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Improved Offense Leads Purdue Football To Season-opening Win

Wes Jackson

Purdue's football team was outgained through the air. It committed more penalties than Western Michigan. And sophomore quarterback Danny Etling looked at times like he was trying to throw the football through a wall, rather than to a receiver.

But a more explosive offense and a key interception that led to a touchdown helped the Boilers prevail Saturday, 43-34.

Etling, who endured a trial by fire during his freshman season, gained composure as the game wore on, completing 19-of-38 passes for 181 yards and a pair of scores. He also ran in a touchdown on a quarterback draw with 5:16 remaining before halftime.

Western Michigan took a 14-10 lead shortly after the second quarter began, but Purdue assembled three unanswered scores before the half was out and would never trail again.

Junior kicker Paul Griggs kept his team in the game with three field goals on a day the wind played havoc with both teams' kickers. Both Griggs and Western Michigan placekicker Andrew Haldeman missed extra points in the second half in the blustery conditions.

Both teams' rushing offenses flashed brilliance at times. WMU's Jarvion Franklin carried the ball 19 times for 163 yards and had scoring runs of 5, 61 and 26 yards. Purdue's Raheem Mostert started fast -- appropriate for a Big Ten sprint champion -- notching two 34-yard gains on sweeps to the left in the first quarter alone.

Then the offense seemed to forget about its fastest player for most of the second quarter. Etling passed on 11 consecutive Boilermaker plays, with many of them thrown too hard for his receivers to handle.

But an interception and a 56-yard runback by Purdue defensive back Frankie Williams (who also shined in the punt return game), put Purdue at the Bronco 4-yard line. Etling dove across the goal line three plays later, putting Purdue up 20-13 and pushing it past last year's anemic scoring average of 14.9 points per game.

Mostert eventually re-emerged, as did fellow running back Akeem Hunt. Each ran for a touchdown on the day and the duo tallied 224 rushing yards as a tandem.

The 43 points the home team posted Saturday are the most in the short tenure of second-year head coach Darrell Hazell.

Purdue takes on the second of three Michigan teams it'll host this season next week when Central Michigan visits Ross-Ade Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.

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