WEST LAFAYETTE – After the pounding Indiana State took in week one against the Hoosiers of Indiana University, Purdue Boilermaker fans may have thought the visit by the Sycamores would be a walkover.
An interception by Ricardo Allen in the final minute kept Indiana State from pulling off a huge stunner as Purdue held on for a 20-14 win Saturday afternoon at a sun-drenched Ross-Ade Stadium.
The interception was the big play Purdue needed as Indiana State looked more than capable of capturing the lead after posting an absolute egg in Bloomington last week in a 73-35 loss. Purdue led 17-0 in the third quarter before the Sycamores showed life, cutting the lead to 20-14 when Demory Lawshe hauled in a 17-yard pass from quarterback Mike Perish.
Indiana State put together a big drive, starting at its own 10 and marching into Purdue territory before sputtering out. The next Purdue possession saw the Boilers go backward to its own two, forcing a punt. Indiana State took over at the Purdue 41, and after a play, Perish fired across the turf into the waiting arms of Allen, ushering a huge sigh of relief in West Lafayette.
“We made it difficult today, but we’ll take the win whenever we can get one,” said Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell. “(Ricardo) is a big time player, he makes those plays and sees the field well. He made a great break on the ball to pick it and seal the win.”
Purdue looked to match the Hoosiers in stunning fashion when Purdue ran a reverse on the opening kickoff, beginning with BJ Knauf taking the kick and handing it to Akeem Hunt, who ran it back 90 yards for a touchdown. Purdue, however, wouldn’t score its first offensive touchdown until Knauf rushed 16 yards to the corner of the endzone with 5:08 to go in the third quarter.
“That was a big play for us, the reverse call to Akeem,” Hazell said. “We have practiced that for about 10 days, and we decided to use it.”
Purdue added two field goals from Paul Griggs, hitting 18 and 37-yard conversions. Indiana State got on the board at the 2:44 mark of the third quarter when George Cheeseborough caught a 36-yard touchdown pass.
“I thought we did a little bit better in the second half, but we have to become a much more efficient offense,” Hazell said. “I thought (Purdue quarterback) Rob (Henry) was a little more comfortable this week, but he needs to make more strides heading into next week.”
Purdue could have salted the game away earlier in the contest, but a failed conversion on first and goal at the one just before half led to no points and another first and goal at the one had Indiana State hold on three plays to force the Griggs chip shot.
Indiana State outgained Purdue 295-284, Perish throwing for 256 yards but the Sycamores only gained 39 yards on the ground with starting running back Shakir Bell out with an injury. Henry was 15-24 for 150 yards in the air, and Hunt led the Boilers on the ground with 22 rushes for 89 yards.
Purdue (1-1) will host the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame next Saturday night, an 8 p.m. kickoff. The game will be televised nationally on ABC. Indiana State (0-2) will play its home opener next Saturday when it hosts Quincy.