Thanks for clicking my clickbait headline and finding your way to my site. This article really isn’t about Obamacare or Mitt Romney or anything so sensationalized. This post is about Purdue football and where it currently stands and what can be done to get it back to respectability. First off, let’s all take a step back from that ledge my friends. Is Purdue football where we all would love it to be right now? Absolutely not, that’s an undeniable fact and not something that anyone would argue and that includes Morgan Burke and Coach Hazell. Purdue football has one a total of 9 games over the last two plus seasons. This ins’t acceptable. The fans have left in droves and their is anger and discontent in just the second season under coach Hazell. That’s normal. I get that and I’m just as guilty as anyone else when it comes to criticizing coaching decisions and looking at other programs and being envious of what they have. Hell, two weeks ago IU beat a ranked team on the road. Purdue struggled to beat a middling B1G team at home on homecoming. It’s not difficult to see the disparity. Let’s take a look at recent moves and see where else Burke could’ve gone.
Knowledge is power!
At the end of the 2011 season the majority of Purdue fans wanted Danny Hope gone. He had failed to reinvigorate the fan base and the program after the last few gasps of the Joe Tiller years. Hope came in as a bit of a question mark to most folks since he was a head coach at small Eastern Kentucky. He was a Purdue man though having served as a rather productive offensive line coach under Joe Tiller. Hope came in and upset a lot of fans immediately with his strange focus on special teams and seeming to want to kick a 70+ yard field goal. His decision to start TerBush over the more talented Marve upset a lot of fans, myself included. Then their were all the close losses with the inexplicable use of timeouts, the poor game management, poor clock management, and overall curious decision making. At the end of that season Hope went to a bowl game and got a contract extension from Burke. I thought Hope deserved at least one more year but should be on a very short leash. Purdue’s recruiting didn’t pick up, as evidenced by the absolute dearth of talent at linebacker and offensive line currently, and Hope again ended the season 6-6 before a blowout loss in a bowl game. Well then that was that. Hope was out and Burke began the search for a new coach. Let’s examine the athletics department process with the hiring and firing of Hope.
Everyone is going to point to this as Burke going on the cheap and to an extant that’s true but there are other circumstances that people tend to ignore. Brock Spack was the chosen choice of Joe Tiller to succeed him as he should’ve been. He was a disciple of Tiller and someone who stayed with him through the good and bad. Spack is a Purdue guy through and through and made no bones that this would’ve been his dream job. Unfortunately the defense had slipped so far past its peak of the 2002 era that Spack was probably never a real contender. Revisionist history fans like to point out that Purdue could’ve lured Kevin Sumlin back to Purdue. I’d argue that it wouldn’t have been quite that easy. Purdue didn’t have the money but even if they did why would Sumlin leave and come to Purdue? During this time Sumlin was the Co-Offensive Coordinator at Oklahoma and was in the running for any number of big name jobs. Every school out there could offer him more money, a larger fan base, and simply a better situation. Sumlin wasn’t going to come to Purdue. I’ll admit to not knowing any of the other major candidates except for Paul Chryst who was rumored to have gotten the job at one point. The former offensive coordinator of Wisconsin is currently the head coach of Pitt. I honestly can’t asses if he would’ve been a good hire or not. So where’s the fault here by Burke? He wasn’t going to get Sumlin. He followed the method of getting a man who was successful in the past at the school and had ties to the last successful coach at your school. It’s honestly not a bad strategy. Hope was aware of the challenges at Purdue and was known as a guy who could create good offensive lines. That’s something Purdue desperately needed. Overall not a bad job it was just a miss. It happens. Moving on.
Coach Hazell was roundly lauded as a great hire just two years ago. He is a young up an coming coach who simply gets it. He comes from the Jim Tressel coaching tree which, think what you will of Tressel and his scandals, but the dude could coach a football game. He also always appeared to run a tight ship and had a good public face. We of course learned later that wasn’t always the case but hey he’s still a good coach. He also had success at Kent State which isn’t a school known for having any sort of success in football. Couple that with the fact that Burke ponied up money for better coordinators and better assistants, as well as a higher salary than Hope had and what do you have to argue about? This is exactly what all the upset fans wanted. They still wanted Sumlin of course but again that wasn’t going to happen. Instead Burke went out and got an up and comer at fair market value and ponied up the cash in order to bring in a solid coaching staff. It was everything fans have clamored for. To put a cherry on top of that Burke also committed money to facility improvements that Hazell wanted in regards to meeting rooms and team areas. Again, what’s to complain about here? The results certainly aren’t what we’d like them to be but he still needs time. It’s only his second year in the program and there are strides being made they just don’t seem to be translating on the field as all of us, and Hazell would like.
So where exactly does this show Purdue is a shitty athletic department and needs to leave their conference? If you don’t know what I’m referring to consider yourself lucky. Burke has invested in the program. Maybe not as much as you or I would like but he’s done good things. He’s invested in the infrastructure and the coaching staff of the football program, and the basketball program to be fair, and is doing what he can to put a winner on the field. Burke can’t go out and recruit. Burke doesn’t play on Saturdays, and the way he wears those short sleeved dress shirts I’d say that’s a good thing. All Burke can do is invest. No one is a perfect investor. Even Warren Buffett loses money every now and then. Burke used the best information he had available to hire Hazell including some recommendations from two NFL GMs and a former National Championship winning coach. What else would you have him do? Before we go out and jump off bridges perhaps we should give the process time to play out. I’m as frustrated as you are but at the end of the day we’ve got to have patience.
In what can only be described as a no show by Purdue’s offense to open B1G play Purdue fell to a completely unimpressive Iowa Hawkeye team in West Lafayette on Homecoming Saturday. The Purdue offense managed just 3 points and that was off of a short field where Purdue managed just 21 yards to settle for Paul Griggs field goal. The rest of the day the Purdue offense didn’t even sniff the endzone with only a second missed field goal to show for their entire day. The running game managed a respectable 110 yards between Akeem Hunt and Keyante Green but were dragged back down to 84 total yards from sacks. Oddly enough Raheem Mostert didn’t play in the game at all as he is in the doghouse for fumbling and I have to assume something else since Hunt’s fumble at Notre Dame was much more costly. From the passing game Purdue got just 72 total yards. No that’s not a typo. That’s not an error in the box score. That’s the actual number of yards that Purdue got through the air against the Hawkeyes. Just 61 of those came from Danny Etling who played all but one series in the game. Again, Appleby gets put into a situation that gives him no chance of success as he is forced to simply sling the ball all over the field. The defense gave Purdue a chance to win the game but the offense fell all over itself to prevent that.
The game started out about as you’d expect with three and outs and inept showings from both offenses to start. The Purdue defense actually looked strong for the majority of the day. This is thanks in large part due to the ineptness of the Iowa wide receivers who consistently dropped balls particularly on third down plays. Were it not for the inability of Iowa to catch the ball Purdue might’ve fallen behind earlier and fallen further. With the game deadlocked at 0-0 Frankie Williams jumped on a pass from CJ Beatharder and took it 39 yards for the touchdown. It would be the only time all day that a Purdue player would sniff the endzone. The Purdue defense continued to play well throughout the first half not allowing Iowa a first half until roughly 5 minutes into the second quarter. Yet even with that defensive performance Purdue could only manage to be up 10-0. That was a sign that things might not go Purdue’s way as the game progressed. The Purdue defense began to fade as the half came to a close allowing Iowa to break tackles, and run the ball behind some pretty stout offensive lineman. Iowa scored 10 points in the second quarter to head into halftime tied at 10. This was yet another indication that the game might not go Purdue’s way as they have constantly shown that they can’t put things together after halftime. Today was no exception. 10-10 at halftime and a final score of 24-10. That’s not how you get things done.
The Purdue defense did everything they needed to win the game. Hell, they even put up 7 of Purdue’s 10 points. You can’t ask for much more than that especially when your offense gives the ball away twice. Even worse than those turnovers was the numerous three and outs the Purdue offense had. Six to be specific. That’s a very quick turn around time for a defense that spent 34:30 on the field versus 25:30 for the Iowa defense. Nine minutes can be a huge difference in effort. As the game progressed Iowa was able to use their superior offensive line to run the ball down the Purdue defense’s throat and control the clock and by extension the game. With Purdue’s offense doing next to nothing there was nothing the defense could do. Let’s take a look at that offense shall we?
The running game held up their end today especially with Akeem Hunt getting 90 yards off of just 14 carries. Meanwhile Raheem Mostert who had started the previous four games for Purdue played not a snap. I’ve seen no official explanation given but you have to ask yourself what Mostert did to get himself into trouble. The real problem is the passing game, as it has been all year. If Danny Etling took a step forward during the Notre Dame and Southern Illinois games he took around 4-5 steps backward today. He missed receivers high, low, behind, and everywhere else. He stood in the pocket too long to take unnecessary sacks, and he simply didn’t appear to be able to make even the easiest of routes including missing an a screen pass. The sophomore quarterback simply couldn’t get anything done today. His one interception was thrown into double coverage and was simply ill-advised. Iowa also missed at least one easy interception when Etling tried to target Dolapo McCarthy (!!!) down the field. Etling finished the game 11-26 for just 61 yards and one interception. To make those stats even worse Etling was responsible for losing 35 yards due to sacks. In essence Etling was responsible for a total of 26 positive offensive yards today. As the starting QB. On a B1G team. Who played nearly the entire game. Let that sink in. I can’t think of a single worse performance from a Purdue QB in my lifetime. If you can think of a worse performance please let me know.
The question now becomes what does Purdue do? They have to do something with the QB position. I don’t know if Austin Appleby is the answer but neither do any of you. We’ve not gotten to see Appleby play except in garbage time. The guy hasn’t gotten a chance to show if he’s the answer or even if he’s a stop gap until maybe Blough or someone else can come in and truly take command of an offense. To give Etling some credit he did admit he played poorly after that game but honestly what was he supposed to say? Could he really face the media and say he did some good things? At least he’s not insulting our intelligence. I say all this not to pick on the guy because obviously I don’t know the pressure he’s under both from B1G linebackers and from his own team and the University as a whole. Maybe he’s got a case of the Yips. I honestly don’t know what his issue is but B1G conference play doesn’t seem the place for him to work out his issues and gain confidence. Coach Hazell needs to seriously take a look at giving Appleby the nod next week against Illiois. Yes it’s on the road and Etling has started road conference games but is that really a plus at this point? Purdue’s offense has rarely looked this incompetent during my lifetime. Something has to change and if nothing else Appleby deserves a chance to be put into a situation he’s not down 24-10 with only two minutes to go. Before next week Purdue has questions that need answered. Can anyone on this team step up?
Purdue’s got a solid shot at winning their first conference game on Saturday and beginning the season in first place in the West Division of the B1G. Will they stay there? Absolutely not. Purdue has about as much of a shot of winning the conference as I do suddenly marrying Natalie Portman. As an answer to your follow up question, no, I don’t know Natalie Portman. With Iowa coming into town though it does give Purdue a solid chance. This isn’t your older brother’s Iowa that was winning the conference, heading to the Rose Bowl, and earning Kirk Ferentz a ridiculously high buyout of his new contract. This is the Iowa team that seems to constantly disappoint and be just good enough to get to a lower tier bowl game. This is the Iowa team that seems to resemble the last seasons of Joe Tiller at Purdue. That’s not to disparage Cowboy Joe but it’s clear to everyone his last few teams at Purdue weren’t nearly as good as that sweet run from 1997-2002. The wheels fall off. It happens. Teams figure out your tricks and invariably you get a bit more conservative as a coach. Ferentz doesn’t exactly have the love and support of the Iowa fans at this point in his career so let’s hope Purdue can continue to make Iowa fans angry.
Purdue comes into the game after playing their most complete game of the season. Sure it was against an FCS school but the outcome was never in doubt. That’s exactly what teams from major conferences are supposed to do against FBS schools. The defensive line for Purdue was better, the receivers caught the ball, and Etling completed passes longer than 6-7 yards. Overall it was just a great performance. Can Purdue duplicate that performance against a team with a pulse? Iowa comes in at 3-1 but could just as easily be 1-3 after needing late game heroics to beat both Ball State (chirp chirp) and Pitt. If they were 1-3 would you be more confident that Purdue had a chance to win this game? Probably so. Iowa simply hasn’t looked good at all this season. They let a late lead slip away against Iowa State for their lone loss and have trailed in each one of their victories thus far. If Purdue can maintain solid play throughout the game they’ve got a chance. With the Iowa offense struggling to score, averaging just over 22 points per game it really allows a team like Purdue who has to grind points a chance. A less scoring game plays into Purdue’s favor here. As I’ve said before this isn’t a Purdue team that’s going to go around gun slinging and running up the score on anyone this season. With Iowa’s poor offense it opens the door for the young Purdue team to gain some confidence early on and build on it.
The question’s we have to ask as Purdue fans are is this Purdue team good enough to maintain discipline for a full four quarters against a B1G team? They had a positive showing against Notre Dame but couldn’t maintain it for a full game and didn’t score a point in the second half. Very little has changed on offense since then minus the addition of Hedelin to the offensive line. He performed well in his first showing but I need more than one game against an FCS school before I anoint him the next Matt Light. Purdue’s receiving corps has gotten a bit healthier with BJ Knauf back to full strength after missing the ND game. Let’s hope these guys getting back into the swing of things will allow Etling to find open targets. Justin Sinz and to a great extent Gabe Holmes need to hold onto the ball and be a safety net for the young QB. Regardless of the fact that Etling started games last year he’s still not started a full season’s worth of games. It’s best to think of him as a true freshman in the latter half of his first season. That will keep some of the frustration down. On the defensive side of the ball can the linebackers and defensive line do a good enough job up front stopping the run to allow the secondary of Purdue, which has been fantastic early on, to take chances? The line and linebackers had a pretty good game against ND and have improved since then. The addition of some true linebackers in Bentley and Robinson is a breath of fresh air for this program. Those two give the idea of a true identity on defense in the next couple of seasons. Bentley especially has been impressive and is a guy you could really build a team around.
I’ll admit it this team has brought out the optimist in me again. The more I write about them and the more I study the opponent the better I feel about their chances. Purdue is currently on an 8 game conference losing streak. That could end Saturday if they show the discipline and improvement they’ve shown the last two weeks. Sure the Notre Dame game was a loss but I think we can all agree that some positive signs were seen. As Purdue moves forward into the conference season they have to take advantage of any weaknesses in other teams. Iowa is incredibly weak for a team with a 3-1 record. Tomorrow’s game will say a lot about how this season will go. Can Purdue step up?
(My record 3-1 only miss CMU)
Readers Reaction after reading this
Purdue takes on Our (Formerly) Most Hated Rival this weekend. During those bygone days of Legends and Leaders back when the B1G had just 12 teams Purdue and Iowa were matched up as cross-division rivals because they were the two fat kids left at the end of picking teams in gym class. Neither team had a natural rival that needed to be protected since Purdue and IU was already a guaranteed game. It was just silly but somehow these two teams were paired together and forced into a rivalry. Now that rivalry is over. What a couple of years it was. Now Purdue vs. Iowa is just another game. This one just happens to be the first conference game of the season for both teams. So what do we know about Iowa and what can we expect when the Hawkeyes rumble into West Lafayette this Saturday at you guessed it…noon? Let’s take a look at the Hawkeyes season thus far and get an idea of what type of team they are.
Iowa Fans in their Natural Habitat
Iowa comes in at 3-1 with their lone loss being to their in-state rival Iowa State who Iowa always sees to struggle with. This Iowa offense isn’t setting the world on fire against the lesser competition of the pre-conference season. Sound familiar? Thus far Iowa has beaten Northern Iowa 31-23, Ball State by just 17-13, and Pitt 24-20. So they’ve got an average margin of victory of just over 5 points per game. That’s not exactly inspiring confidence if you’re an Iowa fan as Iowa hasn’t played a gauntlet of a pre-conference schedule. So what exactly is the problem with this Iowa offense? Why aren’t they putting the ball in the endzone at a more frequent clip? Well to put it bluntly Iowa can’t run the ball. Their leading rusher, Mark Weisman, has just 184 yards on the season. They do spread the ball around with four guys having 20 or more carries but Weisman being the only man on the squad with over 100 yards rushing. That’s just straight awful. When you’re a one dimensional offense it’s easy for the defense to tee up on you and be prepared. Again, sound familiar? That must mean that Iowa is great at passing the ball right? Well not so much. They have a mini QB controversy brewing with Jake Rudock starting all four of the games but with Sophomore C.J. Beathard coming in to play great during the final drive against Pitt. Again, sound familiar? Ferentz hasn’t sound who is going to start for the Hawkeyes but my money is on Rudock but I’d also venture to guess we get to see a bit of Beathard as well. Either way there’s not a star back there. This gives Purdue’s defensive line a chance to perhaps rattle the QB. So overall the Iowa offense is shaky at best. It gives Purdue the opening they may need in order to get away with a win to start the conference season which is something I couldn’t possibly have imagined to start the season.
Iowa’s run defense has looked pretty stout thus far having not allowed a 100 yard rusher in their first four games. That’s perhaps more a circumstance of the game plan that teams use against Iowa than anything. I think it’s safe to say that Iowa will not have seen a running back trio or quad of guys like Moster, Hunt, Keyante Green, and maybe even if we’re lucky Brandon Cottom. This group is most definitely more talented than the Ball State running backs I’d say. Purdue continues to live off the running game and Saturday shouldn’t be an exception. With the recent fumbling problems of Hunt and Mostert it’s forced Coach Hazell to use youngin Keyante Green for the first time and he also announced that Hunt will be the starter against Iowa. Mostert is still the most talented but he’s got to figure out how to not fumble at the most inopportune times. Purdue was able to run the ball against a Notre Dame team that as much as I hate to admit it is pretty decent. Let’s hope they can do the same against Iowa. From a passing defense perspective Iowa has allowed over 250 yards to three of their four opponents. Not exactly stellar. Iowa doesn’t have playmakers in the backfield. Bob Sanders isn’t walking through that door to rough people up over the middle.
In case you don’t get the gist of the 700+ words above what I’m trying to tell you is Purdue’s got an honest to God shot at winning this game. Kirk Ferentz has a tendency to play conservatively and at times has cost his team some games with this attitude. Hazell still really hasn’t defined himself from a play calling and game management perspective in my eyes so it’s tough to say who has the advantage from a coaching perspective. You’d have to go with Ferentz just due to experience and his history of winning in the past. Truthfully though the reason he’s still there is his massive contract buyout as Iowa fans are growing increasingly restless with him and his poor showing in recent years. Hazell needs wins. He needs wins in conference since he’s currently sitting at 0 conference wins after his first season. This game is perfectly teed up to be an upset that is actually reasonable for Purdue to pull off. With the Iowa game and Illinois to follow Purdue’s got the easiest possible road to a 2-0 conference start. You can’t get to 2-0 without winning the first one. Purdue’s got an honest shot on Saturday. Can they continue to improve and snatch a victory? Only time will tell.
Purdue rolled to an uneventful win on Saturday afternoon with a comfortable 35-13 score. Purdue had a chance to make that score much worse but failed to convert on a 4th and goal at the two yard line. Purdue’s defense looked better than expected. They seem to have learned something from the Notre Dame game and have decided that playing hard and with intensity is preferable to them. This is one of those games though where you can’t learn to much about yourself. It’s just a no win situation for a B1G team when they play an FCS school. If you win, like Purdue did, you’re supposed to win and people wonder why you didn’t win by more. If you lose you’re the laughingstock of college football for the week. Thankfully Purdue doesn’t have to worry about that, but what if anything can we take from this game as fans? What does it reveal about what perhaps we can see moving forward?
Offensive MVP Danny Anthrop
For one I think we can say that Etling has found his confidence. Two throws in particular highlight this transformation. The first was the TD pass to the right corner of the endzone to Yancey. Etling found Yancey streaking to the back of the endzone and hit him perfectly in stride. The ball was thrown so that only Yancey could get his hands on it. Keep in mind this was on a third and 10. The touch on the ball was absolutely perfect and allowed Purdue to go up 7-0. The second pass came immediately after a Landon Feichter interception. On the first offensive play after the turnover Etling found Danny Anthrop, who had a career day with five receptions for 106 yards and a TD, in stride for a 44 yard touchdown pass. I honestly can’t remember the last time Purdue had a reception that went that long for a touchdown. Anthrop struggled with the catch a bit but hauled it in and Etling had his second touchdown pass of the day and we were still in the first quarter.
Another thing we can take is that perhaps this defensive line truly could be a strength of this time. Of course yes you have to take the competition into account but Purdue’s defensive line played stout for the second week in a row. After allowing a 100 yard rusher for something like 18 weeks in a row Purdue now has two straight weeks of not allowing a 100 yard rusher. In fact against SIU Purdue allowed just 82 yards rushing total. It helps that Ryan Watson continues to show improvement and after notching two sacks yesterday now has four for the season. That ties the team total from Bruce Gaston from all of last season. The defensive line cause the QB to force throws, take sacks, and look altogether out of sorts. Again, you have to keep in mind the competition but overall I was very pleased with the play of Purdue’s defensive line and really the defense as a whole. Purdue may have finally found a workable solution at linebacker with Gelen Robinson and Ja’Whan Bentley truly proving themselves worthy of all the help. With each passing game these guys seem to get better. They hit hard and run downhill to the ball. They really seem to have great football instincts and that’s something that Purdue has been sorely missing at the linebacker position.
Things weren’t all good though Saturday. Purdue struggled mightily to score in the second half managing just a meager seven points and that was from backup QB Austin Appleby who ran in an 11 yard score with under a minute left. This is a disturbing trend after Purdue failed to score in the entire second half against Notre Dame. The third quarter is yet again rearing it’s ugly head as a problem for this team. Through four games Purdue has managed to score just 17 points in the third quarter with 14 of those coming in the first game of the season. As I said in my pre-game prediction this Purdue team is going to be one that struggles to score. If you take a quarter off you’re just asking for trouble against teams in the B1G. Luckily the next two weeks Purdue actually faces a couple of opponents that are two of the weaker B1G teams in Iowa and Illinois. There’s still lots to work on but you can actually see improvement in this team from week one to now. That’s what we’ve been asking for as fans. Purdue ends the non-conference season at 2-2 rather than the 3-1 I had hoped for. Considering this team was 1-11 last season though I’ll take it. Conference season starts Saturday with a, shock of shocks, noon kickoff for Purdue against our most hated rival the Iowa Hawkeyes.