WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - NOVEMBER 12: Purdue Boilermakers players celebrate after the defense blocked an extra point attempt in the fourth quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ross-Ade Stadium on November 12, 2011 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue defeated Ohio State 26-23 in overtime. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
A look at the stats that mattered in Purdue's wacky 37-32 win over Western Michigan, from turnovers, to double-turnovers, to huge games by Purdue's Akeem Shavers and Western Michigan's Jordan White.
0.5: Average gain by Western Michigan in short-yardage situations (second or third down, three or fewer yards to go). They ran 14 short-yardage plays and gained seven yards; six carries gained one yard, and quarterback Alex Carder completed two of eight passes for six yards.
0.7: Average gain by Western Michigan in goal-to-go situations. Same exact story: five carries gained two yards, and Carder completed two of five passes for five yards. For the game, Western Michigan gained 485 yards, with a healthy per-play average of 6.0 yards. But apparently Bill Cubit's offense prefers a more wide-open canvas. Plenty of spread offenses have figured out how to move the ball in tight quarters; Cubit's, evidently, has not. Purdue's defensive line completely dominated when it had to, and while a Big Ten defense should not necessarily receive too much credit for "holding" a MAC offense to 485 yards, one might want to make at least a small exception in this case.
18: Hits and hurries faced by Carder. Officially, Carder rushed 13 times for 29 yards, was sacked once, and was "hurried" four more times. In reality, however, he faced quite a few more hits than that. Purdue's general defensive strategy was simple: be really mean. Hit Carder before he throws, hit him while he's throwing, hit him after he's thrown, hit him well after he's thrown. (The Boilers committed five personal fouls.) It certainly worked, though. Carder's decision-making and accuracy were lacking at times, and even though star receiver Jordan White still made him look very good at times (we'll get to him in a moment), there's no question that he found the going tough in "need yards now" situations.
15.6: Average gain on passes targeting Western Michigan receiver Jordan White. It seemed heading into the game that Purdue needed to stop one player -- White -- to win the game; instead, they won by stopping everybody but White. Carder targeted him 17 times, and White caught 13 for 265 yards and a touchdown. It was an incredible way to cap an incredible, grueling season for the senior from Cleveland. He entered the game having been targeted 186 times, well more than anybody else in the country; but despite the predictability of WMU's attack, White consistently produced. He did so again yesterday, making a series of tough catches and big plays. It was almost enough. In 2011, White out-dueled Toledo's Eric Page for the "MAC's best receiver" title, mostly by serving as a more explosive (and frequent) weapon; against a major-conference defense (and yes, Purdue's technically qualifies), he showed he has the hands and athleticism to do serious damage.
47.5: Value, in equivalent points (as defined here), of the game's 10 turnovers. It just got silly after a while. WMU lost six turnovers, and Purdue lost four, but that doesn't even begin to explain it. Twice in the second half, Purdue forced a Bronco turnover deep in PU territory, then fumbled away the return. Gerald Gooden picked off a Carder pass at the Purdue 6 but was stripped by Josh Schaffer at the 29; six plays later, Western Michigan scored to cut the Boiler lead to 34-25. Then in the fourth quarter, Carder was sacked and stripped on fourth down from the Purdue 12; Ryan Russell scooped up the ball and rumbled into WMU territory, where he fumbled the ball to WMU's Eric Monette; five plays later, WMU scored to cut Purdue's lead to five. That is hustle, effort, play-making and extreme bone-headedness wrapped into one package. It was also part of the reason this was probably the most enjoyable Little Caesar's Bowl ever.
149: Rushing yards gained by Purdue junior Akeem Shavers. Most of this Numerical has focused on things that happened when WMU had the ball. That's because it was a lot more entertaining and unpredictable than what happened when the Boilers had the ball: Shavers right, Shavers left, Shavers up the middle. The junior carried 22 times for 149 yards and consistently softened up the Bronco defense. Three other Purdue backs -- Akeem Hunt, Reggie Pegram and Jared Crank -- rushed 12 more times for 80 yards, and receiver-slash-Wildcat-quarterback Justin Siller threw in five carries for 54 yards. Purdue dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and that is the primary reason they won ... barely.