Sunday, October 06, 2002

Special-team turnovers fuel Purdue loss

Lafayette Journal and Courier

        IOWA CITY, Iowa — Purdue didn't lose a fumble Saturday. But, unfortunately for the Boilermakers, they had a blocked field goal returned 85 yards for a touchdown, a blocked punt recovered in the end zone for another TD and a tipped pass intercepted in the final seconds when it appeared they were driving for the winning score.

        Instead, it was Iowa that drove 87 yards in eight plays, with quarterback Brad Banks tossing a 7-yard TD pass to tight end Dallas Clark with 1:07 remaining to give the No. 24 Hawkeyes an unbelievable 31-28 victory.

        “The kicking game, obviously,” a very dejected Purdue coach Joe Tiller said afterwards when he was asked the key to the game. “The turnovers in the kicking game. We held on to the football and now we find a way to turn it over in the kicking game, which is unacceptable.”

        Despite the special-team snafus, it appeared that true freshman quarterback Brandon Kirsch would rally the Boilermakers to victory.

        Kirsch came off the bench late in the third quarter after starter Kyle Orton suffered what's believed to be a concussion.

        After going three-and-out on his first series, Kirsch, getting his first extensive playing time of the season, suddenly looked like the second coming of Joe Montana.

        On his second series, he promptly led the Boilermakers on a 13-play, 89-yard drive, scrambling the final 16 yards for the TD to pull Purdue to within 24-21.

        On Purdue's next possession, Kirsch opened with a 33-yard pass down the middle to tight end Mike Rhinehart, and the Boilermakers covered 67 yards in only six plays, with Jon Goldsberry, primarily a linebacker, scoring on a 2-yard run.

        But then the Purdue defense, which kept the Hawkeyes in check most of the day, couldn't stop the Iowa offense with the game on the line.

        Starting at their own 13, with only 2:16 remaining, the Hawkeyes breezed down the field, starting with a 44-yard run by Banks on a quarterback draw.

        Then Banks passed 20 yards to Mo Brown and 14 yards to Clark, for a first-and-goal at the Purdue 9.

        On fourth-and-goal from the 7, Banks rolled out to his left but then threw back to his right, where Clark was all alone and ran into the end zone untouched.

        “We played a pretty good game, but when it came down for us to really step it up and play, we didn't do it and they ended up scoring,” Purdue free safety Stuart Schweigert said. “We were in perfect position, two minutes to go and we had 80 yards behind us. But we let them drive down and get the game-winning touchdown.”

        But with Kirsch doing his Montana impression, the Boilermakers still almost staged an incredible comeback.

        Starting at their 21, with just 1:07 left and only one timeout, Kirsch passed 15 yards to Stubblefield, 15 yards to John Standeford, then 24 to Stubblefield.

        With a first down at the Iowa 25, Kirsch tried to hit Stubblefield cutting over the middle, but the pass was tipped by an Iowa lineman at the line of scrimmage, bounced off Stubblefield and was picked off by cornerback Adolphus Shelton.

        “We were running an option route and Taylor came inside and the ball got tipped, so it was wobbling when it hit him,” Kirsch said. “It kind of hit his shoulder pads and I don't think he got a good handle on it.”

        Kirsch finished the day 13 of 21 passing for 163 yards. He also led Purdue in rushing, with 49 yards in six attempts.

        Stubblefield led the Boilermakers with 13 receptions for 149 yards, including catching seven passes from Kirsch for 77 yards.

        But it was that last one that Stubblefield had to think about on the long trip home.

        “I thought it was coming one place, it got tipped, it came to another place,” said Stubblefield, who had to reach back and down for the wobbly pass. “It's still a play that a big-time receiver will make. I need to come up with that catch.”

        Before Orton's injury, he had completed 22 of 37 passes for 247 yards and a TD, a 61-yard pass to Standeford in the first quarter.

        The Boilermakers dominated statistically, with 507 yards of total offense to 384 for Iowa. The Hawkeyes came into the game averaging 259 yards a game rushing, fifth-best in the nation. They ended up with 158 against Purdue, thanks to that key 44-yard scamper by Banks.

        Offensively, Iowa needed a 51-yard field goal from Nate Kaeding and a 95-yard pass-run play from Banks to Clark to get into the end zone.

        But the great equalizer in this game was special teams.

        Purdue couldn't overcome the two blocked kicks.

        The first came right before halftime, when the Boilermakers lined up for a 22-yard field goal attempt but Bob Sanders came charging in from the left edge to block it and Antwan Allen scooped it up and returned it 85 yards for the TD, pulling Iowa to within 14-10.

        “That was partially my fault, I wasn't really in time, and I think somebody missed their block on the end,” said Purdue kicker Berin Lacevic, who had missed his previous four attempts coming into the game. “I was zoned in. I was confident I was going to make that. I think the guy got there as soon as the ball got there.”

        Iowa added insult to injury on the first series of the second half.

        Purdue had to punt from its 17, but Sean Considine burst through the middle of the line to block it and Jermire Roberts fell on the ball in the end zone.

        “It was great effort on the blocks,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Purdue outplayed us on both offense and defense.”

        It's the first time in Iowa football history that the Hawkeyes returned two blocked kicks for touchdowns in one game.

        Purdue is now 9-17 against ranked teams in the Tiller era, including just 1-10 on the road. The Boilermakers' last road victory came over a year ago, Sept. 29. They are 0-6 on the road since then.

        “It's very interesting, on the sideline you ask what happened and we develop amnesia,” Tiller said about Purdue's two crucial special-team blunders against Iowa.

        That may not be all bad.

        This is one game the Boilermakers would just as soon forget.


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