Boilermakers scramble, get off unlikely kick to force overtime

by John R. Carter

How quickly can a Big Ten football team – in this case Purdue – go from desperation to jubilation?

On Saturday at the Metrodome, it took just one second.

How many letters does it take the same team’s coach – in this case Joe Tiller – to spell out his reaction to the Boilermakers overtime victory?

Just three, with a few “!” thrown in for good measure.

“W, O, W, exclamation mark, exclamation mark, exclamation mark,” Tiller said after Purdue’s improbable 35-28 overtime win versus Minnesota.

In 11 years as a head coach, Tiller has been on the sidelines for a number of big wins, including eight a year ago propelling his team to the Rose Bowl. But Saturday’s win and how it unfolded reached new heights.

“The way it happened would be No. 1,” Tiller said.

With the Boilermakers trailing 28-25 and under a minute to play, Minnesota punter Preston Gruening nailed his best boot of the day, a 43-yarder that pinned Purdue at its own 6-yard line.

A false start on the first play pushed the Boilermakers back even further, to the 3-yard line.

The clock on the Metrodome scoreboard read :19 when Purdue began the drive – 19 seconds to tie or win the game. No timeouts.

The Boilermakers had less time to go the length of the field than contestants on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” have to phone a friend.

Impossible. No way. Yeah right. Not without recently departed Drew Brees leading the offense could the Boilermakers pull this off, and even then, Purdue would need a miracle.

Enter Brandon Hance, Brees’ replacement. After looking like any other rookie signal-caller over the first three-plus quarters, the redshirt freshman did his best impression of No. 15 on the final drive.

Hance connected with wide receiver John Standeford over the middle for 27 yards, advancing the ball to Purdue’s 30-yard line. The clock stopped to move the chains.

Once set, Hance hit another wide out, Taylor Stubblefield, over the middle for 39 yards to Minnesota’s 31. The clock stopped again – on :01.

“They were in the prevent defense,” Hance said. “They were expecting the deep-ball, so I knew I needed to be patient.”

After the second pass play, Hance and Purdue’s offense bolted off the field, while the field goal unit raced on.

Long snapper John Shelbourne quickly lined up in position and waited for the referee to place the ball. The whistle blew to start play.

“I thought I heard the whistle inside my helmet, so I just snapped it,” Shelbourne said.

Holder Ben Smith was waiting.

“I put it down and (kicker Travis Dorsch) got it off in time, not in plenty of time, but enough time,” Smith said.

Dorsch nailed the ball the best he could and split the uprights from 48-yards away, a career high.

“I didn’t even know how much time was on the clock, I just knew Shelbourne had to get it off in a hurry,” Dorsch said. “He did a good job getting it off, and before I looked up, I knew it was good.”

Game tied. Bring on overtime. Or so Purdue thought. Minnesota’s coaches argued the call, saying it would have been impossible to get a play off in one second. The referees huddled and concurred.

“When the ball was made ready for play, I felt they snapped the ball in time,” referee and crew chief Dick Honig said.

The play stood, and the Boilermakers won in OT. All thanks to a 19-second miracle.

“Every kick is different, and that was a very special kick. I will always remember it,” Dorsch said.

And Minnesota might never forget.