Well kids it’s been a nice long run here on the site but sadly it’s time to bring it to a close. I know, I know. I’m just as sad as you are. Don’t cry though because all is not lost. You’ll still be able to find me over at Hammer and Rails as I’ve graciously accepted his offer to write over at his site. I know I’ve hammered T-Mill every now and then most recently with his post about Purdue leaving the conference but he really is a good dude. I’ve had the pleasure to meet him a couple of times and he’s always been nothing but a gentleman to me. That being said I will call him out if I have to.
Truth be told I just don’t have the time or energy to write everything up on this site anymore. When I started this site it was for a few buddies and I to keep up with Purdue sports and honestly with each other. After college people naturally drift apart and I thought this would be a good way for us to keep in touch as we all moved across the country. Sadly, as the site progressed they one by one fell off and no longer wrote. They each become the Jumbo Heroes version of Tim over at Boiled Sports. A shadow that would occasionally post. I don’t blame them for it though. Things change. Almost all of them have gotten married, moved, maybe even had kids. There are much more important things in the world than blogging about Purdue sports. I completely respect those decision and those guys are still friends.
I want to thank you all for reading this site, for commenting, and for interacting with me on twitter especially during games. I’ll still have the same twitter handle and I’ll be blogging under Jumbo Heroes over at Hammer and Rails. You’ll be able to find me no problem. I just want to leave you with one thing before I go. Purdue sports will get back to their former glory. It’s a terrible time to be a Purdue fan if all you follow are football and basketball but it won’t always be that way. Things will get better, the wins and losses will improve, but perhaps most importantly Purdue will always represent us with pride. Like all of you I’ll never forget my time at that wonderful university. The time I spent at Purdue University will remain one of the greatest times in my life. Ever Grateful, Ever True.
Purdue did nearly everything they could in the fourth quarter to put a scare into Michigan State and even had the ball down just 31-38. Then when the offense stumbled, thanks in large part to a surge in the pressure from the Michigan State defensive line, Austin Appleby let a bad throw go that ultimately resulted in a pick six and your final margin for the Michigan State victory. The big surprise for Purdue yesterday was certainly the offense most notably the play of the QB along with B.J. Knauf and Danny Anthrop who are quickly become favorite targets of Appleby. We hear all that time that there are no moral victories in football, and that’s true, but don’t you feel better about Purdue football today than you did a week ago? As my wife said this is the first time she’s been genuinely excited about a Purdue football game in a long time. She’s the type of fan this team needs to win back if they hope to fill up the stadium and return to competitiveness in the conference.
It wasn’t all roses and sunshine for the Boilermakers obviously as the defense allowed 45 points. There were bright spots of course with Frankie Williams getting another interception as well as breaking up some passes but there were more holes and problems. The Purdue linebacking corps sorely missed the leadership of Sean Robinson who is out with some type of ACL injury. The Boilermaker coaching staff are still hoping to have him back at some point but he will definitely be missed. Ja’Whaun Bentley filled in as best as he could but he is still a freshman and was forced to place MLB for the first time this season. He’s ultimately going to be more talented and have a greater impact than Robinson but Bentley can’t replicate Robinson’s experience and knowledge of the defense at this point. With Robinson’s injury it made an already thin position even thinner as the Purdue linbeacking corps looked gassed for nearly the entirety of the second half. This was especially evident in the third quarter as Michigan State scored 14 points and were helped by poor tackling from the Purdue defense.
On the offensive side of the ball Purdue looked much better, minus that question mark that continues to be the third quarter. Appleby can put all the question marks of who should start to rest as the offense has looked better these last two games than at any point during the rest of the year. I don’t know if Michigan State is the best team Purdue has played thus far but if not they are right up there with ND. Purdue’s game plan was simple to start the game use swing passes and screens to the edges to use Purdue’s speed and exploit one of the few holes in the Michigan State defense. Danny Anthrop and B.J. Knauf were more than up to the task. Anthrop had a fantastic game ending with nine receptions for 133 yards. Though Knauf only had 29 yards he also had a touchdown and a couple of very important catches. Sadly though as much as the offense has improved it wasn’t enough.
A few weeks ago I wrote that I was, and still am, a supporter of Coach Hazell but that he really needed to show me something. It’s hard to sit through a season with just one victory during a coaches first year. It makes it even worse when the team went to a bowl game the year before. Hazell came in and changed things dramatically and often spoke about a culture change but the results weren’t seen on the field as Purdue didn’t keep it close in the vast majority of their losses last season. Well yesterday that changed. Purdue competed. The defense still struggled at times allowing roughly 359 yards to Tony Lippett, and allowing MSU to complete any third down as long as it was over seven yards. The offensive line though looked better, the play calling was very good and overall the defense was improved. They do implore that lovely bend don’t break style of play that can give fans heart attacks but it’s really all that’s necessary. Purdue is now looking at some possible wins in the future if they continue to play like this. The signs of hope are there and it’s thanks in large part to the emergence of an offensive line and the play of Austin Appleby. Imagine what could’ve happened yesterday had Purdue played all four quarters. Consistency is the next step for this Purdue team. Let’s hope it’s something they can find this season.
Purdue’s got a real problem on their hands Saturday. Purdue’s offense has largely lived off the running game. They’ve done most of their damage on the ground including last week’s gashing of the Illinois run defense. Michigan State, ranked #8, has one of the best rushing defenses in the country. MSU has allowed just 72 yards per game through their five games this year. That’s with games against Oregon and Nebraska under their belts. If you’ll recall Nebraska ran for 450 yards against the Illinois defense that Purdue just faced. Against Michigan State they wound up with a total of 47 rushing yards. That’s not a good sign for the Boilermakers. Want to know what’s worse? That’s just one of the many problems Purdue is going to face when the #8 ranked Michigan State Spartans come to West Lafayette at noon 3:30 on Saturday. Yeah you read that right. 3:30 kickoff. I’m not sure what to even do with myself during that extra 3.5 hours.
That grin though…
Austin Appleby will get just his second start of his career tomorrow. Let’s not forget that when we all invariably start judging him on his play. Also, let’s remember that Michigan State’s defense is roughly 3,268 times better than the Illinois defense. The defensive line of Michigan State, when they aren’t stopping the run, are pretty good at shutting down the QB and preventing them from having time to make their reads or extend plays with their feet. Appleby did a good job last week scrambling when the Purdue line broke down but I don’t think he’s going to get very many opportunities to do that tomorrow. What I’m trying to tell you is that this Michigan State defensive line is easily the best line Purdue’s offense will have faced this year. Offense is going to be a struggle all around. Offensive Coordinator Shoop is going to need to come up with one hell of a game plan if Purdue is going to have any hope of a victory. I’m talking trick plays, gadget plays, whatever you want to call them.
So we know the offense is going to struggle what about the Purdue defense? Well that’s the other thing…Michigan State has a pretty great offense. Michigan State comes in with not just a running game but a running back who has run for over 100 yards in nine straight conference tilts. He’s not padding his stats with the Southeast Northwest Missouri Tech State’s of the world. These are nine straight B1G games against B1G defenses. Jeremy Langford is going to be a problem for this Purdue run defense. Though the rush defense has improved I’m not sure they’ve improved enough to prevent Langford from getting to 10 straight games. The Michigan State offense has a good tight end as well, Josiah Price, and you know what that has meant for a Purdue defense in the last 5-6 years. That means on third downs look for Price to go over the middle right to the sticks and find the ball. I don’t know what it is but tight ends seem to have a field day against Purdue defenses. Perhaps the only thing Purdue’s got going for it while on defense is that Connor Cook isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. Make no mistake Cook has led his team to four victories including over Nebraska but he’s also only thrown 107 passes in five games to go along with three interceptions. If that average holds that means Michigan State will only throw roughly 21-22 passes tomorrow. Let’s hope Frankie Williams and company can make some big plays to keep the game tight.
I’m not exactly optimistic about this one and it has very little to do with how Purdue is playing. Purdue is coming off their best game of the season on offense but against one of the worst defenses they’ve played. The Purdue defense has continued to improve in all facets especially tackling but this Michigan State offense is really going to cause problems. If Purdue wants any chance to win they have to surprise Michigan State right out of the gate and look to punch Michigan State in the mouth. The Purdue defense needs to come up with multiple turnovers and Austin Appleby would have to play out of his mind. I don’t see that perfect storm happening.
With the first two games of the conference season gone by I thought this would be a good time to take a look at ranking the conference. Rather than ranking all 14 teams from top to bottom I’m going to go by division since basically that’s all that matters. With the B1G title game all that matters is getting to that game so all you need is to win your division. In order to make this a little more fun, and to feed my Game of Thrones obsession, I thought I’d rank the teams and compare them to the great, and in some cases lesser, houses of Westeros. There will undoubtedly be some spoilers below so if you aren’t caught up on Game of Thrones (TV version) I’d advise you to stay away. Let’s first take a look at the B1G East.
Michigan State- House Baratheon of Dragonstone
The night is dark and full of terrors
Michigan State is probably the best team in the entire conference right now so if I had to rank the conference overall this would be my number one team. I don’t know how Dantonio does it but the guy just keeps winning. No matter the players, no matter the graduations, Dantonio finds a way to win. I’ve said before it helps that the guy has brass balls and will do anything to win. Hell the guy had a heart attack after a win a few years back. They are like Stannis Baratheon because of the fact that they are constantly overshadowed by their more big name brethren. In Stannis’ case that would be Robert and in Michigan State’s case that would be Michigan. Michigan State gets the edge over Ohio State because MSU had to defeat Nebraska while Ohio State only had to beat Maryland.
Hear me roar
Ohio State- House Lannister
This one is obvious isn’t it? If you know anything about Game of Thrones you know that everyone hates/fears the Lannisters. The Lannisters, at least Tywin the patriarch of the family, are the villains of the series. This is Ohio State to a T. Ohio State is incredibly powerful and is always a team to fear. Despite the loss of their QB they are still a formidable foe. Also, like House Lannister, Ohio State always pays their debts. If you beat Ohio State the previous season be on the lookout because they are looking to put a hurt on you. Also, Urban Meyer=Tywin Lannister.
Penn State- House Arryn
As high as honor
Penn State much like House Arryn have come upon hard times in recent times. Penn State of course had the whole sex abuse scandal and House Arryn saw the death of their patriarch and the crumbling of many of their alliances. Though both have been around forever it has been quite a time since either was relevant. Penn State is struggling to find their way back but doing quite well. They get the edge here over Rutgers and Maryland because of their solid reputation, and they beat Rutgers.
Knowledge is power
Rutgers- House Baelish
The young up start of the conference and the highest ranked of the two new entrants are showing their ambition to rise ever higher. Peter Baelish has shown great cunning in rising far from his low born status and Rutgers is looking to climb just as high. Rutgers beat a standard bearer of the conference in Michigan and nearly knocked off Penn State. While they failed to deliver a 2-0 start to the season they’ve certainly responded better than most would’ve guessed just a few months ago.
Maryland- House Bolton
Our blades are sharp
Another up and comer, through any means necessary, to the conference and to the major houses. Maryland isn’t necessarily a great football school but they attached themselves to the right people and found the right time and suddenly they find themselves in a great conference making great amounts of money. This offers Maryland something they didn’t have prior and that’s a national audience that actually cares. They never truly got the respect they felt they deserved in their prior conference. Like Maryland House Bolton will always look out for number one and perhaps isn’t to be trusted. While I hate House Bolton I’m just meh in regards to Maryland.
Indiana- House Frey
While IU would normally sit at the bottom of their division I have to save room for another team below who has simply been embarrassing. House Frey is slimy and cannot be trusted. The late Walder Frey is an opportunist to the highest degree. There is very little to House Frey except they happen to be the owners of a bridge and they use that to their full advantage. IU has very little football history but they do have five banners in basketball, I’m not sure if you’ve heard that before or not, and they try to trump that up for everything.
Michigan- House Reyne
The Reynes of Castamere
This once great house has been wiped off the map. They don’t exist anymore. They got greedy, sloppy, and absolutely dumb. They messed with the wrong group of people. Michigan, the once great team in the conference, has fallen off a cliff. They’ve looked absolutely terrible thus far and have a real chance to miss a bowl game and then fire their coach. Their coach who just two to three years ago was a savior. Michigan has a ton of work to do in order to get back to where they once were. House Reyne has no such chance.
B1G East Division
Nebraska- House Greyjoy
We do not sow
Nebraska, though sitting at 1-1 in conference, earns the number one spot in this division. Their one loss is to Michigan State who I again think is the best team in the conference. Nebraska is another team that had their heyday far in the past, much like House Greyjoy. When they came into the conference they would’ve liked to crown themselves king much like Baelon Greyjoy did during the War of Five Kings. That didn’t exactly work out well for House Greyjoy and it doesn’t seem to be working well for Nebraska either. Make no mistake Nebraska is a good team but they aren’t the saviors of the conference. They won’t be sitting atop the conference anytime soon.
Northwestern- House Martell
Unbowed, unbent, unbroken
House Martell and Northwestern don’t seem to fit in. Martell rests in the free city of Dorne and Northwestern is a private school that somehow competes the bigger name schools. These are the plucky underdogs with the great spirit and the best of intentions that you want to root for. They may be able to get right to the door of the big guys but at the end of the day things aren’t going to work out for them and may end ugly.
Minnesota- House Tully
Family, duty, honor
Minnesota is by no means flashy they simply go out each and every day and do their business. House Tully is a strong and powerful house but the latest war has taken a huge toll on their resources and their army. They still stand in open rebellion to the king and hold to their principles. Minnesota isn’t going to be hoisting up the championship trophy this season but they could be a thorn in the side of the contenders if they have a good day.
Ours is the fury
Iowa- House Baratheon of King’s Landing
Though they were once a powerful group and the leader of the conference for a team each of these groups have fallen on hard times. Following the death of King Robert and King Joffrey the realm was thrown into rebellion and enemies emerged from everywhere including within their own house. Iowa is saddled with a giant contract for Ferentz and is finding enemies within their own state as they struggle with Iowa State year in and year out. Though these both may appear to be powerful rest assured things aren’t always what they seem.
Purdue- House Stark
Winter is coming
In a past life both of these were powerful forces. Though Purdue’s time to shine was many many years ago there was a time when they were rulers of their own area. Hell, it was largely due to Purdue that Notre Dame was able to even put together a full slate of games. That turned around to bite Purdue in the ass of course. House Stark ruled the north for many years before bending the knee to the Targaryens. Like House Stark Purdue is currently tossed to the wind and trying to pick up the pieces. Though few of them remain there are those of us who are loyal and believe that the House Stark/Purdue will return. Rest assured Winter is Coming.
Fire and blood
Wisconsin- House Targaryen
Wisconsin truly is the sleeping dragon of the conference at the moment. At any point during any game you can rest assured Wisconsin has a secret weapon of a 200+ pound running back who runs like a deer waiting in the wings to crush you. Aegon the Conquerer conquered Westeros on the back of his dragons and for awhile Wisconsin used it’s running backs to conquer the conference. They’ve not been at their high recently but there is still hope in them though perhaps for this season it’s simply too far off.
Illinois- House Tyrell
House Tyrell’s sigil is a flower. The Illinois defense is soft as a flower. The Tyrell’s are constantly trying to force their daughter to be a queen yet the men she marries seem to continuously die. Illinois continues to hire up and coming or big name coaches. Those coaches seem to consistently fall flat on their faces. They are a match made in heaven.
Purdue won a B1G game! On the road! Yesterday marked the first, of what we hope will be many, B1G wins for Coach Hazell in his quest to rebuild the damaged Purdue football team. I’m only going to say this once as a caveat so keep in mind that Purdue played Illinois and Illinois is downright terrible. They would’ve gone 0-8 last season in the B1G were it not for a terrible Purdue team. I don’t expect Illinois to win a conference game this season. Purdue meanwhile actually showed improvement specifically on offense to take it to an inferior conference foe which is something they couldn’t do all of last season. For those of you that are regular readers of this site you’ll know I pointed out three keys to the game for the Boilermakers to walk out of Illinois with a victory. Let’s take a look a those three keys I mentioned and see what Purdue did to cement the win.
I for one welcome our new QB overlord
From my preview of the game verbatim- “First and foremost Purdue must establish the running game.” Yes I know that’s not exactly rocket science there for this Purdue team but looking at the game plan that Purdue used you have to assume this was what they wanted to do. Purdue used three running backs and even Austin Appleby to great effect. The running game busted out big plays early and often. Raheem Mostert ran nearly untouched for a 44 yard touchdown. His speed wasn’t much of an asset there because the Illinois defense was so off balance. After that Akeem Hunt got into the game with a 54 yard run where he was untouched thanks to the Illinois linebackers being terribly out of place. To end the half Keyante Green got in on the act with a couple big plays to allow Purdue to get a crucial field goal before halftime. In the second half Austin Appleby ran on a 62 yard designed run to get the ball to the Illinois run. Appleby would run it in not long after. He also added a second touchdown run. Overall the Purdue rushing attack accounted for an astounding 349 yards. Add that to the 450 yards Illinois allowed against Nebraska and they are sitting at 800 yards for the last two games. Ouch.
“The next thing Purdue needs to do is pressure the Illinois QB.” They did this in spades. Sure Lunt got his yards and made just some great throws, something Purdue fans sat back and remembered the good old days after seeing it. Lunt to Dudek was especially deadly as the two combined for an incredible 200 receiving yards. Even though the Illinois offense got their yards they didn’t hurt Purdue as much as you’d think thanks to some great pressure by the Purdue d-line. Russell, Watson, Robinson, and Phillips were all over the QB especially in the second half. Lunt made throws but his lack of mobility cost him as time and again the Purdue d-line got right to him after the release. As the fourth quarter, Lunt’s wheelhouse, came up Purdue had hit him enough times that he was knocked out of the game. After that it was all but over.
“The last thing Purdue has to do is figure out some semblance of QB play.” This of course was the most important part of the game for Purdue or at least in the minds of the fans. Appleby was getting his first true opportunity as a Boilermaker. He’s seen garbage time minutes but nothing even close to any semblance of a real chance to run the offense. Yesterday the young gun showed why he perhaps should’ve started in the past and gave Purdue fans a glimmer of hope for the future. Appleby made plays with his legs, to the tune of 76 yards and two touchdowns, and made plays with his arm. This was the most important part. Appleby looked poised, felt the rush, and completed 15-20 passes on the day for 202 yards including a nifty 80 yard catch and run to Danny Anthrop that electrified this fan. To take a deeper look at that 15-20 Akeem Hunt dropped two balls including one that would’ve gone for 20+ yards. In addition there was one pass he simply threw away to avoid a sack. Those two drops and one throw away bring Appleby to a fantastic 18-20 in decision making. You can’t ask for much more than that from a guy starting his first game. To add a cherry on top Appleby didn’t take a sack. That’s a credit to a greatly improved offensive line but also a credit to Appleby’s instincts to avoid the rush.
Overall things couldn’t have gone better for Purdue on all three aspects above. This is the Purdue team we had looked for in our best case scenario. The offense looked not just competent they looked good. If you would’ve told me two weeks ago this Purdue team would score 38 points I would’ve laughed in your face. This Purdue team perhaps hasn’t met its potential yet. I don’t know where their ceiling is but we will get a good look at it next week as Michigan State, perhaps the best team in the conference, comes into West Lafayette. There’s a lot to be happy with if you’re a Purdue fan today. Let’s bask in that shall we? It’s not something we’ve been able to do for quite awhile.