WEST LAFAYETTE – After three weeks, it seemed like Purdue could be in for a long season. When a team with high expectations starts off 0-3, with one of the three losses coming to Eastern Michigan, fans and observers will naturally ask: What went wrong?
For Purdue, it was self-inflicted errors. The Boilers lost those games by eight points combined and could have won all three if they had cleaned up their own mistakes and had some breaks go their way.
Those things happened Saturday and the result was a dominant 30-13 victory over No. 23 Boston College, which came in undefeated and boasting one of the hottest offenses in the country. None of that mattered against a Purdue team that played with purpose for the first time this season.
Rondale Moore was spectacular again, going for 110 yards receiving and two touchdowns, but the defense was the story of this game. Boston College came in averaging 561 yards of offense per game and had negative-14 in the second quarter, just 37 in the first half and didn't hit the 100-yard mark for total offense until the fourth quarter.
In addition, the Boilermakers picked off quarterback Anthony Brown four times. Brown came in with nine touchdowns and no interceptions this season. The Boilers' game plan was clearly to load the box and make Boston College beat them through the air. The secondary was up to the task and the Eagles were rendered ineffective for the entirety of the last three quarters until a garbage-time touchdown when the game was well in hand.
"We loaded it up early and stopped them a little bit and we got a lead," coach Jeff Brohm said. "That caused them to have to throw a little bit more than they wanted. It took them out of their game."
Boston College finished more than 300 yards below its season average coming into the game and Purdue's defense made a statement after giving up more than 600 yards to Missouri last week.
Really, the whole team made a statement. The offense was solid all afternoon and actually left some points on the board with some conservative play-calling in the second half as the Boilers tried to work the clock. The offense was also spectacular at times, especially when the ball was in Moore's hands. Moore's 70-yard go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter was his sixth score of the season and he'd add another in the second half. It's been clear for a while that the true freshman is a special player and he added to his growing legend today.
"He's phenomenal and we saw it in the summer," quarterback David Blough said. "Everybody kept asking me at the beginning of the year, 'Is it unfair to put that pressure on him?' Frankly I don't think so because he has it in him. He's great. He's an incredible player."
Moore's 70-yard score was reviewed – it looked like his knee came close to touching the ground – but unlike Jared Sparks' overturned touchdown against Missouri, the call stood and Purdue led the rest of the way. That was indicative of the game for the Boilers. After a frustrating first three games, the breaks finally went their way and they made some of their own with the four turnovers. Purdue committed just two penalties for 25 yards and although it turned the ball over twice, neither was in a particularly important moment. Part of that goes back to hard work even when the losses piled up, which is what Brohm wanted to see.
"You want to feel bad, you want to be a little ticked off and angry (after losses)," the coach said. "You want it to cause you to say, 'We're not going to do this anymore, we've gotta get this thing fixed.'"
On Saturday, that work showed. Without looking too far ahead (okay, maybe that's exactly what I'm doing), Purdue has games against Illinois and Nebraska in the next three weeks, plus a bye. Those matchups seems eminently winnable and a pair of victories would bring the Boilers right back to 3-3. Don't write this season off just yet.