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Purdue Football Topples No. 3 Michigan State in Second Top-Five Victory of the Season

Fifth-year senior quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 536 yards to push Purdue past No. 3 Michigan State in a 40-29 victory at Ross-Ade Stadium.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — No. 3 Michigan State came into Ross-Ade Stadium with aspirations of making it to College Football Playoff. But Purdue ended the game in celebration as fans stormed the field under the sound of fireworks.

The unranked Boilermakers earned their second win over a top-five program this season by defeating the Spartans 40-29 while improving to 6-3 (4-2 in the Big Ten). The last time Purdue defeated two top-five teams in the same year was back in 1960.

“It was just a great day for us. Our guys came ready to play, they knew what the challenge was ahead of us,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said after the game. “We played pretty well at times, and other times we hadn't. That's kind of a football season.

“How you respond to adversity, how you respond to things that are going well and how you respond when things aren't will determine what you can become. I think our assistant coaches are great people. They work extremely hard, and put up with me. They give it everything they got and care about our players. And we got a group of guys that are really hungry.”

The Boilermakers jumped on Michigan State (8-1, 5-1 in the Big Ten) during the game’s first possession, forcing a fumble on junior running back Kenneth Walker III. Fifth-year senior quarterback Aidan O’Connell and the Purdue offense took over and drove the ball 62 yards in nine plays for a touchdown.

On third down, just six yards away from the end zone, O’Connell escaped a collapsing pocket and fired a pass to the back of the end zone into the hands of junior wide receiver David Bell. After opening the game with a score, Purdue would never trail.

Bell terrorized the Spartans’ secondary all afternoon. Finishing the game with 11 catches for 217 yards. It was his 15th game of more than 100 yards in three years with the Boilermakers, a program record.

“I think you know what I think of David Bell. I think he's a phenomenal receiver, an even better person,” Brohm said. “I'm sure there's other really good receivers, but I don't see how you can do many things better than him ... I really don't know what more he can prove. He just comes out every week and does it.”

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Purdue was unstoppable in the passing game, coming away with three touchdowns in the first half through the air. O’Connell’s final scoring pass came on a trick play to redshirt fifth-year senior wide receiver Jack Anthrop.

After three exchanges in the backfield, Anthrop was left wide open behind a convoy of offensive lineman. He maneuvered through blocks before cutting back to the right side of the field and scampering for a 39-yard touchdown.

The Boilermakers left the field at halftime with a 21-14 lead and wouldn’t let up. Despite scoring just one more touchdown, Purdue’s offense continued to move the ball down the field with ease in the second half.

The team never went three-and-out and scored on all but one drive in the final two quarters. Junior running back King Doerue punched in a one-yard touchdown on the second drive of the third quarter, and graduate transfer kicker Mitchell Fineran connected on four field goals to finish the game.

O’Connell set career highs with 40 completions on 54 attempts and 536 passing yards to go along with his trio of passing touchdowns. His performance ranks third in program history for passing yards in a single game.

“I don't deserve any of it,” said O’Connell, who joined the team in 2017 as a walk-on. “You know, God gave me the passion to even work hard to play football, let a lot of the opportunities. First of all, give credit to him. And then it's coaches believing in me, my parents supporting me, family supporting me, friends support me. So it couldn't be less about me.”

With three weeks left to play, the Purdue football program is bowl eligible. For now, the team will enjoy this victory with the intention of returning to practice Monday in preparation for its upcoming matchup with the Ohio State Buckeyes on the road.

“All that stuff for bowls and all that is for our fans and for our players' families and for everyone to enjoy. And we want them to do that,” Brohm said. “For us, we really can't think about it and concentrate on it. It's a great win, we want to enjoy it. It was a really satisfying one, it's one that we worked really hard and handled some diversity to get to.” 

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