'Dominant' defense leads Purdue to road rout of Missouri

Stacy Clardie, GoldandBlack.com staff
Gold and Black

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Navon Mosley had to make the rounds.

One by one, he went up to his defensive teammates that span the front seven — all the linebackers, all the linemen — and wrapped them in hugs.

They deserved a little love after what had just happened at Memorial Stadium.

So did his fellas in the secondary, of course, after being significantly challenged all week with talk of the Tigers’ uptempo offense, its firepower potential in the passing game and against being the perceived weak link of the unit.

And all the Boilermakers’ defense did was produce one of its best efforts in years, stifling Missouri’s run game to a measly 2.9 yards per carry and, essentially, eliminating its passing game by holding it to 12 completions and 133 yards.

Purdue was wicked good in a 35-3 victory that, not surprisingly, had Jeff Brohm attaching the word “dominant” to its effort.

The players themselves used that word, too, but also “lights out” and “outstanding.”

All of them fit in a game Purdue allowed only 203 yards and once again forced turnovers, this time getting its first two interceptions of the season as well as recovering a fumble.

“Missouri, they have a great, explosive offense and I think we did a really good job of getting stops and shutting them down pretty much, besides that field goal. Everyone was playing with great effort, pursuing to the ball. We had a great game plan,” said linebacker Markus Bailey, who had a second-half interception. “Everyone for the most part did their job, and I’m proud of how we played.

“I honestly didn’t expect this — to come out and have this kind of a performance. It was really exciting to see. Like Coach Brohm said, we’re just scratching the surface. That just shows what we’re capable of this year.”

The locker room afterward was a place of high energy, players said, and, even, some surprise. Bailey said players were joking, “Is this real?”

Not only did Purdue win its second consecutive game for the first time since 2012, it also won a non-conference road game for the first time since 2007. It was the first non-conference road victory against a Power Five team since beating Arizona in 2005.

It hadn’t won like this, in such a lopsided fashion, on the road since beating Central Florida, 47-13, in 1999.

It hadn't allowed as few points on the road since a 48-3 victory over Illinois in 1997.

“I feel like it’s a statement game,” Mosley said. “We lost the Louisville game, so guys were like, ‘Yeah, you know, no one really expected them to win.’ Then we came out and played really well the Ohio game, and everyone is like, ‘Y’all were supposed to win that game.’ So, now, we’re on the road, SEC team, playing Missouri, we came out and dominated. I felt like that was a statement.

"I felt like we played lights out. The secondary, I was proud of everyone in the secondary because we rose to the occasion. Every one did what they had to do, and the outcome was what we wanted."

And the Boilermakers set that tone early.

The offense was expected to pile up points against a defense that’s allowed teams to do just that, and it didn’t disappoint.

David Blough, making his first start of the season, connected on all five of his passes on the drive, hitting Tario Fuller for nine, connecting with Anthony Mahoungou on a 21-yard gain, delivering to D.J. Knox for nine, sticking a ball into Greg Phillips for 12 and then finished the drive with his feet, escaping the pocket off the left side, using a pump fake to get a defender in the air and then slipping into the left corner of the end zone.

Purdue’s defense chased Mizzou off the field in three plays on the ensuing drive — getting sure tackles on two short completions and then burying a run on third-and-one — to give the offense the ball back in a matter of 79 seconds.

Seven plays later, Fuller raced in from 36 yards out, getting free off the right side, and it was 14-0.

Mizzou actually got five plays its next series but still punted after having the ball for less than two minutes.

And, again, Purdue’s offense scored a touchdown for a 21-0 lead that quickly seemed insurmountable.

Because, by then, it was clear the Boilermakers’ defense was not going to let Missouri do anything it wanted. Regardless of the tempo, regardless of the heat that was supposed to drain their energy.

There was nothing to drain. Mizzou had the ball for only eight minutes, 22 seconds in the first half.

“We had to shut down the run first. When we did that, we knew they were going to try to throw it out to the flats and get their athletic receivers against us in space,” Bailey said. “For the most part, guys converged on the ball and made those plays, so, then, they didn’t have much else to do.”

Purdue players continued to swarm the football. They continued to pursue ballcarriers. They continued to play with physicality up front, at linebacker and, even, on the backend.

Though it’s only been three games, it’s clear that play caller Nick Holt has established exactly what he’d hoped: An unrelenting, aggressive group that will not quit.

“We worked really hard in the offseason, figuring out what we were going to be and what our statement was going to be this year as a defense. I think we’re doing a good job of showing that so far,” senior defensive tackle Gelen Robinson said. “With Coach Holt leading us, he’s a great coach. I don’t think I’ve been around a coach like him before. He’s just taken us to a different level.

“This is one of the best defenses I’ve been around. I think that’s clear to a lot of fans. They’re seeing a defense that plays hard, runs to the ball and really wants to compete to win, not just stay in the game. It’s been a great couple games, and we’re going to keep it rolling this next week on Homecoming.”

Bailey said when Brohm was hired, he knew Purdue was going to be expected to be a flashy offensive team, but Bailey hoped that wasn’t all it’d be known for. He wanted people to talk about its defense, too, how stout it’d be.

After three games, Bailey said he thinks they’re starting to build that reputation.

“We just have to keep continuing to get better and continue to grow,” Bailey said.

Funny thing: Bailey’s not-satisfied sentiment was a common one from Purdue’s players after the game.

Robinson and Mosley said, sure, players would enjoy the victory on the flight home to West Lafayette but by Sunday, it’d be time to shift focus. And it didn’t seem like hyperbole.

Though Mosley said he thinks Purdue made a statement with its victory Saturday, it’s easy to get “back to business” because “we’re setting high expectations for ourselves right now.”

Competing isn’t the victory anymore.

And, maybe, even a victory against an SEC team — on the road — isn’t just a victory.

Not with Michigan, a top-10 team and the Big Ten opener, coming up.

“A lot of guys, you can see, it’s really high intensity right now. That’s what we like. I don’t think it’s just because we did so well against an SEC team. I think it’s just because we can see our potential,” Robinson said. “Being able to see that — not seeing it these past couple years and now we just get a short glimpse of it — it’s exciting. It lets us know we have more in us, and it lets the fans know that we’re going to play hard every single snap.

“We’re excited that we got the win, but in all reality, we beat a good team, we beat a good offense, but that’s behind us now and we really have to get ready for the next team because they’re going to come in even stronger, ready to win and compete just as much as we want to compete. We’ll celebrate for this day and (Sunday) get right back at it in the room. That’s what’s going to be needed this week. It’s not going to be an easy week. None of them are anymore.”


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