The Journal Gazette
Saturday, November 06, 2021 7:40 pm

Purdue defeats No. 5 Michigan State, 40-29, second top 5 win of season

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – Just call them giant-killers.

Three weeks after ending No. 2 Iowa's dream undefeated season, Purdue gave No. 5 Michigan State the same treatment this afternoon, sending the Spartans home from West Lafayette with a 40-29 defeat that makes the Boilermakers bowl-eligible with three games to play and sends the Big Ten East race into flux.

The victory was the 17th over a top 5 in Purdue history when the Boilermakers were unranked, the most such wins of any team in college football. It's the first time since 1960 Purdue has won two games over top 5 opponents in the same season.

The win was, in large part, courtesy of Purdue quarterback Aidan O'Connell and wide receiver David Bell. O'Connell went 40 of 54 for a career-high 536 yards, his first 500-yard game, and tossed three touchdown passes. Bell cemented his status as the favorite for Big Ten Receiver of the Year and a Biletnikoff Award contender with 11 catches for 217 yards and a touchdown. 

The Spartans erased a 14-point deficit to tie the score at 21 early in the third quarter, but the Boilermakers re-took the lead on 1-yard King Doerue touchdown run that capped a 7-play, 70-yard drive and then added field goals on each of their next three possessions. 

Purdue's defense all but clinched the victory when cornerback Dedrick Mackey stepped in front of a Payton Thorne pass in the end zone and picked it off midway through the fourth quarter.

  • O'Connell had the best game of his college career, posting his second career 400-yard game and a yardage total that ranks third in Boilers history. He tossed a perfectly-thrown corner fade to receiver Broc Thompson for an 8-yard touchdown in the second quarter. In the first quarter, he wiggled free from three Michigan State rushers and kept his eyes downfield for a 6-yard touchdown throw to Milton Wright.
  • Bell had his second career 200-yard performance, both of which have come against top 5 teams in the last four weeks. It was the junior's 15th career 100-yard performance, setting a Purdue record.
  • The Boilermakers took a 21-7 lead in the second quarter on a 39-yard touchdown reception from running back/wide receiver Jackson Anthrop. The play was a double reverse pass that saw Anthrop take a handoff, then pitch the ball to Zander Horvath, who pitched it back to O'Connell. While the latter pitch was happening, Anthrop was leaking into the flat, where O'Connell tossed him the ball with a convoy of six blockers in front, setting up the score.
  • Boilers tight end Garrett Miller, who came into the game with 10 career receptions and eight this season, played almost the entire game in place of ailing starter Payne Durham, who wore a knee brace on the sideline. Miller had eight catches for 74 yards, including a spectacular sprawling 14-yard grab along the sideline on a key third-and-3 late in the third quarter. 
  • The Boilermakers controlled the ball for more than 35 minutes and have held it for 73% of its last two games. Purdue also out-gained Michigan State 594-458. 
  • After registering its first 100-yard rushing game of the season a week ago against Nebraska, Boilermakers running backs ran 29 times for just 70 yards against the Spartans. All-Big Ten running back Zander Horvath had 10 carries for 24 yards and lost a fumble that led to a Michigan State touchdown early in the third quarter.
  • Snider graduate Lawrence Johnson was once again a key cog on Purdue's defensive line, registering three tackles and helping the Boilermakers slow down Heisman Trophy-hopeful Kenneth Walker III.
  • Walker, who came into the game No. 2 in the country in rushing yards with nearly 1,200, had a 14-yard touchdown run and finished with 23 carries for 146 yards, but it was still a relatively quiet performance by his standards and Purdue never let him break the really big runs that cost Michigan against the Spartans last week.
  • Purdue will be back in action next Saturday, when it will play yet another top 10 opponent in No. 6 Ohio State (8-1, 6-0 Big Ten) at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The kickoff time and broadcast information will be announced early this week. The Boilermakers beat then-No. 2 Ohio State 49-20 in West Lafayette in October 2018, the first big win of coach Jeff Brohm's career. The Buckeyes are coming off a 26-17 road win over Nebraska.

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