Boilermakers entertain eighth-ranked Spartans

West Lafayette, IN (SportsNetwork.com) – Fresh off a victory that put an end
to a lengthy conference losing streak, the Purdue Boilermakers get right back
to action as they entertain the eighth-ranked Michigan State Spartans on
Saturday afternoon.

Save for a second-half collapse at Oregon more than a month ago, Michigan
State would be undefeated and be ranked among the top few teams in the
country. As it is, coach Mark Dantonio’s squad is 4-1, having recently won its
league lid lifter last week against visiting Nebraska, 27-22. The victory,
MSU’s third in a row, put the wraps on a three-game homestand, and this clash
with Purdue is the first of two straight the team will play on the road.

The Boilermakers picked up a 38-27 win at Illinois last weekend, snapping a
nine-game Big Ten losing streak, while at the same time evening their record
at 3-3, and their league ledger at 1-1. Purdue has now won two of its last
three games, and this bout with the Spartans marks its fifth in front of the
hometown faithful already this season.

The all-time series between these two teams leans in favor of Michigan State,
33-28-3, and the Spartans have won the last five meetings.

Michigan State needed a late turnover to seal the deal against Nebraska last
week, as the Spartans held on for a five-point victory. The Cornhuskers
actually trailed 27-3 heading into the fourth quarter before mounting a
furious comeback.

MSU churned out 422 yards compared to 329 for the Huskers, with the Spartans’
offensive standouts being RB Jeremy Langford (29 carries, 111 yards, TD), QB
Connor Cook (234 passing yards, TD) and WR Tony Lippett (three receptions, 104
yards, TD, one carry, 32 yards, TD).

As they usually do, turnovers played an important role in the game as the two
teams combined for seven giveaways. Michigan State was also guilty of nine
penalties for a loss of 94 yards, and both squads struggled when it came to
converting third-down plays, doing so a combined a 7-of-31 (.225).

Dantonio knows Cook has to be more consistent if his team is going to have any
chance to reach the inaugural College Football Playoff.

“Connor probably didn’t play his best football game, but he will regroup and
play extremely well his next time out. That is just his nature. I thought we
had some great catches by our wide-outs and the ball was right on the money in
those situations. The consistency that has been there wasn’t today. You have
to credit Nebraska too because they were ready.”

The MSU defense did a nice job bottling up Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, the
nation’s second-leading rusher heading into the contest, as he was stymied at
nearly every turn. Abdullah, who had rushed for more than 200 yards in each of
the previous two games, finished with only 45 yards on 24 totes, but did score
a pair of TDs on short runs in the final frame.

Taiwan Jones paced the Spartans defense with 10 tackles, three of which he
made behind the line of scrimmage. MSU tallied five sacks, and Trae Waynes had
both of its interceptions, the last of which stopped Nebraska’s attempt to
steal the game with only 30 seconds remaining in regulation.

Balance has been the key to Michigan State’s success on offense this season,
as the team is averaging a league-best 45.6 ppg, doing so behind typical
outputs of 239.2 ypg rushing and 257.2 ypg passing.

The offensive line has done a tremendous job, yielding only three sacks
(fewest in the league), and Cook is hitting the mark on 60.7 percent of his
passes with 10 TDs against only three INTs. Lippett is far and away the team’s
leading receiver with 25 catches for 525 yards and seven scores, while
Langford has gained 451 yards and scored four times. Delton Williams and Nick
Hill have combined for seven TDs, the Spartans totaling 18 rushing scores.

Michigan State is permitting only 20.6 points and 297 yards per game, with its
effort against the run being top-notch (72.0 ypg, No. 2 in the Big Ten). The
defense has racked up 20 sacks (second), and the unit is tied with Wisconsin
for the fewest first downs surrendered (69) of any team in the conference,
while leading the league in turnover margin (+10).

Kurtis Drummond has made 20 of his club-best 24 tackles by himself, and he has
two of the team’s seven interceptions. Ed David and Marcus Rush have combined
for 7.5 sacks.

Akeem Hunt ran for a career-high 177 yards and a touchdown to help power the
Boilermakers to last week’s win over Illinois. In all, Purdue amassed 349
yards on the ground, 551 in all, converted 11-of-16 third-down chances, but
scored on only half of its eight trips to the red zone, albeit all touchdowns.

Sophomore QB Austin Appleby made the most of his first career start by going
15-of-20 for 202 yards and a TD. He also tacked on 76 rushing yards and a pair
of scores on only seven attempts. Mike Dudek caught eight balls for 200 yards,
and Josh Ferguson added 79 yards on 10 grabs.

The Purdue defense played exceptionally well against the run last week (65 net
yards, 2.6 ypc), but was torched for 450 yards through the air. Frankie
Williams and Landon Fletcher each logged 12 tackles in the win, with the
former also being credited with a sack and a fumble recovery.

Approaching the midway point of the season, Purdue scores nearly as many
points as it allows (26.2 ppg to 27.7 ppg), and the team also uses a balanced
attack (170 ypg rushing, 181.8 ypg passing), albeit not as potent as Michigan
State’s.

Between Appleby and Danny Etling, Purdue signal callers are completing just
55.1 percent of their passes with eight TDs against nine INTs. Hunt is both
the team’s leading rusher (75 carries, 446 yards, two TDs) and receiver (22
rec., 125 yards), although Danny Anthrop actually paces the unit in receiving
yards (336) and receiving TDs (three).

The Boilermakers’ strength on defense has been its ability to stuff the run,
as they allow only 3.8 ypc and 135.2 ypg. Fletcher spearheads the effort with
56 tackles, which is 10 more than his closest teammate, and he has two of the
team’s five picks. Williams also has two INTs, and he checks in second on the
tackles list with 46. Ryan Watson has four of the club’s 16 sacks (third-most
in the conference).