Charboneau: Purdue savoring wins, celebrations

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Purdue's J.D. Dellinger runs toward the sideline after kicking the winning field goal in overtime to beat Illinois.

At first glance, it was a fairly ho-hum week in the Big Ten.

Ohio State did its job, dispatching of Indiana even if it wasn’t in impressive fashion, while Michigan was busy making the folks at Ruth’s Chris Steak House panic.

Just as an aside, the Ruth’s Chris in Ann Arbor is running a deal where the margin of victory in Michigan games gives guests that percentage off their bill. For instance, a 30-point win gives patrons 30 percent off. Of course, Michigan beat Rutgers 78-0, which had me looking for directions to the Ruth’s Chris in Ann Arbor.

Then I read the details, which say the discount is capped at 50 percent off. And it doesn’t include alcohol.

Bummer. Guess my next trip to Ann Arbor will wait until basketball season.

Anyway, to get back to matters on the field, it seemed like there wasn’t much all that interesting this week. Until, that is, you look near the bottom of the standings, where Purdue and Illinois were battling to stay out of the West Division cellar.

What transpired was far from perfect football, but it was fun. And it pointed out how important the inches are — maybe it was the only thing that made Mark Dantonio smile on Saturday. That’s because it looked like Illinois was in perfect position to walk away with the win.

As the Illini lined up for a 41-yard field goal, it was counting on kicker Chase McLaughlin, who was merely a perfect 8-for-8 on the season and had already booted three field goals earlier in the game.

Purdue coach Darrell Hazell called three straight timeouts to try and ice McLaughlin and, what do you know, maybe it was the third one that worked as McLaughlin’s kick banged off the right upright. It forced overtime, and that’s where the Boilermakers took advantage, getting a 28-yard field goal from J.D. Dellinger for the victory.

It was so foreign to Purdue and its freshman kicker they were unsure of what to do.

“I’ve never really thought about celebrations, because I haven’t really been put in this position before,” Dellinger said.

Eventually the team ran to the end zone and celebrated with the band.

It was a celebration of the win as much as it was the fact Purdue is now three wins qualifying for a bowl game. Not bad for a team that gave up 400 yards rushing at Maryland a week ago and had Hazell talking about the pressures of his job.

“I’m really happy, and I’m really happy for those guys, because they go through so much and they hear so much, but yet they come back to work every single day,” Hazell said. “They try to block it out as much as they can for an 18- to 22-year-old guy. All they do is try to please you, and that’s what you want.

“People don’t understand how hard it is to win football games, all the pieces have to fit together and you need a break every once in a while.”

As exhilarating as the win was for Purdue, it was just as deflating for Illinois, which has now lost four straight and is looking for some sort of momentum under first-year coach Lovie Smith.

“Every loss hurts, but some hurt a little bit more than others,” Smith said. “This is the one that hurts a little bit more.”

It’s a loss that will absolutely sting this season, but Smith will be given plenty of time to turn things around in Champaign. It’s the rest of it that can’t linger — the 12 penalties, the coaching mishaps, the inches that are going the wrong way.

“The penalties and big plays hurt,” Smith said. “We are trying but we haven’t got it fixed. Evidently we haven’t stressed it enough. All these things are troubling.”

Target on kicker

What’s the deal with everyone taking shots at Penn State kicker Joey Julius? A week after Minnesota’s Jaylen Watkins was booted from the game for going after Julius on a kickoff, Maryland’s Isaiah Davis did the same thing?

I get it, Julius has done his share of dishing out big hits. Just ask Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis, who met the wrath of the Nittany Lions kicker a few weeks ago.

But come on. The kicker? And what’s worse, the two times players have been ejected came on plays that essentially didn’t matter. His kick in the Minnesota game was a touchback and the one this week went out of bounds.

So I guess there’s a few players in the Big Ten that have gotten fed up with the big hits.

Well, too bad. Hit the guy when he sees you coming, and at least make it during an actual return.

Snoozefest in Iowa City

If you thought the first half of Michigan State-BYU was dull, maybe watching Iowa-Minnesota wouldn’t have been the right move. Of course, that game was played earlier in the day, but the Hawkeyes and Gophers put together a doozy.

There were six total turnovers with each team committing three (two interceptions and a fumble). Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard was 17-for-31 for 142 yards while Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner was 13-for-33 for 166 yards. And really, that was quite the accomplishment since with about four minutes left in the first half the Gophers didn’t have a single passing yard.

“I thought (we) competed hard out there and showed a lot of grit and mental fortitude and played with a lot of toughness,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

So pretty it was not, but for an Iowa team clinging to any shot in the West, getting the win was imperative.

Twitter @mattcharboneau