Boilers find their pass rush in win over Illini
Six sacks in six games.
Considering how highly the Purdue coaching staff regards its defensive line, that's not a very impressive total. Especially given that Kawaan Short, Gerald Gooden, Ryan Russell and Jalani Phillips each is a solid pass rusher.
The Boilermakers were much more effective against No. 23 Illinois, sacking Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase four times in a 21-14 victory in Ross-Ade Stadium. The Boilermakers also limited Illinois (6-2) to 121 rushing yards on 33 carries.
Short finished with a pair of sacks among his six total tackles. Gooden had a sack, and linebackers Joe Holland and Dwayne Beckford had half a sack each.
"We tried to look at their weak points," Short said. "It started with Gerald Gooden. Then, everybody jumped on the bandwagon and kept working. The defensive line got together last night and threw out on the table what we tried to do."
Redshirt freshman Russell, who finished with two tackles including half a tackle for loss, said Short was the defensive key.
"(Short) definitely is an amazing player," Russell said. "I try to match his intensity. He is the leader on the defensive line and deserves every opportunity to shine that he gets."
Meanwhile, the full versatility of Purdue's offense was on display with about five minutes left in the first half.
Eight different Boilermakers had at least one rushing attempt. Eight different Boilermakers had caught at least one pass.
"That's how it's been all season," said quarterback Caleb Terbush, who was 12 of 16 for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. "I can really go anywhere, and I feel like we have a chance to make a play. We feel like we have a lot of athletic people out there."
The distribution to multiple weapons makes it difficult on a defense.
"It puts a lot of pressure because they can't key on one guy," Siller said. "I don't think there's one guy that had an outstanding game. It was a great effort from our offense."
--Illinois' A.J. Jenkins entered the Purdue matchup with 895 receiving yards. Having faced Notre Dame's Michael Floyd on Oct. 1, Boilermaker cornerbacks Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson were confident they were prepared to keep Jenkins out of the end zone. While Jenkins had eight catches for 92 yards, he failed to score, and Purdue upset No. 23 Illinois 21-14.
"Coming into the game, he had 54 catches, and the next person on the team had 14," said Allen, whose second-quarter interception of a pass intended for Jenkins killed an Illinois scoring threat.
"We knew with a second-and-short that they were going to go for a shot. I was playing him to the fade, and (Reilly O'Toole) threw it. I tried to pin him out of bounds and went for the ball."
Allen, who finished with 10 tackles to go with the interception, and Johnson wanted to prevent Jenkins from making the big play. Jenkins' most productive catch went for 20 yards.
"We wanted to put this game on us because he is the No. 1 receiver in the country right now," Allen said. "We got some coverage sacks, and we got the quarterback to make some bad throws."
--As it turned out, Purdue's ability to stuff a muffed Illinois punt during the second quarter set up what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
When Illini punter Justin DuVernois bobbled a snap from center with 10:07 remaining in the first half, Boilermakers Chris Carlino and Raheem Mostert tackled DuVernois for a 10-yard loss. That gave Purdue the ball at the Illinois 14.
Four plays later, the Boilermakers had a 21-0 lead when Jared Crank caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Caleb TerBush. Carlino, who lined up just left of center, said Purdue had a punt rush called.
"It was designed pressure from us," Carlino said. "We were bringing the heat. I'm not exactly sure, but I heard he bobbled it, so that may have given us an extra step or two."
--The key plays came in the passing game. TerBush hit Siller for a 32-yard pass on the first scoring drive and connected with O.J. Ross for a 28-yard gain on the second TD drive.
But the play to Siller was pivotal. It came after TerBush was called for intentional grounding, and the Boilermakers facing third-and-21 from midfield.
"They brought somebody, and the pocket collapsed pretty quick," TerBush recalled. "I tried to squeeze out of there, and I was sitting by myself. He was over the top of the corner, so I threw it up to him."
Said Siller: "Looking back, it was a big play. It was a broken play. I got open for Caleb, and he found me and I was able to haul it in. He threw a great ball over the defender."
KEEP AN EYE ON: LB's Dwayne Beckford and Joe Holland -- The pair combined for 22 tackles and one sack. The defensive line took control, giving the linebackers an opportunity to make plays.
LOOKING GOOD: The defense played its best overall game since the 2009 upset victory over Ohio State. The Illini didn't have an answer for Purdue's defense, which held them to 128 first-half yards.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Although comfortably ahead, the Boilermakers didn't finish strong. They only produced 75 yards in the second half after posting 229 in the first 30 minutes.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've come a long way in the last two or three weeks in terms of pressuring the quarterback. That's really what we have to do. We can be an awfully good secondary, but we have to have a good pass rush." -- Purdue coach Danny Hope.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Following the Illini's second touchdown with 54 seconds to play, the Boilermakers knew an onside kick was coming.
Justin Siller fielded Derek Dimke's attempt to seal the victory.
"They kicked it real high -- and it got in the sun a little bit -- but the blockers did a good job of keeping guys off of me and I went up and made a routine catch," Siller said.
--Junior defensive end Robert Maci has undergone surgery to repair a foot injury and is lost for the season.
"We're going to miss him an awful lot," Purdue coach Danny Hope said.
"He is where he is supposed to be almost all the time. It has caused Ryan Russell to have to step up some. (Maci) helps us bring pressure off the edge."
--For the third time this season, stayed with one quarterback. TerBush was solid in the first half, helping the Boilermakers build a three-touchdown lead.
"I saw control, persistence, a command of our intensity and good play," Siller said. "He did a great job commanding the huddle and controlling the game and controlling what their defense wanted to do.
"They're a high pressure team and he did a great job of getting the line in the right spot to pick up the blitzes. He grew up today and is headed in the right direction."
Hope nearly inserted backup quarterback Robert Marve in the second quarter. Marve had played in the last four games.
"Looked like Caleb was going to be red hot today," Hope said. "He started off that way."
--RT Trevor Foy made his fourth straight start.
The TSX Files: Purdue Monday
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