Purdue’s defense used words like “embarrassed,” “ashamed,” and “confused” to describe last week’s performance against Notre Dame.
The Irish offense torched the Boilermakers for 551 yards in a 38-10 blowout in Ross-Ade Stadium.
Seven days later, Purdue’s defensive players had a more upbeat tone in defining their play.
“We had to remember what we wanted to be all about,” said defensive end Ryan Russell. “First and foremost we wanted to be a dominant defense, dominate the opponent, dominate the person across from you. So we tried to come out and establish that early.”
Saturday represented a new season for the Boilermakers. After an underwhelming 2-2 start to the year, Purdue is using the beginning of the Big Ten campaign as a redo and an opportunity to turn the season around.
They are off to a good start.
The Boilermakers defense stymied Minnesota, Saturday, en route to a 45-17 win.
“I thought we really came out there and extended a lot of energy and wanted to be a more violent football team,” said head coach Danny Hope. “I thought our football team really showed up and played today.”
On the Gophers’ first five possessions they went three-and-out twice, lost a pair of fumbles including one on their own eleven yard line, and were intercepted for a touchdown.
“When your defense scores it’s a big thing because it actually makes the (opposing) offense think about something,” said cornerback Ricardo Allen. “They can’t come out with every play in their playbook because we get turnovers.”
Not only did the Boilermakers shut Minnesota down, but they did so in record fashion.
Russell recovered the two fumbles, tying a school best for a game and Allen’s 37-yard first quarter interception return for a touchdown was the third of his career. He joins NFL Hall-of-Famer Rod Woodson and Mike Rose as the only Boilermakers to have three pick sixes.
“I was really proud of Ricardo. He’s a resilient young man,” said Hope. “It means a lot to him and I thought [the INT] impacted the game in a lot of ways and at a good time.”
Purdue’s defense appeared as focused and urgent as they have all year.
“I feel like we weren’t able to unleash what we were really able to do last week [against Notre Dame]. We showed something bad on TV.” Allen said. “This was the game to redeem ourselves.”
Maybe Purdue’s performance Saturday was because of the level of competition or maybe it was the fact that there was less pressure of not playing in primetime (there were about 38,000 fans in Ross-Ade, Saturday, compared to more than 65,000 against Notre Dame). Whatever the case, this was a different Boilermakers team.
As good as Purdue played, the team is keeping the victory in perspective. That was probably the most winnable game on the Boilermakers’ conference schedule. They go on the road next week to Happy Valley to face Penn State then take on three teams in consecutive weeks that are currently ranked in the top 25, including contests at Michigan (12th) and Wisconsin (4th).
Minnesota isn’t exactly the cream of the crop in the Big Ten. The Gophers fell to 1-5 with the loss and have been outscored 103-to-17in Big Ten play.
But, the Boilermakers aren’t discounting Saturday’s game, either. They hope to use their best defensive performance of the year to build momentum throughout the rest of the conference season, one that they believe can still be described as a success.
“[We need to] remember this feeling. Remember what we did to prepare. Remember what we talked about and just keep your eye on the prize,” said Russell. “You can’t get too satisfied. Each week is a different season basically. It’s a one season game every week.”