So long, road losing streak.
Goodbye, 43 years of frustration.
Welcome back, postseason hopes.
The Purdue Boilermakers erased a 14-point second-half deficit at Michigan Stadium to shock the Wolverines 38-36, securing their first road win in over two years. The Boilers got a career-high 367 passing yards from quarterback Joey Elliott, three touchdowns from tailback Ralph Bolden, and a perfectly-called onside kick from coach Danny Hope to post their first victory in Ann Arbor since 1966.
Purdue completely changed the momentum of the game after pulling within six, 30-24, in the third quarter, as the surprise onside kick attempt caught Michigan completely unaware. Elliott found a wide-open Cortez Smith for a 54-yard touchdown on the very next play, and just like that, the Boilermakers had a lead they would never relinquish.
Defensive lineman Ryan Kerrigan continued his stellar play with a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and most importantly, a takedown of Wolverine quarterback Tate-Forcier on a potential game-tying two-point conversion in the final minutes. While the defense continues to struggle against the run (Michigan’s Brandon Minor had 154 rushing yards and three touchdowns), the Boilers have been able to manufacture more pocket pressure as the season has gone on, and Forcier was the latest opposing signal-caller to struggle against Kerrigan and company.
On the offensive side of the ball, Keith Smith continues to impress. Smith posted a game-high 11 grabs for 84 yards, setting the tone from the opening play of the game. (The star junior wide receiver also wore “Fort Hood” on his eye black to pay tribute to the victims of the tragic shooting in his hometown last week.)
The win over Michigan improves Purdue’s record to 4-6, and despite a horrific five-game losing streak earlier in 2009, gives the Boilermakers a realistic chance to qualify for postseason play. The Boilers need a win over Michigan State in this weekend’s home finale coupled with a victory in Bloomington the following week to retain the Old Oaken Bucket. Back-to-back triumphs would give Purdue the six wins needed to become bowl-eligible, a significant accomplishment in Hope’s debut season.
As Indiana has shown the ability to implode seemingly at will, the Boilermakers’ fate seems to rest in Saturday’s showdown against the Michigan State Spartans. Purdue will be celebrating Senior Day, and Boilermaker fans have the chance to fill Ross-Ade Stadium and help Hope’s young squad take a significant step toward the postseason.
In a postgame interview, Hope told viewers all over the nation that “Boilermakers never give up.” While some fans may have prematurely written off the 2009 Purdue football team, Hope and his players refused to quit, and they deserve all the credit in the world for not throwing in the towel.
Who would have thought a few weeks ago this team would be the first squad in Old Gold and Black since the days of Drew Brees to knock off Ohio State and Michigan in the same season?
Who would have thought that (as much as we dared to dream) Joey Elliott could really be the second coming of Billy Dicken, circa 1997?
Who would have thought a 1-5 team could turn its season around so dramatically?
It’s happened, folks.
Oh, and something tells me the Purdue coaching staff won’t hold a grudge against skeptical fans. If that’s you, better late than never...jump on board, buy a ticket for Saturday’s big game, show your support for a gritty never-say-die ballclub, and help turn Joey Elliott and the rest of this resilient senior class into “Bowlermakers.”
After all, Boilermakers never give up.
Week 11 prediction: Purdue 30, Michigan State 26
For more Big Ten football coverage from Bleacher Report writers Tim Cary, Kristofer Green, and Kevin Paul, visit FirstandBigTen.com.