Saturday, September 10, 2011
This is my initial reaction to the game, so it could obviously change as I rewatch things, BUT.... I didn't think the players weren't ready and that's a victory in and of itself. But as I said leading up to this game, I felt the Boilers were excited about this one and were really looking forward to it. So the effort and focus appeared to be there to me.
I felt as though Caleb TerBush, while not brilliant, was adequate. He was 12/24 at one point in the second half and then went 6/7 to close the game at 18/31 for 183 and a TD, plus he rushed for another. Caleb did not turn the ball over -- in fact, Purdue had zero turnovers, yet had one takeaway as well as a defensive score (of sorts) as Joe Holland notched a safety for the Boilers.
Purdue -- interestingly -- had exactly as much on the ground as in the air: 183 of each, and outgained the Owls by 14 yards total (366-352). The Boilers had seven penalties for fifty yards -- not horrible, plus the penalties were not of the backbreaking variety.
So do you know what I'm getting at? Yes, that's right....coaching.
Sure, we've been told by many of you that it's unfair to judge the coaching with all the injuries Purdue has had to deal with in the past couple of years. And that's fine. But we've repeatedly said we will give a lot of leeway on that subject....what we do NOT have tolerance for as fans is poor schemes, poor clock management, poor crunch time decisions, etc. And this game finished up horridly and included all of that.
We'll get to the final possession in a moment. But how about Danny Hope's decision with a little over a minute to go in the third quarter and the Boilers down 24-17? Fourth and one at the Rice two....down seven with more than a quarter remaining, what do we do class? Yes, that's right, you kick the mother-effing field goal and take your three points, knowing you will get the ball back several more times. Unless Hope was afraid the Owls were going to go on a 15 minute drive, there is no excuse for this. None. I don't care if the defense said not to worry about it and I don't care that the Boiler defense then came through with the safety. That is NOT the point. This was a terrible, terrible, inexcusable decision. Purdue kicks the field goal there and it's 24-20 and you have Wiggs kicking the ball 80 yards off the tee. I like that situation.
On to the end of the game. Purdue made what looked like a wise decision with under four minutes to go in punting the ball back to Rice. The defense was stout and held the Owls, who then punted the ball back to Purdue and the Boilers were in business, starting from almost midfield.
Ralph Bolden then got the ball three straight times...and why not? He rushed it 35 yards on those three plays and the Boilers were down to the 17 yard line. And I actually loved these calls because, as I said, why not? Rice couldn't stop Bolden from running up first downs and not passing it means not getting intercepted. But then things got weird, man.
For starters, Bolden never touched the ball again. Was he tired? Did he make Nord mad? What the hell happened? Was he succeeding too much and the team was worried about hurting Rice's feelings? We'll probably never know. But Ralph was done.
On 2nd and 3 from the Rice 17, Caleb TerBush threw a nearly-lateral pass out to the left to OJ Ross and OJ was tackled for a loss. I dislike this call for many reasons...too many to detail, really. But if you're reading this, you have at least a passing interest in football and even someone with moderate football knowledge can list at least two or three things wrong with this call.
Then things got even more weird.
Shavers rushed for four yards and got the first down. Terrific news! And then, Caleb TerBush comes to the line.....and clocks the ball. Wait, what? Why would you do that? There was no shortage of time. Wouldn't you do this when you're about ready to kick the field goal and want to stop the clock so your kick team doesn't have to rush?
On 2nd and 10 from the Rice 14, Shavers is stuffed for a one yard loss. Now it's 3rd and 11 and Purdue has no time outs and just over 30 seconds to go. Well, that's certainly not good....oh, but Rice does Purdue a favor and gives Coach Hope time to think it over by calling a time out. Weird move on Rice's part, but this isn't a Rice site so who cares?
Purdue talks it over and, with 31 seconds left and third down and 11...and on the 14...I tell Coach Hope from my recliner, "Kick it on third down, Coach. Then, if there's a...oh, I don't know...bad snap, for instance...you can fall on it and kick it on fourth down."
But you know as well as I do that logic and good game/clock management is not something this coaching staff has in suite of tools. So they elect to run a play on third down with 31 seconds to go and no time outs. And what's that play? A one-yard rush from Shavers to make it fourth down and, of course, NOT stop the clock.
And as you saw, Purdue had a bad snap, Carson's FG attempt was blocked and the Rice Owls celebrated a win over a team that should easily have won this game. No matter what you thought of the rest of the game, Purdue had this game in the bag on that last drive and weirdly decided to get conservative, scared or whatever you want to call it. I just don't get it. But I will say the following are horrible coaching decisions from this one:
1) Going for it on fourth down in the third quarter instead of taking the gimme field goal.
2) Not using Bolden after he shredded the Rice D on three straight plays on the final drive.
3) Clocking the ball on first and ten from the Rice 14.
4) Not kicking the FG on third down.
5) Once they decided NOT to kick it on third down, calling a chickensh-t run play with no time outs left.
Obviously, if I wanted to parse out all the plays in the game, I'm sure this list would be longer. But I don't have the stomach for that right now.
Purdue football, you may not have 100,000 in stadiums you play in, but you DO have some serious loyalists. Many people traveled to Houston for this game, eager to show their love for Purdue. There was tremendous excitement on Twitter, Facebook, etc. This excitement is waning for some and will begin to erode for others. Performances like this, in my opinion, are not excusable. I've said it before -- road games are difficult to win. But I'm not talking about this game as a win or loss -- the players demonstrated that they were prepared to win it. It was terrible coaching that seriously hindered that effort. A team like this Purdue one simply cannot overcome obstacles like poor coaching and bad decision making from the leaders. They need strong coaching and above-average guidance to have success. That simply isn't happening and hasn't for a while now.
And that, I am getting tired of seeing over and over.