Central Michigan surprises Purdue 38-17
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Cooper Rush and Thomas Rawls kept following Central Michigan's game plan.
All they had to do was keep their short-handed offense on the field, on track and on schedule. They were virtually flawless.
Rush threw for two touchdowns, Rawls ran for two more Saturday and Brandon Greer scored on a 57-yard interception return against mistake-prone Purdue, giving Central Michigan a stunning 38-17 rout for their second win in three seasons against a Big Ten foe.
''We knew we were going to have to keep things simple, play with great effort, win the turnover margin,'' coach Dan Enos said. ''I thought if we could run the ball, we'd have a shot.''
Actually, Central Michigan dominated Purdue with its unexpected one-two punch.
Rush methodically carved up Purdue's secondary with well-timed and well-executed throws. He finished 11 of 16 for 172 yards with one interception.
Rawls, in contrast, delivered the punishing body blows, running 31 times for 155 yards. He scored on a 2-yard run midway through the second quarter to answer a Purdue touchdown and sealed the win with a 16-yard TD run with 3:44 to play.
The way Central Michigan won was even more surprising.
The Chippewas (2-0) came to Ross-Ade Stadium knowing they'd be without receiver Titus Davis, the 2013 team MVP, because of a sprained left knee. Then they lost punter, placekicker and kickoff specialist Ron Coluzzi in the opening minutes with a likely concussion. Coluzzi did not return.
But instead of falling apart, the Chippewas stuck to the script and pushed their record against current Big Ten members to 6-23, getting their first 2-0 start since 2002.
''I felt like the game was on me, and I want that pressure,'' Rawls said. ''I want that. It excites me, it motivates me, and it boosts me to even run a little bit harder.''
Purdue (1-1) was responsible for most of its own problems.
Greer picked off Danny Etling's late, underthrown ball 4 1/2 minutes into the game and ran it back 57 yards to give Central a 7-0 lead. When the Chippewas finally got the ball back, Rush hooked up with Anthony Rice, who bounced off a tackle between two Purdue defenders, and raced the final 40 yards untouched for a 65-yard score and a 14-0 lead.
By the time the first half ended, the Boilermakers had cost themselves field position with three penalties on kickoff and punt returns, lost their best defensive player, Frankie Williams, after he hit a defenseless receiver in the head and was called for targeting, and gave away a fourth-down conversion because of an illegal substitution.
''We had way too many penalties today, and they were big ones,'' frustrated coach Darrell Hazell said. ''That is something that needs to be addressed to ensure we are much improved in that area.''
Central Michigan capitalized each time.
Three plays after Williams departed, Rawls scored on a 2-yard run to make it 21-7 - a lead they maintained at halftime because Paul Griggs' pushed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide left after the fourth-down penalty. And losing field position limited Purdue to just one first-half score - Etling's 4-yard TD run that made it 14-7 early in the second quarter. The closest they got after Rawls' first TD was 21-10 early in the third.
Things got so bad in the second half that Hazell yanked Etling in the fourth quarter and gave backup Austin Appleby a shot. Etling finished 17 of 32 for 126 yards with two interceptions. Appleby threw a 23-yard TD pass to Danny Anthrop on his first play but couldn't move the Boilermakers after that.
The quarterback switch is a move that is likely to be debated all this week, as Purdue prepares to face No. 16 Notre Dame.
''We were trying to create some momentum,'' Hazell said. ''We are going to look at the film and see what direction we need to go.''
The Chippewas, meanwhile, had no such trouble.
A personal foul on Purdue's Ra'Zhan Howard jump-started a drive that ended with an 11-yard TD pass from Rush to Ben McCord, making it 28-10, and after Brian Eavey made a 23-yard field goal, Rawls sealed the win with a powerful 16-yard TD run.
''It (Davis' absence) didn't have any effect because the younger guys have to step up and other guys just have to make plays,'' Rawls said. ''The game plan may have been directed a different way, but overall, as a team we played great.''