A six-minute snapshot

Purdue had its opportunities in a stretch of misfortunes. Boiler Sports Report's Jeff Washburn offers a snapshot of the Boilermakers' biggest what-if moments.

WEST LAFAYETTE - It was a six-minute snapshot of what has gone consistently wrong this season for the reeling Purdue football team.

Visiting Illinois was 0-14 in Big Ten Conference games for second-year coach Tim Beckman until literally surviving 20-16 on Saturday afternoon in Ross-Ade Stadium, where an announced crowd of 37,459 was more like 25,000 actually seated in the venue.

But it really did not have to end that way if not for an everything-that-can-go-wrong will-go-wrong sequence for Purdue (1-10) that actually began with a nice Ricardo Allen interception of Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase deep in Boilermaker territory with 12:02 remaining in the third quarter and the game tied at 14.

Purdue moved the ball nicely out from the shadow of its own goalpost to its 42-yard line and faced fourth-and-one. It appeared the Boilermakers might try to convert but were called for a delay of game penalty, creating fourth-and-six.

The Boilermakers punted, and Illinois fumbled, giving the ball right back to Danny Etling and the Purdue offense at the Illini 27. On third down, Etling had Danny Anthrop wide open on a crossing route, but Anthrop dropped what might have been a go-ahead touchdown.

On fourth down, Purdue lined up for a potential Paul Griggs go-ahead field goal, but a fake was called, and holder Cody Webster was tackled well short of the first-down marker with 6:10 on the clock.

Having been given two golden opportunities to take the lead with the wind at its back, Purdue got nothing. It was the beginning of what would not be a pretty ending for the Boilermakers.

And really, there was one more shake your head moment for Purdue before the third quarter ended. With 1:54 on the clock, Boilermaker Frankie Williams fielded a punt at his own 16-yard line and raced 84 yards for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown.

But as so often happens to struggling teams, Purdue was guilty of an illegal block in the back soon after Williams caught the ball, and the Boilermakers began the drive at their own 11 instead of preparing to kick an extra point after the Williams punt return.

Consider this for a moment: Illinois (4-7, 1-6 in the Big Ten) turned the ball over four times, but Purdue did not score a single point as the result of the four Illini turnovers. And after scoring two touchdowns during the game's first 11:41, the Boilermakers did not score again until Illinois took an intentional safety on the game's final play.

Remember, this is an Illinois defense that had allowed 39, 56, 42, 24, 52 and 60 points in six consecutive Big Ten defeats before traveling to West Lafayette.

The defeat extended the Purdue losing streak to nine, leaving only a date at high-octane Indiana next Saturday if the Boilermakers hope to give first-year coach Darrell Hazell a Big Ten victory in his initial season in this conference.

This is a game Purdue could have and should have won, but failing to capitalize on any of Illinois' four turnovers and having Williams' 84-yard punt return for an apparent TD negated by a silly illegal block in the back penalty wrote yet another chapter in the worst Boilermaker football season I ever have seen, and I've been watching for 51 years.

Hazell has the personality and charisma to change the current football culture at Purdue, but it is obvious he will need a patient fan base and a patient athletic director for that to happen.

Selling tickets for the 2014 season will require a marketing genius and a recruiting class that will inspire Boilermaker supporters to shell out hard-earned money.

It is going to be a difficult task in what has become difficult times for the Purdue football program.

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