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Spartans fumble five times in 24-14 loss to Boilers

November 17, 2001
Sophomore running back Joey Harris (25) gets tackled Saturday at the game at Purdue. The Boilermakers beat the Spartans 24-14.

West Lafayette, Ind. - The MSU football team failed to become bowl eligible for the second straight week Saturday as it fumbled the ball five times in a 24-14 loss to Purdue at Ross Ade Stadium.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Damon Dowdell started the game because sophomore quarterback Jeff Smoker sprained his left shoulder last week against Indiana. Smoker said the decision was made midweek and expects to start against Penn State on Nov. 24.

Dowdell finished 24-for-45 for 304 yards and two interceptions. He threw for a 7-yard TD to sophomore wide receiver Charles Rogers and ran for one score.

Despite four turnovers on fumbles in the first three quarters, MSU (5-4, 3-4 Big Ten) rallied in the final quarter and cut Purdue’s lead to 17-14 with 9:05 left in the game.

Dowdell capped the 91-yard, 10-play scoring drive with a 1-yard sprint into the end zone.

But on the first play of MSU’s next offensive drive, Dowdell fumbled for the second time at MSU’s 12-yard line and Purdue tackle Craig Terrill scooped it up with a clear path to the end zone, putting the Boilermakers up 17-14 with 7:11 left in the game.

And Purdue (6-3, 4-3) clinched the win three minutes later when linebacker Joe Odom picked off Dowdell’s pass and returned it 15-yards to MSU’s 45-yard line.

After a scoreless opening half, MSU claimed the first lead of the game on its initial offensive drive in the second half.

Dowdell, who had an erratic first half going 9-for-21 passing, engineered the 81-yard, 10 play scoring drive.

He hit senior wide receiver Herb Haygood for 19-yards and senior tight end Chris Baker for 27-yards before floating a 7-yard touchdown pass over the shoulder of Rogers at the 10:47 in the third quarter.

Rogers had seven catches for 108 yards.

But Purdue slowly dismantled MSU on its next drive and tied the game at seven at the 5:55 mark of the third quarter. A 10-yard touchdown run by Purdue running back Montrell Lowe, who flipped over the goal line, topped the drive.

On MSU’s next drive Purdue linebacker Landon Johnson stripped junior tailback T.J. Duckett and defensive end Shaun Phillips recovered the fumble on MSU’s 23-yard line.

Duckett finished with 19 yards on 11 attempts and played with a sore right ankle, which he sprained in the first quarter of the loss to Indiana. He is probabel for Penn State on Nov. 24.

The turnover resulted in a 42-yard field goal by Travis Dorsch that gave the Boilermakers a 10-7 advantage.

Fumble-itis struck again on MSU’s next drive with 1:53 left in the third quarter. This time Johnson stripped senior tailback Little John Flowers. Cornerback Antwaun Rogers recovered the ball at MSU’s 20-yard line.

And once again Lowe capitalized on the turnover, giving Purdue a 17-10 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run with 14:57 left in the game.

The first half saw a combined three fumble recoveries by both teams and no points. It was the first scoreless half for both MSU and Purdue this season.

MSU freshman kicker Dave Rayner misfired on field goals from 47 and 37 yards.

After a shaky first quarter, Dowdell had his first flash of brilliance with 10 minutes left in the half, but fumbled two plays later. First Dowdell eluded a sack on third and five and then completed a 19-yard strike to Rogers.

Then Dowdell converted a 27-yard flee-flicker pass to Rogers that placed MSU on Purdue’s 29-yard line. But on the next play, Purdue tackle Matt Mitrione stripped Dowdell and defensive end Akin Ayodele recovered the fumble on the 34-yard line.

Three plays later senior safety Lorenzo Guess stripped Purdue quarterback Brandon Hance and sophomore linebacker Monquiz Wedlow recovered it at the 31-yard line. MSU lost 2-yards in the fumble exchange.

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