Dienhart: Little Caesars Bowl Reaction

Purdue got the Big Ten off to a good start in the conference’s first of a record 10 bowl games, holding off Western Michigan 37-32 in the Little Caesars Bowl on Tuesday. The win marked Purdue’s first bowl win under Danny Hope and its first since winning the 2007 Motor City Bowl. See what BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart learned from the Little Caesars Bowl and check out our entire bowl schedule.

Final: Purdue 37, Western Michigan 32 AP RECAP

My pick: Purdue 31, Western Michigan 29

WHAT I LEARNED
1. Purdue didn’t miss RB Ralph Bolden. The team’s leading rusher missed the game with a knee injury, the third of his career. But the Boilermakers still rushed with aplomb behind JC transfer Akeem Shavers. The lithe speedster ran 22 times for 149 yards to lead a ground game that notched 266 yards. Prior to this contest, Shavers’ season-high was 75 yards vs. FCS Southeast Missouri State in September. The Boilers entered the game sixth in the Big Ten in rushing (174.7 ypg). The ground game helped keep the prolific Western Michigan offense on the sideline for extended stretches, which was key for a Purdue defense that couldn’t stop WMU WR Jordan White (13 catches, 265 yards).

2. The Boilermakers’ special teams were as good as advertised. Raheem Mostert ran back a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. He entered the game No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 6 in the nation with a 31.0-yard average. Not bad for a true freshman. Want more? The Boilermakers recovered two onside kicks, and K Carson Wiggs booted three field goals. Without those contributions, Purdue most likely would have lost the game.

3. This was a win Purdue really needed. It allowed the Boilermakers to finish 7-6, their first winning record since the school capped an 8-5 season in 2007 with a victory in this bowl (then the Motor City) over Central Michigan—Purdue’s last bowl appearance. In that game, the Boilers used a potent air game led by QB Curtis Painter to total 546 passing yards with just 41 on the ground. Purdue needed a field goal as time expired to take a 51-48 triumph. Finally, Danny Hope’s program has momentum, as this was Purdue’s second victory in a row and third in four games.

Key moment: Purdue clung to a 37-32 lead and needed one more stop after punting to Western Michigan with just over two minutes left. That’s when Boilermaker DE Ryan Russell sacked Bronco QB Alex Carder and forced a fumble that was recovered by DT Bruce Gaston. Purdue then ran out the clock.

Key stat: Purdue forced six turnovers (four interceptions; two fumbles lost), scoring 29 points off of those miscues. The Boilermakers had their issues, committing four turnovers (seven fumbles; four lost).

Sneak peek to 2012: Danny Hope is on a roll, signing a two-year contract extension last week and now notching Purdue’s first bowl victory since 2007. The Boilermakers welcome back lots of talent, including quarterbacks Caleb TerBush and Rob Henry (preseason knee injury) on offense and stars like T Kawann Short and CB Ricardo Allen on defense. And for once, the football gods have to favor Hope, right? His first three seasons have been highlighted by injuries to key offensive players. What could Hope’s teams do without being wracked by injuries? We may finally find out in 2012.

Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.

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5 Comments

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Kim on 12/27/2011 @ 9:00pm EST Said:

“Danny Hope’s program has momentum…second victory in a row”?! That’s pathetic! Glad they won, but I sure don’t see that Hope deserved a contract extension.

Jim on 12/27/2011 @ 9:17pm EST Said:

How does a head coach who’s team finishes with a 6-6 record deserve a contract extension? I’ve had season tickets for Purdue football since 1976. Is this our new level of excellance? In my job I graded out at 89.5% out of 100%. That grade did not even get me a raise.

Tim on 12/27/2011 @ 10:33pm EST Said:

So is the suggestion that Hope gets fired after going 6-6 and winning a bowl game? He deserves 2 more years. There were some nice things in this victory, and unfortunately several big errors by Gooden on fumble, personal foul, made it closer than it should have been. TerBush showed nice improvement this year, as did the running game. The biggest gap we have is the ability to stop the run against the big boys from ND, WIS, MICH, IOWA. Need bigger bodies at DT, LB, Safety. Hope is a line coach by specialty, so the right guy to get it done. Give him 2 years and if we don’t get better than bowls in Detroit, he will leave with no argument.

Johnny on 12/28/2011 @ 12:34pm EST Said:

What has bothered me the past two years is just how undiscipline Purdue is. It appears we have to be the most penalized team in the Big Ten. Almost every game this year there were multiple personal foul penalties being committed by multiple players. Those type of penalties not only kill drives but extend drives for the opposition. Dscipline starts and ends with the head coach. The message being taught in practice is how it was performed in the games this year. Hope needs to step up his game up and earn his two year extension.

Pletch on 12/28/2011 @ 2:25pm EST Said:

Having watched most of the Purdue football games this season, it is clear to me that the reason Purdue did not get an invitation to a more significant bowl is that the coach has no charisma. Coach Hope does not handle the media appearances well. Purdue made a big mistake by extending his contract. Also, the coaching staff made slow decisions or bad decisions at key points in games that turned the momentum in favor of the opposing team.