at Purdue 27 ... Middle Tennessee 24
Purdue RB Ralph Bolden
Purdue RB Ralph Bolden
Posted Sep 3, 2011

Week 1 CFN Fearless Prediction - Middle Tennessee at Purdue

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 1 - Middle Tenn. at Purdue

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Sept. 3 at Purdue 27 … Middle Tennessee 24
CFN Analysis: After all the injury problems and all the issues Purdue has had, it needed a break, and it got it when Malcolm Beyah came within a whisker of coming up with a game-winning touchdown catch. The blocked kick to seal the victory was the signature moment, but it shouldn't have come down to that. The Boilermaker secondary struggled to hold the Blue Raider passing game in check and the run defense was fine, but wasn't special. The offense did its job with Caleb TerBush fine, completing 19-of-33 passes for 219 yards and two scores with a pick, and Ralph Bolden back to form running for 120 yards on 17 carries. Rice can throw the ball, and Purdue has to use that game and the SE Missouri game to stop the penalties – after committing 11 for 95 yards and needing to get more aggressive on defense and generate more pressure before dealing with Notre Dame.

The Blue Raiders are going to come out of this game heartbroken, and considering they came close to beating a Big Ten opponent in last year's opener, losing to Minnesota, they know there's little to take from the close call. Logan Kilgore was fantastic, completing 27-of-45 passes for 330 yards with two touchdowns with a pick, and he did a great job of spreading the ball around. Alan Gendreau, though, had a rough game with a missed field goal and the blocked kick, and that proved to be the difference. With Georgia Tech up next, the defensive front will have to be even stronger after struggling with the Purdue ground game, and more than anything else, the turnovers have to be kept to a minimum. After the disaster or last year, it's a really, really big deal that there was just one giveaway.

(AP) WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Just a few inches prevented Middle Tennessee from grasping the big-time win it has coveted.

The Blue Raiders trailed Purdue 27-24 in the final seconds Saturday when Logan Kilgore launched a deep pass to Malcolm Beyah in the back of the end zone.

Beyah touched the ball as he reached the end line, but he couldn't haul it in with five seconds remaining.

"Malcolm got by (his defender) a little bit and had a chance," MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said. "I don't know if it would have been out of bounds or in bounds."

On the next play, Middle Tennessee went for the tie, but Purdue's Ricardo Allen blocked a 47-yard field-goal attempt by Alan Gendreau to end the game.

Kilgore passed for 330 yards and two touchdowns, Beyah caught four passes for 89 yards and a touchdown and Benny Cunningham had 105 yards from scrimmage for MTSU.

Even with 460 yards of offense, the Blue Raiders couldn't quite pull the upset.

"It kicks you in the gut right now, you're sick to your stomach that you lost the game, and it's hard to find a positive right now because of that," Stockstill said.

Eventually, the team was able to put it in perspective.

"It's not disappointing at all," Kilgore said. "I think it's extremely encouraging. We see great things in our future. I couldn't be more proud of our offense, of our o-line, of our defense, our special teams. I'm extremely excited. There's nothing disappointing about this game."

Purdue, trailing 24-20, got a late defensive stop to earn a shot at the win, and Caleb TerBush led the Boilermakers 85 yards in 11 plays. His 35-yard touchdown pass to Antavian Edison came with 49 seconds left.

That set up the frantic ending that nearly gave the Blue Raiders their first win against a Big Ten team. The Sun Belt Conference member fell to 0-4 all-time against the Big Ten, including a 24-17 loss to Minnesota in last season's opener.

Purdue trailed 17-10 when running back Akeem Shavers went 30 yards up the middle for a touchdown to tie the score with 11:44 to play.

Middle Tennessee came right back with a 60-yard touchdown drive. Tavarres Jefferson made back-to-back outstanding catches for first downs, then two plays later, Cunningham finished the drive with a 2-yard scoring run to give Middle Tennessee a 24-17 lead with 9:26 to go.

Purdue had a third-and-1 at the MTSU 21 before getting called for a false start. TerBush was sacked on the next play, so Purdue settled for a 47-yard field goal by Carson Wiggs that trimmed MTSU's lead to 24-20 with 5:57 remaining.

The first break for either team came when Allen fumbled and Middle Tennessee recovered at the Purdue 22. On third-and-14, Kilgore found Beyah for a 26-yard touchdown pass to put the Blue Raiders up 7-0.

Wiggs made a 50-yard field goal later in the quarter, his fifth of at least 50 yards during his career, to cut MTSU's lead to 7-3.

Eric Russell intercepted a pass by TerBush early in the second quarter and returned it 34 yards to the Purdue 45, but the Blue Raiders couldn't take advantage. The Boilermakers responded with a 12-play, 98-yard drive. TerBush rolled right and found running back Jared Crank in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown pass to give Purdue a 10-7 lead with 7:32 left in the second quarter.

Middle Tennessee came back later in the quarter with a 95-yard drive. This time, Kilgore found Sancho McDonald for a 21-yard score to give MTSU a 14-10 lead with 2:10 left in the first half.

Purdue caught a break when Gendreau missed a 39-yard field goal late in the third quarter. He made a 42-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, extending MTSU's lead to 17-10.

Purdue scored 17 points and gained 192 yards in the fourth quarter.

"They did a good job towards the end," Stockstill said of Purdue. "Their size and strength kind of overpowered us a little bit down there. They wore us down a little bit."

Middle Tennessee (0-0) at Purdue (0-0) Sept. 3, 12:00, Big Ten Network
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Here's The Deal … Middle Tennessee should be among the better Sun Belt teams, but it has a nasty schedule and it needs a few big breaks to get to a bowl game, but it could also use a big, splashy, name win like it came up with against Maryland two years ago. While beating Purdue wouldn't be like beating Ohio State, it would still be a big moment for a program that's been solid over the years, but hasn't been able to make the turn into the sensational – at least by Sun Belt standards – like Troy. For Purdue, it's just about surviving and moving on.

The Boilermakers have had absolutely no luck with injuries over the last few years, and now they have to deal with more drama and a spot that was supposed to be a big-time strength – more on that in a moment. Fortunately, Middle Tennessee might be the toughest test on the lot over the first few weeks with a trip to Rice to follow and a layup against SE Missouri State before dealing with Notre Dame, and every step forward is big for a program that should be in the mix for bowl games on a regular basis, but hasn't been able to find any positive consistency. Beating Middle Tennessee wouldn't be the be-all-end-all, but doing it convincingly could set the tone that things are going to be different this year, no matter what.

Why Middle Tennessee Might Win: The Blue Raiders are just solid enough across the board to make this a good game throughout. There isn't any one area that they dominate, with special teams being the possible exception, but this is a good, sound squad that has the experience and the offensive line to pull off the upset. Purdue has to find an explosive element, but that could be tough against a very fast, very athletic Middle Tennessee secondary that should overcome the loss of three starters by simply being able to move better than most receiving corps. Defensively, the pass rush should be among the best in the Sun Belt, and any pressure applied could screw up the scrapped together Purdue passing game. Again, more on that in a moment.

Why Purdue Might Win: The offensive line could control things. How do you overcome a shaky quarterback situation and how do you neutralize a phenomenal pass rush? Pound away, and this year's Purdue line should be able to do that on a regular basis with four starters returning to a group that was a plus on a team that lacked offensive stars. While former quarterback Dwight Dasher was the main problem for Middle Tennessee's turnover woes, the team still has to prove it can hang on to the ball and win the turnover battle after finishing dead last in the nation with a whopping -1.46 turnover margin. Purdue wasn't exactly stingy with the ball, but it'll have an aggressive enough defensive front to force mistakes; the Blue Raiders can't win this game unless it's at least +2 in turnovers.

What To Watch Out For: At some point, Purdue has to wonder who it ticked off to keep having such miserable luck when it comes to injuries, particularly knee problems. Former Miami quarterback Robert Marve was lost last year with a torn ACL, and he hasn't been able to do much this summer with his other knee hurting. His absence wasn't supposed to be that big a deal with Rob Henry showing more and more that he was ready to be the starter, and then he was lost with a torn ACL of his own with just over a week before the opener. Now it'll be up to Caleb TerBbush to show that he's ready to handle the work after missing all of last year with academic problems. The 6-5, 222-pounder saw a little time in 2009, but he's a big, pure passer who has the mobility to do more than just sit in the pocket. Now the offense is in his hands, and he has to prove he can make the most of the opportunity. However, don't rule out Marve coming back soon, even if it's not against the Blue Raiders.

What Will Happen: Expect a good game. The Purdue lines will turn out to be the difference with the offensive front neutralizing the Middle Tennessee pass rush that finished 17h in the nation last year in sacks and tenth in tackles for loss. However, the Boilermaker offense will be inconsistent, even though TerBush will come up with a strong, efficient effort, and it should be a battle for at least three quarters. Middle Tennessee will come up with at least one big special teams play to keep the game alive, but it won't be enough as the return of running back Ralph Bolden will spark Purdue for a good Week One win.

CFN Prediction: Purdue 34 ... Middle Tennessee 20
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Purdue -18.5  O/U: 50.5
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