West Lafayette, Ind. — Having lost 13 of the first 15 games during Darrell Hazell's time at Purdue, fast starts have not been synonymous with Boilermaker football.
But thanks to an opportunistic defense, Purdue finally got the kind of start of which victories are made Saturday, scoring the first 25 points in a 35-13 victory against previously unbeaten Southern Illinois.
"We wanted to be able to come out of the locker room and get off to a fast start," Hazell said. "That was one of the things we preached a lot, and I thought both sides of the ball did that. I thought the defense came out and stuffed them and really put those guys on their heels.
"We got some good stops early and put the offense in good field position. We hit the big plays we talked about all week long."
Purdue converted two first-quarter turnovers into touchdowns and used those 14 points as the springboard to victory.
Danny Etling threw touchdown passes of 10 yards to DeAngelo Yancey and 44 yards to Danny Anthrop during the first quarter after a fumble by Southern Illinois running back Malcolm Agnew and then after an interception of Salukis Mark Iannotti.
"I've just been getting more comfortable, and I just keep advancing throughout each game," Etling said. "I think the guys around me have really stepped up and have really played well as it goes on. The coaches have a lot of faith in me, and that means a lot."
Purdue (2-2) increased its lead to 17-0 with seven seconds left in the first quarter on a 30-yard field goal from Paul Griggs. The Boilermakers moved 56 yards in 10 plays after Southern Illinois (3-1) missed a 47-yard field goal.
Purdue, which was 1-11 in 2013, increased its lead to 25-0 with 9:59 left in the first half when Etling ran 1 yard for a TD, capping a 26-yard drive after a short SIU punt and a personal foul against the Salukis. Brandon Cottom ran for the two-point conversion.
Southern Illinois, which entered 3-0 for the first time since 2007, got untracked after falling behind by 25, getting two field goals from Thomas Kinney and a 1-yard touchdown run from Iannotti after Purdue's Raheem Mostert fumbled at the Boilermakers' 47.
After Southern Illinois pulled to within 28-13 on Kinney's second field goal with 13:38 remaining in the fourth quarter, Purdue put this one away with a lengthy drive that included 13 consecutive running plays and consumed 8:20, draining the game clock to 3:31.
Purdue capped the scoring with 36 seconds remaining when backup quarterback Austin Appleby ran 11 yards, completing a six-play, 43-yard drive.
For Etling, it was a second solid performance in as many weeks. He finished with 15 completions in 26 attempts for 198 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception.
In last week's loss to Notre Dame, Etling was 27 of 40 for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
Anthrop caught five passes for 106 yards — all in the first half — including the 44-yard touchdown that gave Purdue a 14-0 lead.
"All week, coach talked about getting the big chunk plays," Anthrop said. "We knew coming into this game we were going to have to hit some home run balls. I am just glad that we hit them."
Linebacker Ja'Whan Bentley recovered the Agnew fumble and safety Landon Feichter intercepted the Iannotti pass to set up the first two Purdue touchdowns.
Purdue scored only seven second-half points and has scored only 14 total after halftime of its three most recent games, but the 25-point burst to begin the game made the Boilermakers' second-half woes more tolerable this time.
It is, however, troubling for Hazell.
"We have to get that corrected, have to have more offense coming out to begin second halves," Hazell said.
Overall, Purdue out gained Southern Illinois, 381-330.
A sparse crowd of 31,434 watched the first meeting between Purdue and Southern Illinois, where current Boilermaker head basketball coach Matt Painter was head coach before returning to West Lafayette to coach his alma mater in 2004.
Saturday's game included a third-quarter injury to umpire Jim Shaw, who left the game with a shoulder separation. Shaw was knocked over during a Southern Illinois running play.