Boilermakers ranked in the national top 25

By Kenny Thompson

Monday morning was a good day to be a fan of Purdue University athletics.

Five Boilermaker teams were ranked in the national top 25 of their respective sports.

Volleyball is seventh in the coaches poll after defeating No. 15 Penn State at home for only the third time since 1987. Fifth year senior libero Jena Otec was selected the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Week.

Matt Painter’s Purdue men’s basketball team was rated seventh in The Associated Press preseason poll. It’s the highest preseason ranking for the Boilermakers since also being No. 7 to start the 2009-10 season.

Women’s soccer is 19th, riding its best start (11-3-2) since 2007.

Men’s golf is 22nd in the country and has the two-time reigning Big Ten Player of the Week in Herman Sekne.

Finally, thanks to an attention-grabbing 24-7 victory at formerly No. 2 Iowa, the Purdue football team entered The Associated Press poll at No. 25 on Sunday.

That ranking ended the longest current absence from the AP poll for a Power Five school. The Boilermakers were last ranked on Sept. 30, 2007.

Kansas now owns the longest unranked streak, having been out of the AP poll since October 2009.

The poll streak wasn’t the only one that ended this past weekend for Jeff Brohm’s Boilermakers.

  • Purdue had not defeated a Top 5 Big Ten opponent away from home since 1964, when sophomore quarterback Bob Griese led the Boilermakers to the first of three consecutive victories at fifth-ranked Michigan, 21-20.
  • The Boilermakers’ most recent victory over an Associated Press No. 2 home team? A 31-20 verdict at Notre Dame in 1974.
  • Iowa had played 36 consecutive games without a double-digit defeat.

The victory thrust Purdue into the Top 5 in college football history among teams to have defeated Associated Press Top 2 schools. Saturday was the 13th in Boilermaker history, trailing Notre Dame (17), Ohio State and USC (16), and Oklahoma (14).

Purdue leads college football with nine victories against Top 2 opponents while unranked in the Associated Press Top 25 since the poll’s creation in 1936.

Those nine victories?

Purdue 28, No. 1 Notre Dame 14 in 1950 at South Bend;

Purdue 6, No. 2 Michigan State 0 in 1953 at Ross-Ade;

Purdue 20, No. 1 Michigan State 13 in 1957 at East Lansing;

Purdue 23, No. 1 Minnesota 14 in 1960 at Minneapolis;

Purdue 31, No. 2 Notre Dame 20 in 1974 at South Bend;

Purdue 16, No. 1 Michigan 14 in 1976 at Ross-Ade;

Purdue 28, No. 2 Ohio State 23 in 1984 at Ross-Ade;

Purdue 49, No. 2 Ohio State 20 in 2017 at Ross-Ade;

Purdue 24, No. 2 Iowa 7 in 2021 at Iowa City.

The four victories by a ranked Purdue team over a Top 2 opponent:

No. 19 Purdue 27, No. 1 Notre Dame 14 in 1954 at South Bend;

No. 6 Purdue 25, No. 1 Notre Dame 21 in 1965 at Ross-Ade;

No. 10 Purdue 28, No. 1 Notre Dame 21 in 1967 at Ross-Ade;

No. 1 Purdue 37, No. 2 Notre Dame 22 in 1968 at South Bend;  

To the victor go the spoils. Purdue placed two players on the Big Ten’s honor roll Monday.

David Bell was voted Offensive Player of the Week thanks to his 11 receptions for a career-high 240 yards and a touchdown. The yardage is a Kinnick Stadium record and second all-time at Purdue behind Chris Daniels’ 301 yards against Michigan State in 1999.

Bell also earned a berth on The Athletic and midseason All-America first team.

Safety Cam Allen was chosen Defensive Player of the Week. The junior intercepted two passes in the fourth quarter and was part of a secondary that held Iowa to 195 yards passing on 32 attempts.

The Boilermakers also were selected National Team of the Week by the Football Writers Association of America.

As he eclipsed 200 yards for the first time in his career, Bell has reached the 100-yard mark in 14 of 23 games. He has 2,339 career receiving yards, fifth-most all-time, 19 career touchdowns, No. 8 in school history, and 177 career receptions, ninth in the record books.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz hopes he’s seen the last of Bell, who in three games against the Hawkeyes has 37 receptions for 558 yards and five TDs.

“He had as good a day as I could remember us facing,” said Ferentz, who has been Iowa’s head coach since 1999.

Brohm went even further with his praise of Bell.

“He’s one of the best receivers in the country and he shows that every week,” Brohm said following Saturday’s game. “This is a guy a couple weeks ago took a tremendous hit, knocked him out, bloodied his lip, got a couple of stitches. He easily could have said I’ve got an NFL career and I’m just going to take care of that and move on. He didn’t. He came back as fast as he could. He’s a competitor. He’s very unselfish and a great teammate.”

Ending two more streaks is on Purdue’s mind Saturday when Wisconsin comes to a sold-out Ross-Ade Stadium.

The Boilermakers have not beaten the Badgers in Ross-Ade since Joe Tiller’s first season on the sideline in 1997. Wisconsin has not lost to Purdue since 2003, a streak of 14 games.

By the numbers

Remember being concerned before the season about a Purdue defense that gave up nearly 30 points and 400 yards a game with an NFL draft pick as its anchor?

After allowing seven points and 271 total yards to Iowa, the Boilermakers are ranked fourth in the nation in scoring defense (14.0) and one point behind Penn State (13.83) for having the Big Ten’s best in that category.

Purdue ranks 13th in total defense (294.8 yards a game), fifth in pass defense and 30th in rushing defense.

“They are setting a standard here for dominating that side of the ball,” Brohm said Saturday.

That standard starts with co-defensive coordinator Brad Lambert. His Marshall defense in 2020 led the nation in scoring defense (13.0), second in total defense (279.4) and fourth in rushing defense (95.5).

No sequence was bigger against Iowa than what followed Purdue wide receiver T.J. Sheffield’s fumble out of the end zone with a 17-7 lead. Sack by Branson Deen. Sack by George Karlaftis. Incomplete pass.

“We just kept saying ‘game’s not over,’ “ Karlaftis said. “We’re not letting down. We’re going to be aggressive and we’re going to finish.

“When you harass the quarterback and make him uncomfortable (and) get a lead, that’s a recipe for success.”

RIP Otis Armstrong

The news wasn’t all good this past weekend for the Boilermakers.

The death of record-setting Purdue running back Otis Armstrong was announced Friday by his family.

Armstrong, who was 70, is the second member of Purdue’s All-Time Football Team to pass away in 2021. Leroy Keyes died at age 75 on April 15.

Like Keyes, Armstrong was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012 for his accomplishments at Purdue.

“Leroy Keyes was the only reason why I came to Purdue,” Armstrong said in a 1999 interview with this columnist.

Armstrong headed perhaps the finest recruiting class in Purdue history when he arrived on campus in 1969. Freshmen weren’t eligible then so fans had to wait until 1970 to watch the only Boilermaker to come close to reaching 1,000 rushing yards in three consecutive seasons.

The Chicago native amassed 3,315 rushing yards from 1970-72, a total that still ranks third in Purdue history. His farewell performance at Purdue remains the gold standard for running backs.

Armstrong shredded Indiana for 276 yards during a 42-7 victory on Nov. 25, 1972. Shortly afterward, Armstrong was selected the Big Ten Conference’s Most Valuable Player.

The seeds of that record-setting performance were planted at the end of the 1971 Old Oaken Bucket game, when a brawl broke out with two minutes to go in Indiana’s 38-31 victory.

“We didn’t forget that game,” Armstrong said. “Darryl Stingley, Gary Danielson, Dave Butz, Gregg Bingham and I. They stole one.

“I wanted to end it on a good note. I wanted to go out there and give my best. It was my last chance to play for the Purdue faithful.”

His last carry in a Boilermaker uniform was a 53-yard touchdown run with 5:14 remaining.

Needing just 32 carries to reach those 276 yards, Armstrong walked off the Ross-Ade Stadium turf as the Big Ten’s career rushing leader.

Taken ninth overall by the Denver Broncos in the 1973 NFL Draft, Armstrong would go on to lead the NFL in rushing with 1,407 yards in 1974.

High hopes

Two national basketball writers are even more bullish on Purdue than its No. 7 ranking in the preseason Associated Press poll.

Matt Norlander of has the Boilermakers ranked No. 2 behind Gonzaga.

“My biggest reason for this is (Matt) Painter’s undisputed chops as a coach combined with potentially having three of the 30 best players in the country: PF Trevion Williams, PG Jaden Ivey and C Zach Edey, the latter two having flourished in U19 competition over the summer and boosted their stock immensely,” Norlander writes. Forward Sasha Stefanovic and combo guard Eric Hunter also return, giving Purdue as much all-around dependability as any team in men’s college basketball. … Get ready for a powerhouse to emerge in West Lafayette, Indiana.”

Seth Davis of The Athletic voted Purdue third behind Gonzaga and UCLA in his AP ballot.

“You’ll notice that a) I am a bit higher on Purdue than my fellow voters and b) a big reason is Jaden Ivey,” Davis writes. “The 6-4 sophomore guard had an outstanding freshman season (11.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists per game) and shined over the summer at the FIBA U19 World Championships. Matt Painter has a stellar track record in player development, and the Boilermakers are returning their top eight players from last season. I am confident that all of them will be considerably better.”

Ivey was named second-team preseason All-America by The Athletic. Four Big Ten players made the site’s honor roll, joining first-team center Kofi Cockburn of Illinois and fellow second teamers Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana and Hunter Dickinson of Michigan.

“In some ways, projecting Ivey as a preseason All-American is our staff’s biggest, riskiest call,” Eamonn Brennan writes. “Ivey’s value, let alone how much better he might be this year, isn’t encompassed in his season-long stats from a year ago. He is projected as a lottery pick pretty much everywhere you look; every NBA scout expects him to be one of the best guards in the country in 2021-22. Throw in some improved finishing on the offensive end — and the fact that he won’t have to carry his team’s offense, with Trevion Williams around — and this actually looks like one of the savvier projections around. Dude is going to be good.”

Ivey also could be the second Boilermaker to win the Jerry West Award in three seasons (Carsen Edwards took home the trophy in 2018). He is one of 20 on the watch list for the honor given to the nation’s top shooting guard. No school has had two players win the Jerry West Award. placed Ivey and Trevion Williams on its preseason All-America third team on Wednesday.

Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Courier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.