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September 25, 2006
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When Purdue travels to South Bend Saturday, defensive end Anthony Spencer will be returning to the scene of perhaps his finest hour.
In the first half of the Boilermakers' 41-16 win over Notre Dame in 2004, Spencer was downright dominant, with four tackles, two sacks, a pass break-up and a key forced fumble near the Purdue goal line.
You'll recall the Spencer-generated turnover may have been the decisive swing in Purdue's first win in South Bend in 30 years.
At the time, the Boilermakers led 13-3, but Notre Dame had first-and-goal inside the Purdue 5.
Spencer, though, ripped the ball out of running back Darius Walker's hands and Brent Grover recovered at the 3. Kyle Orton then drove the offense 97 yards for a touchdown that turned what was nearly a 13-10 game into a commanding 20-3 Boilermaker advantage.
All of this came in just 30 minutes of play.
Spencer's day ended, however, on a sour note when he rolled his ankle colliding with Ray Edwards trying to block a punt, an injury that sidelined him for the second half and plagued him for weeks to come.
"I probably couldn't have played a better half," Spencer said. "It was like a dream at first, then a nightmare at the end, I guess. That pretty much ruined the rest of my season."
This year thus far, the senior's re-captured some of what he experienced in Notre Dame Stadium in '04.
Through four games, Spencer has made 28 tackles, with nine for loss and five sacks, with two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and the blocked field goal that may have saved the Boilermakers against Miami (Ohio) in Week 2, when Purdue went on to win in overtime.
Against Minnesota Saturday, he had a game-high-tying 10 tackles with two sacks, on one of which he forced a fumble and recovered it all in the same motion.
To put Spencer's cumulative numbers in perspective, he has already made more tackles than he did all of last season (23). He's also already exceeded his '05 totals in TFLs (7.5) and nearly doubled his sack total (three).
"It's definitely been my best stretch of four games at Purdue. I'm just trying to keep it up and get wins," said the Boilermakers' defensive captain, who was named Big Ten Defensive Player-of-the-Week earlier today. "I've had a couple injuries in past years, and now I'm healthy. It's my last year and I'm working extra hard."
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