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September 8, 2007Mother Nature struck quickly and often. So did Curtis Painter.
In a game delayed more than hour by lightning, Purdue's quarterback put up as impressive a passing performance - at least statistically - as has been since Drew Brees and Kyle Orton roamed West Lafayette, in a convincing 52-6 victory over Eastern Illinois.
Coming off a shaky opener in which he only completed 14-of-30 passes, Painter came out throwing assertively and accurately against the I-AA Panthers.
"I think he threw the ball with more authority today," Coach Joe Tiller said of his QB. "He made quick decisions."
But at the same time, Painter was patient, according to his coaches, rarely hurrying throws, a recurring bugaboo for him. It was a 180-degree turnaround as Painter threw in Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time in 2007.
He connected on 38 of the 49 throws he attempted, good for a 78-percent success rate. Those passes, distributed to 12 receivers, ate up 348 yards, with six going for touchdowns, tying Brees and Orton for the school single-game record. He'd have had seven had an illegal-block penalty not wiped one off the board in the first quarter.
"I was just taking what the defense gave," said Painter, who's now thrown 10 touchdowns, with no interceptions, this season. "I think I was pretty calm and found the right guys, for the most part. It just shows what our offense is capable of doing. We spread the ball out real well and a lot of guys made plays."
After Eastern won the toss and deferred, the Boilermaker offense asserted itself from the very beginning, taking two-and-a-half minutes to consume 85 yards in eight plays. To cap the drive, Painter hit Jake Standeford, who then plowed through a couple tacklers to just barely reach the goal line.
"I think that first drive helped (Painter) a lot," said receiver Dorien Bryant, who caught 12 passes for 111 yards and TD. "That (gave) him tremendous confidence. The first drive often tells you how the game's going to go, and when you can move the ball quickly on the first drive, it makes you think you can do it the whole game. And he pretty much did."
Purdue added a 39-yard Chris Summers field goal - settled for after Painter's second TD strike to Standeford was negated by penalty - then a 20-yard Painter-to-Greg Orton bomb and two Dustin Keller touchdown catches to take a 31-3 lead at the break.
And quite a break it was.
After a vicious rainstorm had moved through, lightning lit up the sky.
As each team came back on the field from halftime, they were almost immediately turned around and sent back. The stadium was evacuated, with students filing onto the field and being herded like cattle out into the street.
As the delay lasted an estimated 65 minutes, Boilermakers played "hang man." Movies were the hot topic.
"I think Frank Halliburton put 'Alladin' on the board," Keller joked, "but I think he spelled it wrong."
Meanwhile, Bryant struggled, he said, to remember movies' titles, though the actors that starred in them came to him fairly easily.
In the second half, it would be the offense once again starring.
Even with a 28-point lead on a clearly overmatched foe, Purdue kept its high-powered passing game humming.
Bryant took a short screen pass 10 yards for a TD and Jerry Wasikowski made a dazzling, spinning, fourth-down scoring catch on the goal line to start the fourth quarter.
Painter had plenty of help from his receivers.
On Keller's first TD, he caught a short pass over the middle, then bounced outside Standeford's violent-but-perfectly legal block for a 37-yard catch-and-run.
Later, Bryant's screen easily could have been stuffed for minimal gain, but his quickness and speed allowed him to explode through a couple tacklers and dive across the goal line.
Even when Painter made a bad throw, it was just further proof that it was his day.
On Purdue's first scoring drive of the second half, Painter's pass for seemingly no one in particular was nearly intercepted. But it snuck through a Panther's claws and was gobbled up by a tumbling Desmond Tardy for 11 yards on third-and-seven. Three plays later, Bryant scored.
The offense capped its afternoon by running its backups on the field, and the ball continued to move up and down the field with ease. Purdue's last scoring drive was made up of seven hand-offs to freshman running back Dan Dierking, who claimed all 54 of the drive's yards, including the last four, for his second touchdown in as many weeks.
In all, Purdue amassed 533 yards of offense, averaged a half dozen yards per snap, and the Boilermakers also dominated time of possession by roughly 13 minutes.
"We had our game plan," Keller said, "and pretty much everything the coaches said was going to be there was there."
Not to be outdone, the defense gave up some yards - a modest 236, but more than it would have liked - but yielded only a pair of field goals.
During the weather delay, a dejected defense had time to stew over a first half it was anything but happy about.
On Eastern Illinois' first drive of the first half - it lost a fumble on its first kickoff return - it went 69 yards in nine plays before being forced to kick a short field goal.
"We need to play more like how we know we can play," said linebacker Anthony Heygood, who tied Josh Ferguson with a team-high seven tackles, two of which went for loss.
Eastern Illinois quarterback Cole Stinson solicited some worry from Boilermaker coaches before the game, due to the accuracy he showed in a 19-of-26 Week 1 performance against Tennessee Tech.
But Purdue gave Stinson problems by bringing pressure from all over the defensive front.
"The book on him," Tiller said, "was that if you could knock him down, it would impact his accuracy."
Meanwhile, Eastern Illinois hardly so much as breathed on Painter, allowing him time to light up the sky every bit as much as the ominous clouds above.
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