WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -
Purdue's defense did it again.
A week after holding Notre Dame's powerful offense in check, the Boilermakers held Eastern Michigan to 313 total yards in a 54-16 win on Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles' only touchdown before the fourth quarter came on a 28-yard interception return by Pudge Cotton in the second quarter. The Boilermakers intercepted three passes and held Eastern Michigan to 144 yards on 14-of-29 passing.
The Boilermakers (2-1) have allowed just 44 points in three games. Frankie Williams, Landon Feichter and Josh Johnson all had interceptions against Eastern Michigan, and Ryan Russell had a sack and two tackles for loss.
The program best known for producing quarterbacks could win big this season by stopping them.
"Our first-team defense, I think, has played very well all season long," Purdue coach Danny Hope said. "Our offense has put them in some tough situations. I think our defense has showed up and played very well."
The tough defense will be important as Purdue gets its passing game in order. The Boilermakers looked sloppy at times with Caleb TerBush at the controls, but eventually the offense came around. TerBush passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, but he also missed open receivers and sometimes held onto the ball too long and. He also threw the interception that Cotton returned for a touchdown.
"I didn't think he played all that well," Hope said. "He was very ill yesterday. I was glad that he sucked it up and went out there and gave us a good effort."
Though the passing game struggled, the running game was dynamic. The Boilermakers ran 42 times for 392 yards. Akeem Hunt ran for 106 yards and a touchdown on just four attempts and scored a 50-yard touchdown on his only catch. Brandon Cottom added 95 yards on the ground, and Antavian Edison caught five passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Purdue took advantage of Eastern Michigan's porous run defense, which had allowed 272.5 yards per game to rank 118th out of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"We have a lot of team speed," Hope said. "We got the ball in our fastest playmakers' hands. We're good that way; that was part of the plan. We went out and recruited class sprinters."
The Eagles (0-3) were simply overmatched.
"They have a group of extremely talented guys," Eastern Michigan coach Ron English said. "I have coached against them before, and that is the most talented Purdue team I have coached against."
Dominique Sherrer led the Eagles with 12 carries for 73 yards.
Purdue's Williams intercepted a pass by Alex Gillett on Eastern Michigan's second possession. The Boilermakers opened the scoring later in the first quarter when Akeem Shavers broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown run.
Purdue forced Eastern Michigan to punt and Taylor Richards blocked it, allowing the Boilermakers to take over at the Eastern Michigan 29. TerBush closed the possession by rolling right, stopping near the sideline and firing back across the field to find Edison in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown. The extra point failed, and the Boilermakers led 13-0.
Later, a fumble by Purdue's O.J. Ross set up a field goal by Eastern Michigan's Dylan Mulder that cut the Boilermakers' lead to 13-9.
It was all Boilermakers from there. Hunt took a short pass from TerBush 50 yards for a score to make it 20-9. Cottom then broke for his long run, the fourth-longest in school history.
"I just saw a hole open up and the linebacker slide down and I got him to miss," Cottom said. "I didn't feel like they could catch me, but I was running as fast as I could."
TerBush closed the first-half scoring with a 2-yard run with 9 seconds left in the second quarter.
Hunt broke loose for a 56-yard scoring run early in the third quarter to push Purdue's lead to 40-9.
Eastern Michigan's Tyler Benz scored on a 2-yard run to give the Eagles their first offensive touchdown with 8:40 remaining. Purdue's Danny Anthrop capped the scoring with his first career touchdown, a 4-yard run with 1:47 to play.
Hope said it was a good result heading into the team's bye week.
"Even though we didn't play our best, we beat them like we were supposed to," Hope said.
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