Rapid Reaction: Appleby's picks sink Purdue
Final: Marshall 41, Purdue 31
Telling stat: Purdue’s 21 third-down attempts
Purdue just did not make it easy enough for itself early on downs. Too many plays were wasted by poorly thrown balls or just well-executed defense. Yes, Purdue did run the ball plenty early on downs, but far too often Austin Appleby was asked to make a big play late in the sequence. Darrell Hazell doesn’t want to rely on that.
Key play: Tiquan Lang returns INT for 55-yard score to close game
Take your pick of Lang’s picks. The Marshall defensive back started the game off in electric fashion with a pick-six of Appleby and did the same exact thing when the Boilers were trying to mount a last-minute drive. Appleby will have nightmares about Lang jumping routes and sinking the hearts of Boilermaker fans. By the way, he had 17 tackles. You know, just for good measure.
-Purdue’s got back
And by that, I mean running backs. One of the biggest questions coming into 2015 was whether or not Purdue’s two underclassman tailbacks would be able to rally behind a veteran offensive line. If Sunday was any indication, that shouldn’t be a problem. D.J. Knox got starting duties and racked up 102 yards and a score. He wasn’t afraid to deliver the blow, either, which is saying something about a 5-7 sophomore. Equally impressive was true freshman Markell Jones, who flashed his second-level speed on a 36-yard touchdown run. Appleby looked inconsistent, but Hazell would be wise to build a ground-and-pound offense behind these two.
Something had to give on Sunday in Huntington. Purdue hadn’t won a non-conference road game since 2007 and Marshall hadn’t ever beat a Big Ten team. Before Sunday, that is. In Purdue’s defense, this was a 13-win team that returned one of the nation’s most talented backs. And for most of the day, JaWhaun Bentley and the Boilermaker defense held him in check. But the defense wore down and 245-pound Devon Johnson plowed his way for the go-ahead score in the final three minutes. Purdue’s non-conference road skid will have to continue into 2016.
What it means: Purdue is not a one Big Ten-win team
Let’s be honest. The Boilermakers went into Sunday as a touchdown underdog on the heels of a one-win Big Ten season. To pull out a victory in Huntington would’ve been a major lift. They couldn’t close the deal, but there were plenty of moments that made you buy what Hazell has been selling. The offensive line looked much better than it did in 2014. The defense has playmakers like Bentley and Frankie Williams that will be All-Big Ten candidates. And as mentioned earlier, they have a pair of promising backs. Barring injury, this should be a much more competitive group than the last two years.
What’s next: vs. Indiana State
Some home cooking will do the Boilermakers well. They still need to tackle better and Appleby has some work to do to better gel with his receivers. But if Purdue is as physical at the point of attack as it was on Sunday, it’ll roll past Indiana State.