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For Boilers, lows eclipse few strides

– The nightmare is over for Purdue.

A hellacious season ended with a final slap in the face Saturday as the Boilermakers (1-11, 0-8 Big Ten) ended their worst-ever season in terms of losses with a 56-36 loss at Indiana.

IU (5-7, 3-5) scored the most points it ever has against Purdue and led 35-9 at the break. After two early touchdowns by the Hoosiers, the Boilermakers had set a program record for points given up in a season.

“They made plays against us on third down, and we couldn’t get off the field,” Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said. “It puts a lot of pressure on the offense to go out and have to respond.”

It only got worse from there.

Freshman quarterback Danny Etling managed a touchdown drive after an interception by senior cornerback Ricardo Allen in the middle of the first quarter. The pick, coupled with another later in the game, moved Allen to second all time in interceptions for Purdue with 13.

But just like the slight signs of life that had cropped up throughout a dreadful season, it was a flash in a pan.

Etling went 33 for 49 for 485 yards and four touchdowns, but the run game, as it was all season, was nonexistent. The defense pulled a disappearing act too, and Purdue had to punt five times before the Boilermakers forced IU to take its first – with 3:01 left in the third quarter.

Although most of the yards and scores came late in the game, Etling set career highs in yards and touchdowns.

“You’re seeing a guy who is going to be a spectacular player,” Hazell said of Etling. “I really believe that. I’m not just saying that.”

Purdue made a 21-point comeback to make it a 49-30 game with 10:13 left in the game. The Boilermakers also scored a season-high in points and return the bulk of that freshman-heavy offensive unit.

So now, attention turns from a rough first year for Hazell to a fresh start in Year 2. All parties involved – returning players, fans and the coaching staff – should be grateful for that.

“We’ll give them a little time off, but then you have to get back in the weight room and start working out,” Hazell said. “We are trying to get better at every single opportunity we can.”

Note: Junior safety and Bishop Dwenger grad Landon Feichter was ejected for targeting in the third quarter. He will be suspended for the first half of the first game next season.

smorrison@jg.net

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