Michael Osipoff: Rice delivers kick in the gut to Boilers
By Michael Osipoff email@example.com | 648-3137 September 12, 2011 11:22PM
Tyler Parish, Brent Hotard
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:47AM
There was the loss to Northern Illinois in 2009.
There was the loss to Toledo last season.
And then there was the loss to Rice over the weekend.
This Boilermakers loss to the Owls might not have been as head-scratching as those other two (though the manner in which they lost was simply stunning). After all, no one expected Purdue to roll past Rice. And the games against Northern Illinois and Toledo were at Ross-Ade Stadium, as opposed to on the road deep in the heart (and heat) of Texas.
Still, this game against the Owls — a program that had lost 22 straight games to BCS conference opponents dating to a 15-13 victory against Duke on Sept. 8, 2001, and had not defeated a Big Ten opponent since a 40-34 victory at Northwestern on Sept. 20, 1997 — was eminently winnable for the Boilermakers, and one they should have won.
Despite any issues throughout the course of the game, they were squarely in position to win it. Despite something of a scramble as time was ticking down to zero, they had to relish their chances with the game riding on the right foot of Carson Wiggs for a 31-yard field goal, a veritable chip shot for the All-American-caliber kicker.
But, alas, Purdue’s game ended for the second straight week on a blocked field goal by a player named Allen (first Ricardo, then Justin).
So the Boilermakers head into their “showdown” with FCS member (Division I-AA still feels right) Southeast Missouri State on a bitterly down note, before an actual bye week and their prime-time game against Notre Dame to kick off the meat of their schedule.
They take questions with them, many centering on coach Danny Hope’s game management against Rice.
Should the Boilermakers have kicked a potential game-winning field goal on third down, even at the risk of leaving some time on the clock for Rice?
On fourth-and-1 from their own 25-yard line, should they have called a timeout with 3:46 left in the game, having briefly considered going for it, then sending the offense back onto the field in an apparent attempt to draw an offside penalty, and ultimately punting? How valuable might that timeout have been as they were attempting to kick the late field goal?
Trailing 24-17, should they have gone for it on fourth-and-1 from the Rice 2 with a minute-plus left in the third quarter, with Akeem Shavers getting stopped (though Kawann Short, with a little help from Joe Holland, immediately recorded a safety after the Owls took over on downs)?
A few minutes earlier in the third, should they have sent out Wiggs to try a 51-yard field goal instead of punting (which did pin back Rice at its 1)?
Again, Purdue still should have won the game, if not on the closing field goal (primarily), then with other opportunities along the way.
The game began ominously for the Boilermakers when O.J. Ross couldn’t haul in what would have been a 60-yard touchdown pass from Caleb TerBush.
(As an aside, Robert Marve did not play in the game. And, for that matter, nor did Sean Robinson, as TerBush went the whole way, the only quarterback to see the field. Also of note, Ralph Bolden had 11 carries, with three coming on the final possession.)
They allowed Rice touchdowns on both the last series of the first half — on the final play, tying the score going into the locker room — and the first series of the second half.
They committed three penalties on third down that sustained Owls scoring drives.
Purdue eked out a victory against Middle Tennessee State, theoretically a learning experience for the team, but couldn’t do likewise against Rice.
In a season in which it’s becoming even increasingly clearer that victories will be at a premium for the Boilermakers, they could ill afford to have lost that game, one that realistically was projected for the “W” column, from before the season right up until the final play unfolded.