EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — When David Bell had the ball in his hands, he looked as though he was gliding on the field. The Boiler’s star wide receiver used his long strides and sharp movements to send defenders hurtling past him.
Bell was an unstoppable force for a Purdue offense that scored five touchdowns in the first half against UConn, propelling the team to a 49-0 victory on Saturday at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut.
The junior caught six passes for 121 yards and a trio of touchdowns in just one half of play. Bell's three scoring grabs tied a career-high.
The Boilermakers opened the game with a three-and-out, allowing junior quarterback Jack Plummer to be sacked twice. But after the punt, the offense rattled off five straight scoring drives before heading back to the locker room.
It took just under 10 minutes for Purdue to find the end zone for the first time. Plummer passed to junior tight end Payne Durham for a 17-yard pitch and catch. The score capped off a five-play, 56-yard drive and was Durham’s third touchdown of the season.
However, starting running back Zander Horvath left the field with a lower leg injury at the start of the drive. He was taken to the locker room for further evaluation. He emerged with a boot on his left foot and did not return to the game.
The fifth-year senior ran the ball twice for eight yards before the injury.
Without one of its most valuable players in the backfield, Purdue turned to the passing game and torched the UConn secondary at the start of the second quarter. Bell’s second catch of the game — a simple screen pass to the right side of the offensive formation — turned into a 30-yard touchdown scamper.
Bell evaded several Husky defenders en route to his first score of the 2021 season. But it wouldn’t be his last of the day. Two series later, he hauled in a deep pass with an open field ahead of him.
Somehow, Bell managed to stay on his feet despite being sandwiched between two UConn defenders and dove to reach the football across the goal line. His effort resulted in a 59-yard touchdown and a 28-0 lead with 3:29 left in the first half.
The Boilermakers forced the Huskies into a subsequent three-and-out, giving the offense one more chance at a score before halftime. Plummer found Bell once again for an eight-yard touchdown to conclude a nine-play, 65-yard drive.
The throw was Plummer’s last of the afternoon as Purdue went into the locker room with a 35-0 lead. He finished the first half by completing 19 of his 24 passes for 273 yards and four scores. Junior running back King Doerue also found the end zone on a one-yard run in the second quarter.
The Boilermakers played three more quarterbacks in the second half in place of Plummer. Fifth-year senior Aidan O’Connell, senior Austin Burton and redshirt freshman Michael Alaimo saw playing time to close the game.
Sophomore wide receivers Mershawn Rice and TJ Sheffield caught touchdown passes from O’Connell in the third quarter, contributing to a mountainous lead.
Purdue kept UConn scoreless to end the game with a 49-0 win and start the season 2-0. The team will be on the road for the second week in a row when it travels to South Bend, Indiana, to take on Notre Dame next Saturday.
Stories Related to Purdue Football
- PURDUE-UCONN LIVE BLOG: The Purdue Boilermakers hit the road for the first time this season Saturday against the UConn Huskies at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut. CLICK HERE
- PURDUE FOOTBALL 2021 SCHEDULE: Purdue's 2021 college football schedule includes nine Big Ten games and three nonconference matchups. The team will travel to South Bend, Indiana, next week to play Notre Dame for the first time since 2014. CLICK HERE