Purdue got its one-sided win over I-AA Indiana State Saturday in Ross-Ade Stadium, but it was far from flawless.
"Like I told the team in the locker room (afterwards), 'We're not going to cancel any practices,'" Coach Joe Tiller said.
And the 60-35 win came with a steep price. Safety Torri Williams sustained a severe knee injury in the third quarter and is likely lost for the season, leaving the Boilermakers without arguably their most irreplaceable defensive player.
Williams' injury was the hot topic following the game, justifiably so, distracting from a game that would qualify as a "ho-hum" sort of performance from a Purdue team looking to rebound from a disappointing 2005 season.
The Boilermakers started hot.
Kory Sheets returned the opening kickoff 56 yards, then scored a five-yard touchdown, his first of three scores.
Then, cornerback Aaron Lane stuffed an ISU swing pass in the end zone for a safety.
QB Curtis Painter engineered a 69-yard scoring drive, then walked untouched three yards in the end zone, with only nine Sycamores on the field.
The scoring flurry, all of which took place in the first eight minutes of the game, left Purdue sitting pretty with a 16-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
But ISU answered with an impressive 78-yard scoring drive on which it averaged nearly eight yards per play, knifing through the Boilermaker defense with swings and a variety of other quick passes.
"Their first drive, we weren't thinking," linebacker Dan Bick said. "We were too excited and wanted to kill somebody. We weren't focusing on our assignments and what we were supposed to be doing."
Purdue responded with a six-play, 68-yard TD drive, scoring on its fourth drive in a row, this one concluding with a 41-yard Painter strike to Dorien Bryant.
But the second quarter was a nightmare for Purdue.
The offense punted on its next possession before having to settle for a field goal after Stanford Keglar's interception gave it ideal field position.
Purdue would be forced into punts on its next two possessions, with nightmarish results.
First, Donye McCleskey blocked Jared Armstrong's punt and fell on it in the end zone. Purdue's personal protector on the punt team missed his block.
Then, Armstrong simply dropped a slightly errant, but catchable, snap and was dropped at the Boilermakers' 14-yard line.
"What do they do after they get (a punt) blocked?" Tiller said, explaining Armstrong's blunder. "They look at the rush, don't they? It was a learning moment."
Two plays later, Tony West scored from five yards out to make it a 26-21 game with just 18 seconds to go in the first half.
Purdue came out of the second quarter with just three points, as its offense inexplicably fell into a malaise.
"We got too relaxed and started beating ourselves," Painter said. "It was just some little things we should have been in control of."
Control was regained in the second half, as the Boilermakers scored five touchdowns in five drives.
Painter scored on a three-yard run at 8:41. Sheets scored from a yard out at 3:07. Sheets ran it in from seven at 13:12 of the fourth quarter. Painter hit Bryant for 53-yard TD and a one-play drive with 10:51 to play. And finally, backup QB Joey Elliott hit Desmond Tardy for a 24-yard TD in the closing minutes.
The defense also stiffened in the second. Its lone ghastly blunder was allowing West to break free for a 42-yard TD run. But that play came a few plays after Williams had suffered a devastating knee injury on the Purdue sideline, jumping for an unplayable ball.
The defense was clearly shocked and distracted.
The ISU TD also came a few plays after the Sycamores were bailed out of third-and-long when a ball that clearly bounced in front of a receiver was ruled complete.
The Boilermaker defense had some second-half highlights. Bick forced a key fourth-down fumble, stuffing QB Reilly Murphy and forcing the ball loose. Safety Justin Scott later intercepted Murphy.
Indiana State rounded out the scoring with a 23-yard touchdown pass against Purdue backup defenders, with just two seconds to play.
Painter finished the game 16-of-30 for 261 yards and two touchdowns, running for two other scores.
Bryant caught six of those passes for 154 yards and two TDs. Tight end Dustin Keller had four catches for 55 yards.
The Boilermakers played without senior receiver Kyle Ingraham, who's now sidelined by some academic uncertainty stemming from his time spent this past spring at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. When asked if he was optimistic Ingraham would return this season, Tiller said, "I don't know."
Sheets ran for 128 yards on 17 carries and scored thrice, while catching three passes.
Anthony Spencer led the Purdue defense, with a team-high-tying seven stops, with three for loss, a sack and a breakup. Bick and Cliff Avril also had seven tackles.
The defense yielded 387 yards —235 passing — to a team that went winless in Division I-AA last season.
"It was definitely not a perfect day for us (defensively)," Spencer said. "… I think it was great game-planning on their part, but at the half, we made the adjustments we needed to make to get the win."
Williams will undergo surgery as soon as possible, Tiller said. It is believed that he sustained damage to multiple ligaments in his knee. He sat out last season after breaking his leg and undergoing surgery on his foot.
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