Osipoff: Win should get Purdue football in bowl
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or firstname.lastname@example.org November 14, 2011 11:12PM
Updated: December 16, 2011 8:22AM
WEST LAFAYETTE — Amid the jubilation, Will Lucas had his helmet in his hands, then rolled it down the Ross-Ade Stadium field, striking a little bit of a pose on the follow-through.
“It gets us one step closer to a bowl,” the sophomore linebacker, more composed, said after Purdue’s 26-23 overtime victory over Ohio State on Saturday.
Who would have thought it?
After back-to-back blowout losses at Michigan and Wisconsin, the Boilermakers’ season seemed to be in trouble.
And after their stirring win against the Buckeyes?
At 5-5, needing just one victory with two regular-season games remaining to become bowl-eligible, it would seem they’d be hard-pressed not to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007.
Heck, they even could be in a position to land somewhere (say, Texas?) other than Ford Field in Detroit for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (formerly the Motor City Bowl, where they played in ‘07, Joe Tiller’s penultimate season).
Look, this isn’t exactly a vintage Ohio State team, in the aftermath of the scandal that cost Jim Tressel his job.
But by no means undersell what Purdue accomplished, either. The Boilermakers, who have defeated the Buckeyes two straight games in West Lafayette for the first time, turned in a serious performance.
The defense contained Ohio State’s running game after disastrous results against the Wolverines and Badgers, and senior quarterback Robert Marve came through in the clutch. And, oh, by the way, Bruce Gaston made perhaps Purdue’s play of the season, with his blocked extra point.
“It was probably the most exciting 30 minutes of football I’ve ever been a part of,” senior linebacker Joe Holland said. “We started this season off with a goal to be a special team, and a goal to kind of turn things around ˜ put Purdue back on the map, where it was when we all got here. I think we took a huge step.”
The Boilermakers, who have not won consecutive games this season, next play a credible Iowa team (one that already has that magic number of six wins) at home, on Senior Day; Purdue is 5-1 at Ross-Ade this season, with its only loss coming to Notre Dame, and the Hawkeyes are 0-3 on the road.
And, of course, the Boilermakers, 0-4 on the road this season, close with a trip to Indiana. They should — should — be able to beat the Hoosiers. But anything is possible when the Old Oaken Bucket is on the line (look no further than last season for evidence).
“We want to win both games,” junior running back Ralph Bolden said. “But that’s what we want to do. Since our season started, we’ve wanted to go to a bowl game. No matter what bowl it is, we have to go to a bowl game.”
He’s right — at this stage, with this program, Purdue must go to a bowl.
Each game is an entity unto itself; it’s a week-to-week proposition.
But, yet again, the Boilermakers have altered the complexion of their season. After downing Ohio State, anything but a postseason appearance for them in coach Danny Hope’s third season would be a blow.
There certainly are no guarantees. They could turn around and lose both of their final two games.
But Purdue has a golden opportunity it cannot allow to slip away.
“Our goal is to make it to a bowl game, and that’s what we’re destined for,” Marve said.