him to throw one last block inside the Lion 10.

"I just wanted to run and block anybody I could," said Reeves, who helped Chambers set a Purdue record for single-game return yardage (149) and still holds a record with Vinny Sutherland (1997-2000) as the only Boilermakers to have multiple punt returns for scores. "I just wanted to get my body between (Chambers) and their guy and that's what I did."

At that point, all was looking good for Purdue. But a late disaster made things interesting at the half.

With a 10-point lead and the ball at the Penn State 16, Purdue committed the type of offensive blunder it had avoided all season.

Quarterback Kyle Orton threw to the end zone for Ray Williams, but cornerback Alan Zemaitis intercepted the pass - just Orton's second pick of the year - escaped a crowd and ran 90 yards to the Boiler 6, with Orton finally hauling him down.

"It was a terrible read and a terrible throw," Orton said. "I pride myself on not making that throw."

Two plays later, Michael Robinson hit Isaac Smolko for a two-yard score. The result: What could have been a 20-7 or 24-7 lead was cut to just 17-14 at the break.

But, in the second half, the defense buckled down even further, allowing just 89 yards, pitching its third second-half shutout of the year.

Ben Jones added a 32-yard field goal with 5:36 to go in the third, making the score 20-14. But it was Brandon Jones that would make it a two-score lead and more or less put the game away.

Early in the fourth quarter, the offense drove deep into Nittany Lion territory, but encountered fourth-and-one at the 21.

A field goal - it would have been a very make-able 38-yarder - would have extended the lead to nine, with the defense dominating. But Tiller opted to go for it, and Jones took a toss outside all the way to the goal line. Two plays later, he crossed it. Orton hit Taylor Stubblefield for a two-point conversion to cap the scoring with 9:44 to play.

In the final minutes, Reeves intercepted a Robinson pass and Antwaun Rogers recovered a fumble, thwarting Penn State's dwindling opportunities. The defense ended the game with an exclamation point, sacking Robinson twice in the game's final seconds.

It was another stellar effort from defensive coordinator Brock Spack's bunch, as Penn State managed just 204 yards and committed three turnovers. Robinson - an ultra-athletic sophomore starting in place of the injured Zach Mills - was just 10-of-32 for 98 yards, being victimized by several dropped passes.

Offensively, Orton was 17-of-28 for 131 yards. Williams and Stubblefield each caught six passes to lead the Boilermakers.

The No. 18 Boilermakers, who ran their record to 5-1 and 2-0 in conference play, managed 350 yards of total offense and held the ball for a commanding 37:24. With the loss, Penn State dropped to 2-5, 0-3 in the league.

"I just remember the newspaper printing the headline 'Lion Tamer,' after the game," Jones said. "I was blessed to have the opportunity that day, and it was extra special to do it against the caliber of the program like Penn State.

"Nine years later, it is still very special to me."

Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2012. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.

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