It was the same old story for the Boilermakers this weekend against the Fighting Irish. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Purdue gave up an incredibly easy first score to their opponent letting them waltz into the endzone. I swear the first series saw Purdue use 7 screen doors, 3 revolving doors, and one small child on defense. That’s the amount of resistance ND saw on their first drive. It took less than three minutes for ND to get on the board and take the lead 7-0. Following that though the Purdue defense buckled down and played their best half of the season. The defensive line was getting pressure on Golson, though sometimes they over pursued, and the offense began to look competent. Danny Etling was the starter once again but was connecting on a dink and dunk offense that moved Purdue down the field. Purdue would eventually score on a short pass from Etling to Brandon Cottom who seemingly didn’t get the ball the rest of the game and apparently didn’t deserve to. More on that later. After holding ND to a field goal Purdue marched down the field and DeAngelo Yancey made one of the more impressive catches I’ve seen. With the ball floating just beyond his reach he fully extended and hauled it in while the Notre Dame defender had his hands in his face pushing him out of the back of the endzone. Somehow he held on and got both feet down for an NFL touchdown. At this point the Boilermakers were up 14-10 and everything was looking good but like most of you I’d seen this before. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it dropped it dropped heavy and sudden.
On their next drive ND seemed to be stalled and would have to settle for a field goal. Then they got what seemed to me to be a very generous spot from an official that allowed them to convert a third down keeping the drive alive. Then the speed of Golson took over as with just 0:13 left in the half he scampered 15 yards untouched to the endzone to put the Irish ahead 17-10 on their way to a 30-14 victory over the Boilermakers. So what happened throughout the rest of the game that caused Purdue to fall apart? Self-inflicted wounds of course. That’s been the story of the past 5 or so years for this football team. Each time they do something good you wait for something bad to happen. Sadly, they rarely disappoint. Purdue turned the ball over three times including twice in the redzone. The defense struggled to get off the field on third downs specifically on third and long. There was a single drive where Notre Dame converted both a 3rd and 7 and a 3rd and 8. It’s maddening. The defense looked much better but they simply couldn’t keep up the intensity after that long halftime break.
My relationship with Purdue football
So this now marks the second year in a row that an outgunned Purdue team has held a lead against Notre Dame and seemed to have every chance in the world to win the game only to walk away empty handed. This one hurts worse because now the two teams don’t meet again until 2020. What will this Purdue team do now? Last year after giving fans hope that the season was going to turn a corner they simply put their tail between their legs and proceeded to lose the remainder of the games that season. This year they get a few days to lick their wounds and then have what I HOPE should be a cupcake as they face an FCS school with the opportunity to double their win total from a year ago. Before we look ahead though let’s look at some good, bad, and ugly from this weekend’s game.
- Danny Etling’s first half performance. At one point in the first half he was I believe 8-8. They aren’t incredibly difficult passes he was hitting but that’s not important. The guy clearly needs some confidence and Shoop did what he could to instill it in him early.
- The offensive line held up their best against the best defensive line they’ve played thus far. They are certainly no world beaters by any stretch of the imagination but they protected Etling fairly well for the majority of the game.
- Justin Sinz has consistently shown he’s Purdue’s best tight end and against Notre Dame he proved it again. The guy isn’t flashy, he’s not going to show up on a highlight reel too often, or at all, but he just goes out there and gets the job done each and every game. Sinz is a solid safety net for the young QB.
- The crowd of Purdue fans in Indy was absolutely fantastic. They stood up and made noise throughout the entire game.
- It was good to see Danny Anthrop getting involved in the offense and making some moves. The guy is a hell of a player and I’m glad he had the opportunity to show that.
- The rushing defense was much better than it has been in weeks past as Purdue snapped their streak of allowing a 100 yard rusher. The only reason this isn’t on the good side is the constant rushing of Notre Dame QB Everett Golson. The line all too often broke down and allowed big plays to Golson including his late second quarter touchdown.
- Danny Etling gets a nod here as well as he still has a long way to go. His two interceptions were extremely terrible throws that he tried to force to receivers that were not open. He was trying to press and simply win the game on his own and the way this Purdue offense is built that’s not going to happen.
- Notre Dame fans. A drunk Notre Dame fan fell in the row behind me and spilled his entire coke on me, my wife, and the row of people in front of me. Since we were in row two half the coke also went over the railing to the people below us. To top that off I had an entire row of people behind me who went to IU but are of course ND football fans. An exact quote from them was, “Yeah we (IU) beat you in basketball and now we (ND) are going to beat you in football.” Also this gem, “I was born and then I saw the golden dome. True story.” I’m amazed I didn’t punch any of them in the face.
- Not sure what the reason is, perhaps the stoppage makes them logy, but this Purdue team struggles to come out of half with any fire. Purdue’s defense couldn’t find a way off the field in much of the second half and they offense couldn’t get into any sort of groove. ND scored 13 points and Purdue scored 0. There’s your problem.
Purdue is still a team with a lot of problems to work through. They looked better against Notre Dame but better doesn’t show up in the win loss column. Purdue is still a team with one win fighting to find its identity. There’s lots to do as the season progresses but they did give the fans a glimmer of hope on Saturday night. Can they do anything with that glimmer? That remains to be seen.
This will be the 69th time in a row these two teams have played one another but it will also be the last time until 2020 as Notre Dame finds themselves locked into an agreement with the powerhouse ACC football division that makes them play five ACC games a year. So despite the fact that Purdue helped keep Notre Dame afloat back in the day Notre Dame has decided that our rivalry with them, a trophy game I remind you, isn’t important enough to keep as they protect the USC, Stanford, and Navy games instead. So Purdue will be left out in the cold like the spurned girlfriend. The one who was always there for you treated you right and hung around when times got tough. Now though big man on campus Notre Dame has decided he can do better and is walking away from his oldest rivalry. At least these two teams are parting amicably unlike what happened between Notre Dame and Michigan. Like most games against Notre Dame this is a chance for Purdue to make a statement. Notre Dame comes in ranked #11 which is of course overblown and much too high but hey it’s Notre Dame what do I expect? They did blowout Michigan last week, shut them out actually, and have looked strong thus far. Purdue of course has not.
The logo for tomorrow
Purdue will be without Austin Logan and BJ Knauf as both are out due to injuries. My pessimistic side is coming out already this season as Purdue finds itself losers to a MAC team and without a solidified starting QB. This will be the 5th year in a row with a QB controversy at Purdue. That’s astounding. Think back. Joey Elliot is the last guy, the 2009 season, to come into the season knowing he’s the starter and have no challenge to that or injuries that derailed it and caused problems. Since then Purdue has had Robinson, Henry, Siller, Marve, Terbush, Etling, and Appleby. In the last five years Purdue has played these seven guys at QB. Just awful. For tomorrow though does it really matter? Purdue heads into the Shamrock Series game against Notre Dame (read this as Notre Dame’s traveling road show where they charge twice the price) in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis the decided underdog. Purdue doesn’t have one position on the field that I can look at and say that’s where they can do damage, that’s where they are more talented than the opposition. Purdue has some solid running backs of course but I don’t know if they are better than the run defense for Notre Dame. I expect this game to be ugly, but then again I expected last year’s Notre Dame game to be ugly as well yet Purdue almost snuck away with a win. This will be a decidedly pro-Notre Dame crowd in Indy which shouldn’t help whichever young QB Hazell decides to play. Again though, does it really matter? The season is only two games in and I’m already starting to feel depressed. Purdue needs to give me a reason to snap out of it but that reason won’t be found tomorrow.
Notre Dame 49
It’s hard to believe we’re just two games into the season and the entire fan base is, yet again, downtrodden, but here we are. I thought for certain we could muster a 3-1 start and at least have some positives before heading off into the Big Ten schedule, but alas dreams of bowl games will appear to have to wait yet another year. Much like my partner stated up above, I’m not overly optimistic about the potential outcome of the game. However, I do think there are several positives to consider. First off, as ledman24 said above, Purdue always seems to give Notre Dame fits. During the current six-game Notre Dame winning streak, the average margin of victory is only 11.5, a total ballooned by the 2011 debacle in Ross-Ade that Purdue lost 38-10. Remove that game and you’ll find that average margin of victory fall to just 8.2, little more than a touchdown. In fact, during Notre Dame’s 2012 march to the National Championship game, the Boilermakers gave the Fighting Irish all they could handle, as Notre Dame escaped with a 20-17 win in South Bend, winning on a field goal in the final seconds. Also in Purdue’s favor is Notre Dame’s distinct history of so-called “let down games”. A game where the Irish come off a big victory only to show up apathetic the following week. Here’s a few examples from recent years:
- 2013 – Hands undefeated Michigan State their first (and only) loss of the season. What happened next? Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners came to town and trounced the Irish 35-21 in South Bend.
- 2012 – Lots of choice here. In fact, their entire season was one letdown game after another. 20-17 at home to a Purdue team that went 6-7, 17-14 at home to a BYU squad that went 8-5, 29-26 in triple overtime at home against a Pittsburgh team that finished 6-7 and the list goes on… Amazing that they actually played for a National Title that season.
- 2011 – Started the season with a 23-20 home loss to an eventual 5-7 South Florida team. Then after rebounding to beat a ranked Michigan State squad, they squeaked by 6-7 Pittsburgh 15-12.
You get the point. Notre Dame can stomp you (see: Wolverines, Michigan) or they can let you hang around and try to scramble at the end and beat a far inferior team. I actually really like this Notre Dame team this year; I think Golson is an elite quarterback and they have a stable of good-not-great athletes around him on offense to put up points. Their true bread-and-butter comes on defense, though. A stifling unit from the front seven to the secondary, this is a team that will not let you in the endzone and takes pride on shutouts.
Considering all of this, and each team’s respective performances last week, my brain tells me this is a 56-7 type game. However, with Notre Dame riding high, looking ahead to a bye week, and probably not taking Purdue too seriously, I think the Boilermakers are capable of surprising the Irish, if only for a few quarters. I’ve got a few bold predictions for this one. I think the Boilermakers will win the turnover battle; I think they’ll find quite a bit of success in special teams (including at least one return for a TD); and I think you’ll see Hazell coach this game like it’s a bowl game – trick plays, fourth down attempts, and anything the staff can come up with to keep Notre Dame on their toes. I think Purdue goes deep on the first possession, keeps Notre Dame off their feet, and take a 13-10 lead into the half. However, it won’t hold as Golson leads the Irish back to a 31-16 win.
Notre Dame 31
My expectations for this year of Purdue football were very low. I figured 3 wins was about right, and maybe being competitive against some of the weaker B1G opponents before succumbing to the lack of talent on Purdue’s squad. At the end of the 1st quarter Saturday, I realized that I was overestimating the team. By halftime, I was blacked out, making this the first Purdue game I haven’t watched in it’s entirety live in well over a decade.
Who could blame me? In the first half we watched Purdue, a B1G team, with B1G facilities, B1G coaches, and supposedly B1G recruits get absolutely manhandled in the trenches on both sides of the ball by a MAC school for the second week in a row. Purdue’s defensive front seven has allowed 374 yards of rushing, 5 TDs on the ground, allowing an average of almost exactly 5 yards per carry. That against a lower tier MAC school and a middle tier MAC school. In that time the defensive front has produced just 4 sacks. Anyone who’s seen a few plays knows the problem; Purdue’s linebackers are constantly out of position and not playing their gap assignments. The down linemen are missing the anchors we once had in Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston.
The picture isn’t any rosier on the offensive side of the ball. The numbers are a little misleading, due to the incredible talent of Purdue’s insanely quick running backs. Even still, Purdue has been out-rushed by opponents. Purdue’s net rushing statistics are 348 yards, 4 TDs, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. The fastest back in college was outrushed in both games by MAC schools, but that’s only half the story of the offensive line. Though they’ve only allowed 3 sacks so far, a clean pocket for Etling is more rare this season than a section of Ross-Ade that’s at least half full. The sack numbers are depressed slightly because Purdue’s quarterbacks will both run when they’re in trouble, but the lines fail the eyeball test and the rushing numbers speak for themselves. If Mostert was running behind Wisconsin’s line, he’d have broken NCAA records already.
Finally the elephant in the room, quarterback play. Etling looks like he’s never played the position before in his life. It’s especially concerning given that he seemed to be progressing well through last year. Here is Etling’s completion percentage for every game in which he’s played.
There is some poor play as he gets his legs under him (facing 3 of the better defenses in the conference right away probably also didn’t help), but once he hits the Penn State game we see consistent solid play through the end of the season. Not world-beating, but better than 65% is more than serviceable. Entering this season he goes right back down to the low 50’s against arguably the 2 worst defenses he’s ever faced. What’s changed? Same coaches, same playbook, same receivers, what is going on with Danny Etling? Granted the protection hasn’t been good, but it wasn’t last year either. There have been a few drops, but going back to watch both games it seems to me like his receivers are doing him a lot of favors this year. In my eyes Sinz and Knauf have made more heroic catches on balls that were thrown at their ankles/way over their heads/behind them than dropped balls they should’ve caught.
This leaves the program, and specifically Coach Hazell, in a very tough spot. The little we did see of Appleby on Saturday in garbage showed that he’s probably not the answer (7-17, 78 yds, TD). Full commitment to the running game would require some significant improvement on the offensive line, and quite frankly improvement isn’t something I’ve seen in any phase of the game from Purdue going into this year. I see a lot of the opposite. That’s definitely a statement on the coaching, and while I agree with the guys over at Boiled Sports that it’s too early to really judge the Hazell era, you would be hard pressed to find a worse 2 years in Purdue history if the season continues like this. At that point, the empty seats speak far louder than any philosophy about giving a coach time to build up their system and recruit their guys. Getting blown out by a middling MAC school in a half empty Ross-Ade sure feels like rock bottom. I shudder to imagine how it could be worse, but there is still a whole schedule to get through and these were 2 of the 3 worst teams Purdue will face… is it basketball season yet?
With Notre Dame week upon us I thought I’d take a minute here to give you an example of the ‘Notre Dame Way’ that their fans and administration area all so fond of talking about. Lot’s of teams like to think this way. Butler basketball has the Butler Way, meaning they take underrated prospects and show that they were diamonds in the rough and put them into a system that shows their strengths. At Michigan football they always preach about being a “Michigan Man” to coach there. That basically means that you have to have had a dinner date with Bo Schembechler at some point in your life. It’s just an absurd idea when looking for a coach. For Notre Dame though the ‘Notre Dame Way’ means turning your nose up at everyone else. It means that you think you’re above the the fray. College football is beneath you because you’re clearly better than everyone out there. More specifically it means their players are smarter, work harder, and are clearly model citizens. That’s the narrative at least. But is Notre Dame really that much different than anyone else? The answer of course is no.
Touchdown Jesus is yet more arrogance
Notre Dame fans and coaches alike bitch and moan that Notre Dame struggles to recruit players that are both academically and athletically a fit at the school. That’s just absolute bullshit and everyone knows it. Whether us Purdue fans like it or not Notre Dame is a national brand. There’s very little recruiting necessary. There are very few top college football players out there who don’t know who Notre Dame is and wouldn’t be thrilled to be offered by them. They’ve done one hell of a job marketing themselves as this promised land of college football despite it not necessarily being true. You have to take your hat off to them there because whatever they’ve done it worked. Let’s not pretend either that the football players are held to the exact standards of the majority of the student body not only at Notre Dame but at every school. They are giving preferential treatment when it comes to admissions and then given every possible advantage to stay eligible to play. That’s not always enough though. Just like at every other school Notre Dame has their problems. Let’s take a look at some of those problems shall we?
Currently Notre Dame is involved in their second academic scandal in as many seasons. This one currently involves five players who have been held out of participating in anything thus far this year. That’s not exactly a small portion of your football team when you’re only given 85 scholarships. Because it’s Notre Dame though and the players aren’t playing, just like would happen at any other university, somehow this shows Notre Dame is doing things the right way. Somehow this cheating scandal is a shining example of why Notre Dame is different. Why Notre Dame is better. Last year they had a similar scandal with their star QB Everett Golson admitting to cheating on a test and being kicked out of school for the year. Again somehow this became a national story about the pride of ND academics. This became a story of redemption and a heartwarming tale of how Notre Dame shows that college football is about more than just winning.
Let’s forget the cheating scandals for a second and take a look at what other players have been doing off the field. First there is Will Mahone who got incredibly drunk and was head butting cars, threatening people, and threatened to kill the officers if they took the cuffs off of him. You know just a typical Sunday night. Then we’ve got the ND icon Tommy Rees who always had a good time. He was arrested for alcohol related charges related to a party on the ND campus. He also went ahead, for good measure, and kneed a cop in the ‘midsection’ and tried to flee from police custody. Needless to say he didn’t get away. Of course the charges were conveniently reduced from felonies for the guy. No idea how that happened. Then there’s the Michael Floyd story. The dude just couldn’t stop drinking and doing stupid things. He just continuously got arrested and saw little to no action from the ND football team because of these arrests. Last but certainly not least is the sad story of Lizzy Seeberg who committed suicide after accusing ND football players of sexual assault/rape. Her claims weren’t taken seriously and were given only a token investigation with many people pointing to the fact that it involved the coveted ND football team as a reason for the flimsy investigation. The infamous threat Lizzy received that “messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea,” is the whole Notre Dame way in a nutshell.
Purdue is certainly no snow white virgin when it comes to arrests. My point is that Purdue, and most other college football teams, don’t spout off about how they hold their players to a higher standard despite the facts that say otherwise. The ‘Notre Dame Way’ is just another example of arrogance run amuck in South Bend. It’s truly what they do best.
These two teams have faced each other five times before with Purdue coming out on top all five times. Some of those games gave us Purdue fans ulcers but still they were wins, and quite honestly they were thrilling games. A team from the B1G should never lose to a team from the MAC. I know that’s outdated thinking with the proliferation of solid players and solid coaches. It’s not the 90’s anymore though all the jean jackets I see out beg to differ. Purdue should respect Central Michigan but it’s still a team they should be able to defeat. You and I can be as confident and as dismissive as we want because we aren’t playing the game. All that in mind I do expect Central Michigan to put up one heck of a fight against the still very much rebuilding Purdue Boilermakers.
The CMU Chips
The run offense is going to have to drive the bus this season for Purdue. With Etling still growing up and showing some growing pains in the process Purdue has to find a way to generate offense. Luckily the arrival of Mostert and Hunt was perfectly timed. Purdue has to find some semblance of balance though or else these two guys will be facing a loaded box each time out. Hopefully as the team settles down from some first game jitters the offense will be able to find a better balance. In fact, since this is a prediction post, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Etling hits at least one downfield pass to a wide receiver in tomorrow’s game.
On the defensive side of the ball Purdue has to find a way to slow down the run game. If recent history is any indicator Purdue will struggle with this. The opposing team doesn’t even have to have a great running back in order to run all over this defense. They just have to have someone to hand the ball to and CMU has two such gentlemen in the back field that could cause problems. The linebackers for Purdue remain a question mark with young Bentley showing some promise but Sean Robinson still nursing a sore knee along with some other injuries to that position. It doesn’t help Purdue that the front four, or is it three now, has struggled to get penetration up front thus putting more pressure on them.
Finally, on a special teams front it looks like Purdue may be putting things together. With Frankie Williams returning punts and Mostert and Hunt on kickoff returns Purdue seems to have legitimate threats to make big plays on special teams. To go along with those guys Paul Griggs was perfect on his field goal tries last week including hitting a career best. With kickers confidence is key so let’s hope Griggs can keep this up and be a real weapon for a Purdue offense that will more than likely continue to have some hiccups.
So what does this all mean? Well CMU’s best receiver Titus Davis is still listed as day to day which would definitely help out the boys in old gold and black. Wrap your head around this one though. Should Purdue win tomorrow they will sit at 2-0. When was the last time you think Purdue was 2-0? Surely it’s only a couple years ago right. It obviously wasn’t last year with the Cincinnati debacle. Well it was actually after defeating none other than Central Michigan. It really gives you a glimpse into how far this program has fallen. Most years you could guarantee Purdue would be 2-0 to start the year. Not anymore. This team, though I wish it was otherwise, can’t take any victory for granted. Tomorrow is one such game that they should win if they focus. We will begin to see what kind of a coach Hazell is during this season now that his imprint is all over the team. Hopefully Purdue takes a page out of his 300+ page book and leaves no doubt.