Throughout their five-game losing streak, the Purdue Boilermakers have been victimized repeatedly by the turnover bug.
Turns out other teams can catch the bug too.
The Ohio State Buckeyes visited Ross-Ade Stadium Saturday and immediately began to do their best Purdue impression, committing five giveaways (including a fumble on the game’s second snap) and dropping a 26-18 stunner that shocked fans throughout the college football world.
The Boilermakers snapped an insanely long losing streak against ranked teams, defeating a Top 25 opponent for the first time since 2003, and delivered Danny Hope a signature victory that was a long time coming.
Hope’s first-ever Big Ten win is one that folks in West Lafayette won’t soon forget, and can directly be attributed to improvements in all three phases of football.
The offense moved the ball consistently, led by Aaron Valentin’s two touchdown catches and Keith Smith’s fourth straight 100-yard receiving game.
The defense benefited from two third-quarter Brandon King interceptions, harassed Terrelle Pryor on nearly every play, and got the game of a lifetime from defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who amassed nine tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks, and two forced fumbles.
And last but not least, the much-maligned special teams unit came up big for the Boilermakers in the upset win, as placekicker Carson Wiggs connected on four field goals, including a 55-yarder at the end of the first half to put the home team on top for good.
Purdue didn’t completely eliminate the mistakes that have haunted them, committing three turnovers, including a red zone interception on an inexplicable halfback pass from seldom-used Dan Dierking, but the Boilers won the turnover battle for the first time in forever.
Hope’s players (who gave him the game ball after the upset victory) have talked for weeks about needing to make the one big play that can turn losses into wins, (especially after heartbreaking defeats against Notre Dame and Northwestern), and the Boilers finally did that with a fourth-down stop of the Buckeyes in the game’s final minutes.
Quarterback Joey Elliott deserves special mention, as the fifth-year senior played arguably the finest game of his career to date. Elliott hit on 31 of 50 passes for 281 yards, leading at least one Ohio State player to dub him the best signal-caller the Bucks have faced all year.
The Purdue victory snapped a 16-game Ohio State conference road winning streak, one short of the league record, and it honestly couldn’t have come at a more important time for Hope and his struggling squad.
If the Boilermakers can build on the momentum they found as the final whistle blew Saturday (and the half of Ross-Ade Stadium not wearing red poured onto the field), fans may look back on this game as the day Purdue turned the corner.
Hope’s predecessor, Joe Tiller, used a 1997 upset of Notre Dame to springboard his program to the best run in school history (10 bowl appearances in 12 years). Only time will tell if Saturday’s 26-18 win will do the same for this group of Boilers and their first-year coach.
At least this week, optimism reigns supreme.
What a difference seven days makes.
Week Eight prediction: Purdue 34, Illinois 27
For more Big Ten football coverage from Bleacher Report writers Tim Cary, Kristofer Green, and Kevin Paul, visit FirstandBigTen.com .