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Purdue Football Shows Confidence, Stops Southern Illinois 35-13

Stan Jastrzebski

As sports moves ever into the world of analytics, studies show there's really no such thing as momentum in football.

Still, Purdue learned something about keeping the psychological game moving in their direction against Notre Dame and seemed determined to deploy that knowledge during a 35-13 win over Southern Illinois Saturday.

For the second straight week, the Boilermakers played a strong first half, jumping out to a 28-3 advantage over the Salukis.

The defense keyed the attack, notching three sacks and forcing two first-half turnovers -- both of which the offense turned into touchdowns.

But it was how Purdue scored that they seemed to care about. After safety Landon Feichter intercepted a tipped pass, Purdue didn't wait to go for the end zone. On the next play from scrimmage, QB Danny Etling (15-of-26, 198 yds, 2 TDs) hit DeAngelo Yancey for a 44-yard score.

Later, following Etling's third rushing TD of the season, a fake extra point turned into a two-point conversion that seemed designed to show Purdue's dominance more than run up the score.

The game marked a turning point of sorts for the offense, which had seen Etling throw many short passes in the team's first three games. Against SIU, Etling was able to air the ball out more and seemed more comfortable than in prior weeks, when many of his short passes were overthrown.

"We hit the big plays we talked about all week long," said coach Darrell Hazell.

The offense also may be finding its identity, four weeks into the season. Only after the passing game proved capable of spreading the field and chewing up chunks of yardage did the SIU 3-4 defense begin to allow significant yardage on the ground to Purdue running backs Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert.

That respect from the defense came in handy during the second half, when a series of bootlegs and rollouts by SIU's Ianotti (24-of-45, 248 yards, 1 INT) brought his team to within 15 points and appeared to wrest the momentum from the home team.

Purdue followed with a methodical, 15-play drive which stalled near the SIU goal line, but more importantly consumed more than eight of the 11 minutes remaining on the clock.

Still, Hazell noted his team needs to improve what have been lackluster starts to the second half of several games.

"Obviously, we've got to get better coming out of the locker room in the second half," Hazell said.

The Boilermakers open Big Ten Conference play next week at home against Iowa (3-1), which defeated Pittsburgh 24-20 Saturday.

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