It's hard to know exactly what to make of a game like this one. Purdue's definitely not good, Michigan State may or may not be good, the weather was awful, the offenses were awful … so let's talk about the defense instead.
Purdue kept the Spartan offense off the scoreboard for nearly 3.5 quarters today, and MSU had to resort to a trick play to get their touchdown. (Well, maybe they didn't have to, but they chose to run it, right?) Connor Cook was as unimpressive as you would expect, given the conditions, but it's worth noting that Etling had half again as many yards as his Spartan counterpart; the inability of Michigan State receivers to get yards after catch is something we can credit, at least partially, to the Good Guys.
The Boilers were flagged for just three penalties, half their season average – did you know that Purdue opponents have been called for just 24 penalties in 7 games? (Insert joke about Big Ten refs here.) They had just two turnovers, one of which was essentially the deciding play: a twist that brought a LB in untouched as the Boiler line focused on the inside guy. I'd say that the LT needs to focus on any pressure, not just the obvious, and maybe that was the case, but if it weren't for a lucky break (the ball bounced up into Allen's hands like it was perfectly round, so he didn't have to break stride, and of course no one's going to catch a defender at full speed on a sack), the resulting possession could easily have been a field goal or nothing.
Frankie Williams had a nice 40-yard punt return that gave Purdue great field position, but unfortunately it was with 1:03 left in the half, and of course the Boilers promptly squandered it … except that MSU committed both of their penalties on that very drive, allowing Griggs to try an unrealistic 51-yard kick with 9 seconds left. It's hard to fault Hazell for that choice, because you don't want another sack-fumble-TD to put Sparty up 14, 9 seconds isn't enough time to make a play inbounds and call timeout (if they even had any left, I don't remember), and even though the weather was nasty, sometimes strange things happen. I suppose it would have been safer to try a screen to Hunt, except that they did that early in the drive and it got smothered.
Same deal with Purdue's opening drive in the third quarter. The big play of the day, the 43-yarder from Etling to Hunt, had Purdue in normal FG range, but after getting 1 yard on second and 2 and fumbling the snap (I'm assuming; Yahoo doesn't exactly say) on third and one, it's again an array of poor choices for Hazell. The weather sucks, but you just missed two shots at the first down, and you didn't even execute one of them. Sure, three points isn't going to help you much, but this team may be at the point where they need the emotional boost from scoring. Griggs didn't connect, and MSU took over.
It's hard for me to be upset about this result. A bad team went into a tough place to play, in bad conditions, and kept the game close pretty much the whole way. The biggest mistake Purdue made wasn't a jaw-droppingly bad play, like some we've seen, just a missed assignment and a lucky bounce. The Boilers gave up some easy yards but rarely allowed them to count. It's accurate to say that MSU was vulnerable today, but this Purdue team isn't good enough to take advantage of that. Etling got sacked a number of times, but MSU has a really strong defense this year, and when the OL kept him upright, he did OK in terrible weather.
Up next: another bye. I think we could all use one.