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April 12, 2014

Gold wins in fourth quarter; spring game notes

A game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter and a game-saving interception provided some intrigue to Purdue's spring game Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium.

Keyante Green delivered the former and Anthony Brown got the latter to secure the Gold team's 12-7 victory over the Black team.

In a game that was largely dominated by both defensive line's ability to get pressure on the quarterbacks because of mix-and-match offensive lines, the Gold team did just enough to sustain a final drive to take it.

The Black team took the lead on the last play of the third quarter on David Blough's 41-yard touchdown pass to Danny Anthrop.

With the start of the fourth quarter came a running clock, and the Gold team was prepared to drain the whole thing and end with a score. What ensued was quite a drive.

Green helped get the drive started with 12 yards on the first two plays, and Akeem Hunt added a 14-yard run to move into Black territory. After a completion, Green added six yards on back-to-back carries to move the Gold to the 32-yard line.

Gold kept moving it, taking advantage of short passes to Hunt to gain 19 yards on two plays, and had first-and-goal from the 10 with about 3:22 left in the game.

It only took two plays for Green to punch it in. After a six-yard run inside, he came back with a four-yard TD run for a 12-7 lead.

"I told the guys we definitely wanted to try to eat up all the time we could to drive down there," Etling said of what ultimately turned into a 12-play, 59-yard drive that ate up 9:19. "We had a couple of things we had seen them doing that we really liked. There was a couple times I saw them bringing pressure, so I was able to change out what we wanted to do with the receivers. We had some great runs by Keyante. We had some great blocking by the offensive line.

"When we got down there toward the end, we definitely started to get more and more confidence and I knew we could punch it in if we just flipped the play we just ran last time. We talked to coaches, it old them that, and we got it in, so it was good."

After the Gold team's two-point conversion pass was broken up by Landon Feichter, the Black team had a chance to win the game with a touchdown.

Austin Appleby's offense took over with 2:38 remaining with the ball on its 36-yard line.

After a completion, a penalty and a short rush, the Black team had second-and-7 from midfield. Appleby sent a pass downfield to Aloyis Gray, who appeared to make the catch only to have Brown pull it away and secure the interception while falling to the ground.

Brown was one of two players listed as "questionable" for the game with an injury.

Russell delivers
Ryan Russell bounced some between left end and right end on Saturday, but the bulk of his success for the Black team came when he was lined up on the right side against Jason Tretter.

Russell had 3.5 sacks in the game - some of those were against non-live QBs - and a game-high 11 tackles. He also forced a fumble on pressure.

Tretter is a right tackle/guard but was forced to play on the left side when the Gold team drafted both right tackles, and first-team right tackle J.J. Prince got to stay on the right side for the game.

Tretter, who has played rarely this spring on the left side, was simply no match for senior Russell. Russell's quickness on the edge caught Tretter often - on one sack it didn't even appear that Tretter got a hand on Russell before he ran past.

"I think Ryan's had a great spring. Going against him every single day, you kind of get tired he's always in the backfield," said Etling, who was in Russell's sights as the Gold team QB. "His motor has gone up two-fold. … He's tough to go against and I feel sorry for any quarterback who has to go against him because when I was live, he was always on me. He let me know he was there, too."

If Purdue's defense is going to improve in 2014, Russell will need to be a key piece. Coaches have made it a point all spring to push him to play more consistently with a high motor, and they've liked what they've seen.

But now Russell needs to show it when it counts.

Hazell said Russell should be a mismatch for eight of the 12 games the team plays. Russell feels like he's trending in that direction.

"I would say it was a good spring for me personally, putting everything together," Russell said. "Concentrating on the small details for me personally has been very good and have helped fine-tune my game."

Mostert caps strong spring
Raheem Mostert may have solidified his spot as the team's No. 1 running back with a strong game after a strong spring.

Mostert had 44 yards on 10 carries for the Black team and continued to show good vision in the team's zone runs, especially inside, and hit holes decisively.

Last season, Mostert was largely stuck on the bench behind Akeem Hunt, Dalyn Dawkins and Brandon Cottom after making the move to running back in training camp. But with an opportunity this spring to get most of his snaps with the No. 1 offense, Mostert proved something to the coaching staff: He's ready.

"Crazy things happen. Raheem goes out and he wins the 60, he wins the 200, and now he's got a confident strut in his step, and I love it," Hazell said, referencing Mostert's Big Ten championships in track. "That's the way he's playing football now. He's playing fast. He's seeing things very well, and he's running strong."

A long day
Purdue's top two quarterbacks, Etling and Appleby, combined to complete only 52 percent of their passes.

Etling, especially, was under consistent pressure most of the game, and was "sacked" four times. (Some of those were when he was called sacked but not live.) He completed 10-of-17 passes for 96 yards and also fumbled but recovered it.

Appleby, playing with four offensive linemen who have gotten No. 1 reps this spring, managed only 7-of-16 for 21 yards. He had two interceptions - one of which Mostert probably should have caught but bobbled - and fumbled twice, losing one when he was hit while throwing.

The quarterbacks were asked if it's difficult to produce considering the lines didn't include all the projected starters.

"Whether or not we have the personnel or the full offensive line or the receivers you want, at the end of the day, we have to make every play work," Appleby said. "Coach Shoop is on us that it doesn't matter what you get. Our offense is structured in a way that somebody is always open. We just have to work faster and we have to continue to push each other and push ourselves in our preparation to be able to identify who that open guy is, if in fact we have to get it out early.

"We're developing that two-deep so it shouldn't matter. We have enough guys in our locker room to get the job done. It's our job as a quarterback to continue to push those guys and get that chemistry. We have to be ready come our first game."

Hazell said it's difficult to evaluate the QBs considering the circumstances and also said that the team had too many drops Saturday. Hazell said he counted five, but depending on how harshly they're being judged, there could have been as many as eight.

"When you're mixing and matching lines, that plays a factor in the quarterback play," Hazell said. "The package was very limited with what they called. I'm sure there was more on the call sheet. So there's a lot that goes into the productivity of a quarterback in a game like that."

When asked if Etling is the No. 1 quarterback heading into the fall, Hazell said, "I won't answer that."

Adding up
In both of the major full team scrimmages this spring - the jersey scrimmage and Saturday's game - the defense did a better job than collectively all of spring generating pressure and turnovers.

After a jersey scrimmage in which the defense was consistently in the backfield, racking up TFLs and sacks, the units had another big day Saturday. Between the Gold and Black squads, the defense had 10 tackles for loss, including seven sacks, forced three fumbles and had two interceptions.

Garrett Hudson, who was traded from the Gold to the Black team earlier in the week to accommodate a missing middle linebacker, had eight tackles. Antoine Miles and Anthony Brown had interceptions.

"The Gold defenses had some good three-and-outs. They weren't out there too long. They did a good job helping to limit our offense," Russell said. "On the Black team, we were running to the ball, just getting lined up and playing hard. We never really faltered. Sometimes they would have longer drives, but we got some stops, so I think it was definitely a positive for both defenses going ahead into the season."

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