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April 6, 2013

Offense wins on last play; scrimmage notes

A stop on the 6-yard line would have meant keeping the black jerseys in practice for the defense until the next "Jersey" scrimmage.

Instead, on the final play on Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium, Austin Appleby hung in the pocket, waiting for a receiver to break free and then delivered a strike to tight end Sterling Carter in the back of the end zone. That touchdown vaulted Purdue's offense to a 51-50 victory over the defense.

Now, it'll be the offensive players who are wearing black. They usually spend practices in white, though the quarterbacks wear gold.

"I'm a little upset about it because we played a hard game and just didn't finish at the end," linebacker Will Lucas said. "That's one of the things Coach (Greg) Hudson is going to emphasize, the red zone defense. We did pretty good in the red zone, but we've got to finish the game when the game is on the line."

The touchdown play capped a 11-play, 62-yard drive that largely consisted of a combination of units, mixing in some first, second and third-team players. During the drive, Appleby completed passes to Charles Torwudzo (19 yards), Dolapo Macarthy (four), David Yancey (six) and Carter.

The TD catch also capped an active day for both units - the offense had two long touchdown passes before the game-winner, but the defense also had four sacks, two interceptions and recovered two fumbles.

"I thought there was a lot of good work out here. A lot of good hitting. Guys running around, playing hard," Coach Darrell Hazell said. "It'll be interesting to see on film how it really looks. Obviously, (we) have to take care of the ball better. But I thought there was a lot of good play.

"It's one of the better ones I've had. A lot of times they start off sluggish, but I thought we did a lot of nice things, both sides of the ball."

Hardly protected
During warmups, the quarterbacks came out wearing their standard gold jerseys. But by the time the scrimmage started, they were in white, just like the rest of the offense.

They were live - and able to be hit.

It's the first time in some time that quarterbacks weren't protected in a scrimmage-type atmosphere.

Danny Etling got smashed to the ground by Bruce Gaston and Ryan Russell, Appleby got crunched by Lucas and Rob Henry got his arm hit by a blitzing Normondo Harris and fumbled.

There were certain, short, drives in which QBs were off-limits, but for much of the scrimmage, they weren't protected. That included runs, too, and both Henry, Etling and Bilal Marshall got hit after they took off.

"I knew we would be, which is fine," Henry said. "I've played in games. I've played in different stadiums. And last year I played when I was really live, Wildcat when I was running the ball. I'm used to that, it's not really a big deal. But that's something that was good for us.

"It was a little different, but we're all football players and when it comes down to being physical it's part of the game. That's the reason why we play football. We like the physical part of the game. It's not as big of a deal as some people make it out to be."

Getting back out
Gaston had been sidelined most of the spring after offseason surgery on his left thumb, but he was back doing full-time work on Saturday.

On Monday, he started to move from the rehab group to get some work with the rest of the defensive line, and he said that he increased his participation each day with the hopes of being ready for the scrimmage.

"It felt good. It's been a while," he said. "Even though I haven't been in the team part, coach has got us over there working, the strength coaches, so my conditioning and stamina has been up even better than usual actually."

Gaston was the only injured player to return to the action. Hazell said he thought fullback Kurt Freytag (hamstring) would be ready, but he didn't participate. Ricardo Allen (ankle) and Landon Feichter (hand) still are out, and defensive end Greg Latta missed, too, after spraining his foot in practice this week. He'll be out 4-6 weeks, Hazell said.

At least one player got added to the injury list on Saturday when fullback Brandon Cottom injured his right knee. Though nothing is official, Hazell said it initially was diagnosed as a "mild MCL" injury.

Finding a back
Though Akeem Hunt is projected as Purdue's No. 1 running back, it was Robert Gregory who got more run plays called on Saturday.

Gregory, working mostly with the 2s, had 88 yards on 16 carries, unofficially. Hunt had 31 on 11 carries.

No statistics were kept by Purdue, but, unofficially, the Boilermakers rushed for 124 yards on 45 carries (2.7 ypc).

"I would like to have a little more depth at the running back position, but when we get some younger guys in, we'll be OK," Hazell said.

Knocking them through
Hazell didn't even realize which kickers took the field during the scrimmage, he said.

It was Paul Griggs who went 3-for-3 on field goals - making from 32, 29 and 30 yards - and Sam McCartney making two extra points. (The team didn't kick the PAT after Appleby's final TD pass.)

Mistakes need trimmed
Purdue quarterbacks threw two interceptions, receivers had six drops and the offense had at least seven penalties.

Two penalties negated touchdowns - a holding call wiped out Hunt's 54-yard catch-and-run down the sidelines and a personal foul hands-to-the-face took away an Etling-to-Torwudzo TD pass.

Those mistakes won't be accepted, and Henry, for one, said he's glad.

"They're demanding a lot out of us," Henry said. "Each and every individual and that's what we need. We need to be pushed. We need to be able to know the ends and outs of our assignments and not have any mental errors. I had a few of those (Saturday) that I have to correct. They're pushing us really hard and that's what we need."

Flying around
Though the offense won, the defense certainly had its moments.

Though Harris didn't start the scrimmage with the 1s at cornerback opposite Frankie Williams, it was that duo who made most of the plays in the secondary.

Harris had a sack/forced fumble/fumble recovery on Henry, an interception and dropped another pick. He also, unofficially, was second on the team with six tackles.

Williams was especially active, nearly all of his hits were big ones, including one in which he drilled Yancey in the chest after his only catch and another that up-ended Gabe Holmes.

"He's been a great leader this spring for us, which was excellent to see," Hazell said of Williams. "He talks a lot. It's all positive. We're going to need that leadership in the fall."

Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2013. 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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