COLUMBIA, Mo. — It was hot in Missouri on Saturday afternoon, with the kickoff temperature at 89 degrees and the on-field feel maybe 10 more than that.
But it was the Tigers’ defense that felt the brunt of the heat; it was on the field for nearly 22 minutes of the first half, the result of Purdue’s offensive efficiency and its stout defense.
The defense forced a three-and-out on Missouri’s first possession, a drive that lasted only 1:19. And that was sandwiched between 5:11 and 2:56 scoring drives by Purdue. The Boilermakers’ third scoring drive, a 96-yarder, took 6:59 off the clock.
The Boilermakers controlled the tempo.
“While we have the ability to go fast, we have the ability to slow it down too,” Coach Jeff Brohm said. “I thought that we did a good job of using some clock and making sure we didn’t rush everything and we got in a good play and mixed in a few things a little bit faster, but I knew that the defense can only play so many plays.
“While we want to score points and go fast, I’m the head coach and I wanted to make sure I take care of our defense and they weren’t on the field a ton. The other team had 54 plays, which is amazing that we held them to that few plays. Yes, we wanted to take our time and find a way to make it a team win.”
Purdue’s defense was also a beneficiary, as the Boilermakers spent only those 8:22 of the first half on the field. It was only 16:17 for the game, helping to keep Purdue as fresh as possible given the conditions.
“We were sitting around like, ‘We have barely played,’” linebacker Markus Bailey said. “The offense was doing great sustaining drives, and we kept getting stops. I was prepared to come in and just be going and going and going, and it was kind of relieving not to keep going like that. It was good that we got stops that let us do that and the offense did a great job doing their job, too."
McCollum banged up
Purdue had a number of players get nicked during the game, but one might be at least a little more serious.
Linebacker T.J. McCollum was sidelined with what appeared to be a leg injury late in the first quarter. Brohm said the senior practiced only on Thursday, sitting out the first two prep days after initially being hurt earlier.
“I don’t think it’s really serious, but if it’s a hamstring or upper hamstring, I don’t know how long it will take,” Brohm said.
Purdue had others forced to the sideline: Leo Danny Ezechukwu left and had to be examined; running back Tario Fuller was the recipient of a hard hit, sending him to the sideline but only temporarily; and cornerback Da’Wan Hunte suffered a second-half lower-body injury but walked off the field.
“I don’t know for sure, but I’ll find out,” Brohm said of injuries. “I don’t think we had anything serious. I think we got out of it fairly healthy.”
Bailey had seen the route before.
So early in the second half, when he saw it again, Bailey was in the right spot for Drew Lock’s throw, dropping deep in his zone for an interception that he returned 21 yards to the Missouri 5-yard-line.
“I knew that if I was in this coverage, I’m not going to let them throw that play again,” said Bailey, who had his first pick of the season after having four last year. “I saw the quarterback look over there, I just ran out there and kind of anticipated he was going to throw it out there and he did. So I just made a play on the ball."
Sparks vs. Sparks
In the fourth quarter, Jared Sparks saw a familiar face across from him, his younger brother Adam, a Tigers’ defensive back.
And for back-to-back plays, the brothers lined up against one other, likely bringing their family to their feet in the stands. After the first play, Jared gave Adam a tap on the helmet.
Jared Sparks, a wide receiver and No. 3 QB, got the better end of the matchup on Saturday. And he finished with a catch for six yards and 22 more rushing.
“I’m not going to rub it in his face too much because I want the team to finish out the season well and for him to be successful,” Jared said of Adam. “I don’t wish any bad blood on him. I feel like we prepared a little bit better this time and came out on top. But during the holidays and we’re when we’re alone or with our cousins, our friends, our parents, I’ll bring it up and throw it in his face. But subtly, not to be rude or anything.”
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