The Danny Hope Era is officially underway...and the beginning leaves Purdue in a pretty good position for the coming game versus Oregon. There are no major injuries in the wake of the Toledo win, the team's undefeated...and Coach Hope will be able to find plenty of things to work on in the next week.
Let's talk about those things first:
Coach Hope talked about how the team had gone away from live hitting in the past week or so in an effort to keep the team fresh and healthy as they prepared for the season...and it showed.
Defensively, the tackling was sloppy. I don't have any idea how many missed first tackles occurred, but I can guarantee I couldn't count all of them on both hands...in the first half alone. The effort was there definitely as Purdue players pursued plays well, got to the right places and proceeded to slide off of the Rockets as if their jerseys were infused with Crisco.
While a ton of guys missed tackles, Brandon King specifically seemed to be the victim of himself time and time again, especially in the first half. King is usually a good tackler, but that wasn't the case today.
In the first half, Purdue struggled stopping the delay draw...after the Boilers changed the scheme to stop that, they couldn't stop the underneath routes. Whether a TE, RB or WR, our Boilers gave shallow crossing routes way too much space...I'm not sure if this comes from a pre-snap read or an alignment issue, but the issue needs attention.
The mental errors weren't limited to the defense. Ralph Bolden wasn't on the same page as Elliott on at least three plays...and two of those led to dire consequences- an interception and a sack for significant loss of yards.
In spite of being a generally-solid player, Keith Smith frustrated the heck out of me, especially at the end of the first half. He seemingly pulled up twice from catchable passes due to what looked to be a fear of getting "rocked". Atop that, there were quite a few dropped passes that should have been nabbed...at least one led directly to an interception.
And speaking of interceptions, Elliott had three of them...and two were from him trying to be a bit too dainty wit the rock and not just throwing the ball.
The special teams got involved in struggling...specifically on the kickoff team. Wiggs, who did something well, if I recollect correctly, didn't seem to blast the ball deep very effectively and in spite of his shallow kicks, he didn't leave the coverage team in an impossible situation...but that unit allowed Toledo to seal them off time and again...and like the defense, missed a ton of tackles to set up short fields for the Rockets.
I sound like I'm being critical...but I think much of this can be rectified.
All that said, there was a ton to smile about too.
First off, Coach Hope is 1-0...and you play to win the game, right?
Joe Elliott looked comfortable for much of the game...but why not? The offensive line seems to be one that will be very stout...especially as they get a few games under their collective belts.
The offensive sets and subsequent plays were pretty unpredictable (which I see as a huge positive) and used something that Tiller seemed to have run scared from in the last few seasons- a true full-back.
That fullback, specifically Jared Crank blew open some massive holes that led to a neary-80 yard touchdown, and later sprung Taylor and Bolden...who both played very well. Taylor kept right around his career average and had nearly 6 yards/carry...and Bolden made me look like a genius by averaging over 11 yards/carry (I've been in love with this dude's game since the spring game back in April). Bolden's 234 yard game put him in the top-3 of all-time for single-game Purdue RB yardage. He had a good game because he attacks the hole, can lower his pads and deal out contact, can break tackles and has very good vision.
Dan Dierking and Kyle Adams also lined up as fullbacks at different times...and Dierking looked pretty solid there too. I'm not so sure Adams is a good fit at that position- who knows if we'll see more of that.
Joey Elliott's game felt like we had seen it before...not in a bad way, but in the fact that he didn't seem to be a guy in his first stop...And while Opelt had a lot more yards, Elliott left the field as the winning QB...pretty sure he's fine with that trade.
Joey's favorite target was (not surprisingly) Keith Smith. Smith made a couple very nifty catches and showed good strength, ran some solid routes...We have no reason to believe he won't get nearly 100 yards/gm. if he can keep play consistently. I hope Elliott gets the chance to get some more receivers in the flow of the game in the coming weeks, especially Adams and Lindsay. Both of these tight ends lined up in the slot multiple times...an example of some of the different looks Coach Nord gave to Toledo.
Carlos and Edison both had impressive debuts as they both found the endzone...but I really liked the way Gary Bush looked in the Purdue uni, although I don't believe he had a ball thrown his way- he reminds me of a UM receiver- long-armed, big strides and solid strength for blocking.
Defensively, Mike Neal looked very strong and Kerrigan hit Opelt quite a few times in the backfield...and Nickaro Golding stood out to me as a guy that was very active all game. In the next level, Carlino and Holland both made some impressive plays, but Werner was flying around and very-involved all day...he led the team with 13 tackles.
The experienced defensively backfield didn't quite yet seem to be ready for primetime...but both Pender and Williams had flashes of brilliance.
Lastly, but surely not least, Carson Wiggs blasted another 59 yarder, the longest of his career (he had a 53 yarder at aOSU last year)...I think he'll hit a true 60 yarder (or more) this season and set the record for the longest FG by a Purdue kicker ever.
While this game was far from a perfect effort, there was a lot to build on...If Purdue can figure out how to consistently tackle, we might be in for a very good game in Eugen in 6 days.
My son and I got to meet Chris Kramer after the game...Kramer is a huge fan of boilerdowd Jr...he just wanted a photo with him.