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Central Michigan takes advantage of Purdue's costly mistakes in 38-17 stunner

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — Purdue coach Darrell Hazell stood there incredulously with what he had just witnessed.

Too many penalties, too many turnovers, not enough execution. It was a recipe for disaster.

Cooper Rush threw two touchdown passes, Thomas Rawls ran for two more TDs and Brandon Greer returned an interception 57 yards for a score as Central Michigan stunned the Boilermakers 38-17, their second win over a Big Ten opponent in three seasons.

"We have to be able to stop the run, and we have to be able to hold onto the football offensively," Hazell said. "They responded and scored early in the game, so we always were fighting uphill. All of us have to take a close look at what we are doing and make sure we are better as we move forward."

The Boilermakers (1-1) came into the game with a chance to top last season's victory total, produce their first 2-0 start since 2007 and open the season with back-to-back wins over Football Bowl Subdivision foes for the first time since 2005.

Nothing went right.

Three times in the first half, Purdue lost field position because of penalties on kick and punt returns. Safety Frankie Williams was ejected in the second quarter after he hit a defenseless receiver in the head, drawing a targeting call. And after converting fourth-and-1 into a first down, an illegal substitution call wiped out the play and forced Paul Griggs to attempt a 47-yard field goal that sailed wide left.

Quarterback Danny Etling was yanked in the fourth quarter after throwing his second interception of the game. And even though backup Austin Appleby generated some excitement with a 23-yard TD pass on his first play, he couldn't sustain another drive.

Now comes the hard part: Making corrections and spending the next week debating who will start at quarterback next weekend against No. 16 Notre Dame. Etling finished 17 of 32 for 126 yards passing. Appleby was 7 of 17 for 78 yards.

"I never felt like we were in rhythm throwing the football," Hazell said. "Our drop-back passes have to be much more productive."

Rawls and Rush dominated Purdue with its unexpected one-two punch.

Rush methodically carved up Purdue's secondary with well-timed and well-executed throws. He finished 11 of 16 for 172 yards with one interception.

Rawls, in contrast, delivered the punishing body blows, running 31 times for 155 yards. He scored on a 2-yard run midway through the second quarter to answer a Purdue touchdown and sealed the win with a 16-yard TD run with 3:44 to play.

The Chippewas (2-0) came to Ross-Ade Stadium knowing they'd be without receiver Titus Davis, the 2013 team MVP, because of a sprained left knee. Then they lost punter, placekicker and kickoff specialist Ron Coluzzi in the opening minutes with a likely concussion. Coluzzi did not return.

But instead of falling apart, the Chippewas stuck to the script and pushed their record against current Big Ten members to 6-23, getting their first 2-0 start since 2002.

"I felt like the game was on me, and I want that pressure," Rawls said. "I want that. It excites me, it motivates me, and it boosts me to even run a little bit harder."

Purdue caused most of its own problems.

Greer picked off Danny Etling's late, underthrown ball 4 1/2 minutes into the game and ran it back 57 yards to give Central a 7-0 lead. When the Chippewas finally got the ball back, Rush hooked up with Anthony Rice, who bounced off a tackle between two Purdue defenders, and raced the final 40 yards untouched for a 65-yard score and a 14-0 lead.

Three plays after Williams departed, Rawls scored on a 2-yard run to make it 21-7 — a lead they maintained at halftime because Paul Griggs' pushed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide left after the fourth-down penalty. And losing field position limited Purdue to just one first-half score — Etling's 4-yard TD run that made it 14-7 early in the second quarter. The closest they got after Rawls' first TD was 21-10 early in the third.

A personal foul on Purdue's Ra'Zhan Howard jump-started a drive that ended with an 11-yard TD pass from Rush to Ben McCord, making it 28-10, and after Brian Eavey made a 23-yard field goal, Rawls sealed the win with a powerful 16-yard TD run.

"It (Davis' absence) didn't have any effect because the younger guys have to step up and other guys just have to make plays," Rawls said. "The game plan may have been directed a different way, but overall, as a team we played great."

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