West Lafayette, Ind. — Six weeks ago, the notion of Purdue fans swarming the field seemed about as far-fetched as beating Ohio State.
After it lost to Eastern Michigan on a last-second field goal, the season appeared lost, its bowl hopes shattered and the troubling turnovers, mounting mistakes and persistent penalties continued to pile up. Then the Boilermakers dug down, fought back and turned things around.
Purdue is just one-half game out of the Big Ten West lead.
“It’s amazing how you can be sitting at 0-3 with some hard losses and find a way to do this,” coach Jeff Brohm said after Saturday’s stunning 49-20 rout over the Buckeyes set off a raucous celebration at Ross-Ade Stadium. “It is a huge moment. This this goes to show you what you can do and it goes to show you what you can’t do when you lose to Eastern Michigan.”
Make no mistake: Brohm meant no offense to the Eagles; he merely wanted to illustrate how his players and coaches rebounded after losing that game and the next one, to Missouri, on last-second field goals.
Since then, the Boilermakers (4-3, 3-1) have turned around their season.
They ended Boston College’s one-week run in the Top 25 with a 30-13 blowout. They won back-to-back conference road games for the first time in six years. They’re on a four-game winning streak for the first time since the start of the 2007 season, and they beat a top-two ranked team for the first time since 1984 by scoring a school record 49 points against the Buckeyes (7-1, 4-1).
The reward for this sudden season to remember was getting 17 points in Top 25 voting — making them No. 33.
“It means guys are growing up,” said running back D.J. Knox, who had scoring runs of 1, 42 and 40 yards Saturday. “When you have guys locked in and everybody working for a common goal, you can’t be stopped. Especially the defense. They played lights out against a quarterback (Dwayne Haskins Jr.) who’s a Heisman candidate.”
Knox and Markell Jones have given Purdue a strong, experienced one-two punch out of the backfield. David Blough is 135 of 224 (60.3 percent) with 1,951 yards, 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions since replacing the injured Elijah Sindelar as the starting quarterback in Week 3. Freshman receiver Rondale Moore continues to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, and Purdue has pulled no punches in calling plays.
“Once we decided to open this thing up and stay on the attack and be more aggressive, our guys have done a great job,” Brohm said Monday. “It’s not always going to be perfect, but I think David has played outstanding.”
The Boilermakers’ defense has done its part, too.
After allowing 91 points in the first three games, all against unranked foes, the last four opponents scored 68 points. Ohio State came up short of even half its scoring average.
And after making too many mistakes early, the Boilermakers just keep making plays.
TCU receiver and returner KaVontae Turpin was suspended from the team Monday after his arrest over the weekend on an assault charge for an alleged altercation with his girlfriend.
Week 9 top games
■ Baylor at West Virginia, 7 (FS1)
■Toledo at Western Michigan, 7 (ESPN2)
■ Indiana at Minnesota, 8 (FS1)
■ Clemson at Florida State, noon (ABC)
■ Wisconsin at Northwestern, noon (Fox)
■ Purdue at MSU, noon (ESPN)
■ Florida vs. Georgia, 3:30 (CBS)
■ Kansas State at Oklahoma, 3:30 (Fox)
■ Iowa at Penn State, 3:30 (ESPN)
■ South Florida at Houston, 3:30 (ABC)
■ Notre Dame vs. Navy, 8 (CBS)
■ Texas at Oklahoma State, 8 (ABC)