When the Purdue Boilermakers scored a 2nd quarter touchdown to take a 20-3 lead over the #16 Oregon Ducks, I began to question how they would react mentally. Would Coach Joe Tiller play conservative and run more, thus changing his core offensive strategy? Would Purdue be able to continuously bring the offensive and defensive intensity that carried them to an early lead?
As I predicted, Oregon did make a vicious comeback. The Ducks used big plays and a solid kicking game to tie the game with 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for Curtis Painter to lead Purdue on The Rivalry's Drive of the Week.
Picture's for The Rivalry's Drive of the Week have been provided by Tom of Indy Cornrows, SBN's Indianapolis Pacers site. Check out his in-depth Pacers site here, I don't care if its not basketball season. Also, leave your condolences for him after this scarring Purdue loss.
Score: Purdue 23, Oregon 23
1st and 10 at PU 20, 5:06 left in the 4th Quarter.
Curtis Painter is the man you want at quarterback right now. The knock on this veteran quarterback is that he has failed to win big games, but this talented senior knows the offense like the back of his hand and has shown no fear of the athletic Duck defense.
A confident Curtis Painter in the shotgun offense.
Painter quickly rewards the fervent hometown fans by completing a strike to Greg Orton for seven yards. After a three yard run by Korey Sheets and a pass interference penalty against the Ducks, Purdue has a first down on it's own 38 yard line.
One of the big questions Purdue had this year was whether the offensive line could help Tiller's offense generate rushing yards. The Rivalry wrote in it's Big 10 Preview:
Still, a young, injury prone line needs to develop, first to protect the pass, and second to promote a sound ground game.
Mission completed for the Baby Boilers O-line. On the final drive of regulation, the youthful line provides Painter time to throw and opens up running lanes for Sheets. Behind the solid front five, Purdue gets a couple five yard jaunts by Sheets and short passes to Desmond Tardy to move down to the Oregon 31 with one minute left in regulation. On one particularly good play, Tardy shields the Oregon defender from the ball and catches a bullet while being hit. No wonder he has become Painters favorite target in clutch situations.
Purdue maturely spots the ball in the middle of the field with two seconds remaining in regulation. Kicker Chris Summers calmly trots out and barely badly misses a 44 yard field goal, bringing back images of Indianapolis Colts kicker Mike Vanderjact blowing a tying field goal in the 2005 AFC Championship. Does the state of Indiana need placekicking lessons?
The fateful missed field goal. What can Painter do about a kicker with no range?
With momentum long gone, Painter and the offense fall flat in overtime and Oregon seals the victory with a short touchdown run in the double OT.
Drive Analysis: Tiller's Balance, or, 3 Positives
Coach Joe Tiller, a favorite of The Rivalry because of his graying Ned Flandersesque mustache, refused to go pass happy all day. His play calling on this drive relayed his insistence to run a balanced offensive attack (More Proof of Tillers Balance: 408 total yards for Purdue's offense Saturday - 207 in the air, 201 on the ground). This "basketball on grass" guru holds the keys to a doubly dangerous attack when he posseses an effective running game.
Tiller also precedes over a team that played fearlessly against the highly ranked Ducks. With the West Lafayette crowd screaming in support, Painter and the offense showed great poise by methodically driving down for a potential game winning field goal. Although the 1990's once turned "no fear" into a T Shirt fad, the aforementioned catchphrase also described Purdue's play on Saturday.
The gutsy Boilermakers showed Oregon (and everyone else) that it has successfully addressed its supposed weaknesses. With an improved O-line and new targets for Painter, Purdue fans can be seek consolation from this loss knowing that the 2008 Gold and Black are a talented, improved unit.