WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — One costly mistake ruined Purdue's big chance.
On a day the team rushed for 162 yards and three touchdowns against the nation's fourth-stingiest run defense, and quarterback Austin Appleby led the Boilermakers back from two double-digit deficits, they still came up short.
"I had a guy that was pressuring me. I just have to throw the ball away. That's on me," said Appleby, who was making his second college start. "I was trying to do too much. I just have to throw the ball away and live to play another down. That's an easy fix."
The Boilermakers' improving offense repeatedly went toe-to-toe with one of the nation's best defenses, rallying twice from double-digit deficits and even getting the ball back with 2:57 left and a chance to force overtime.
Appleby finished 24 of 37 for 211 yards with one touchdown and the interception. Akeem Hunt ran 12 times for 96 yards and three touchdowns including two in the fourth quarter, which cut a 21-point deficit to seven. Anny Anthrop caught a career-high nine passes for 133 yards.
It was almost good enough for Purdue (3-4, 1-1) to pull the upset.
"They showed some energy and some grit and they weren't going to go away," Boilermakers coach Darrell Hazell said. "That's a step in the right direction, but we have to make sure that we finish. That's the big thing. We have to make sure that we finish football games."
Michigan State is learning the same lesson.
One week ago, the Spartans (5-1, 2-0) nearly blew a 24-point fourth-quarter lead at home against Nebraska before surviving 27-22. This time, the defending Rose Bowl champs saw a seemingly safe 21-point fourth-quarter lead nearly disappear because of a defensive breakdown that led to one Purdue touchdown and a failed fake punt that the Boilermakers converted into another score.
The Spartans have won four straight overall, including seven straight conference road games, and tied the school record with a sixth straight win in this series. They also have won 12 straight Big Ten wins, including last season's conference championship game, and remain the Big Ten's best hope of making the inaugural college football playoff.
Merely surviving won't be good enough.
"We didn't finish the way we wanted to," center Connor Kruse said. "I think there were a couple of calls and a couple of mistakes that we need to work on personally, offensively and defensively and we are going to work on that this week."
Michigan State's offense certainly did its part.
It amassed 532 total yards, had 17 plays of 10 or more yards, scored five touchdowns and didn't punt until there was 1:10 to go in the third quarter.
When Purdue closed to 24-17 at halftime, the Spartans responded with touchdowns on their next two drives -- getting a terrific toe tap in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard TD catch by Aaron Burbridge. Hill followed that with a 4-yard TD run to make it 38-17.
"The defense obviously wasn't good enough. We didn't get the stops," Purdue defensive end Ryan Russell said. "Starting out slow, spotting a good team 21 points you're not going to win like that."
Cook finished 19 of 37 for 238 yards with the three scores and one interception. Jeremy Langford ran 13 times for 104 yards, his third straight 100-yard game. Hill had nine carries for 72 yards and matched his career high with two scores. And Tony Lippett finished with seven receptions for 138 yards and one score.
But Michigan State's vaunted defense struggled, especially late when it had a chance to close out the Boilermakers.
Hunt's 52-yard scoring run with 8:49 left closed the deficit to 38-24.
The inexplicable fake punt then gave Purdue the ball at Michigan State's 30-yard line with 7:31 left, and three plays later, Hunt powered in from 3 yards out to make it 38-31. When Purdue's defense then forced a punt, Appleby had a chance to pull off Purdue's biggest win in years.
But Appleby's errant pass with 1:22 to play ended those hopes and the Spartans survived again.
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