After the UND game, my brother said he was getting sick of Coach Haze's happy talk. I tried to defend it, saying that he was trying to keep the fragile psyche of the team in tact in hopes of progress being made. BUT after the thrashing at the hands of Bucky, Hazell admitted that the team took a step back. If that's true, this week's game was another in the same direction...off of a cliff.
If Darrell Hazell turns our Boilers around in a season or two, we can look back to today as a momentous one though.
It's the day in which the program hit the bottom (hopefully) as it was a a homecoming game that was notably-embarrassing...but it became the day when we started looking forward.
Purdue moved the ball pretty well versus the beleaguered Husky defense, but did everything possible to make sure that none of that yardage mattered.
A pick-6, a kickoff returned for a TD, lapses by the defense, crappy tackling (again), awful penalties at key times; yeah, this one had it all!
If you haven't gotten to go to RA this season, here's what you missed- v. ISU: disappointment. v. UND: hope. v. NIU: sarcasm.
The fanbase seemed clearly a bit jaded...tons of people in the nice seats (I got mine from my pal Chad; thanks again, boss) were there, but few were hopeful for this one. I think the last few weeks felt too similar to the Danny Hope era for Purdue fans to stay the course this week...and early on, as this one got away from the good guys, the fans reflected the poor play with frustration.
Perhaps listening to a MAC opponent's fans chant time and again after multiple touchdowns...in our house...bothered us. Or maybe watching the defense get sliced like a Thanksgiving turkey got under our skin. It could have been watching a Senior QB make Freshman mistakes in the wake of the coach telling us that his problems were the fault of the OLine...who knows. The confluence of these factors on a Homecoming Saturday made the afternoon tough to swallow.
As we talked about earlier, Danny Etling's time in relief of Henry came with mixed emotions for multiple reasons:
First, of course, many of us were hoping for a redshirt season for the highly-touted true Frosh QB...and you all know how much we like Appleby around here. Next, he was far-from-perfect in his first half of play as a college QB...BUT, the velocity he puts on the ball, his energy and the fact that he was playing high school ball just a year ago made all of his mistakes much more palatable than what we were seeing from Henry.
Plus, as Shoop and Hazell told us that Henry was clearly the right guy to be starting this season, I think we couldn't help but doubt their ability to assess talent as we watched Henry run the offense in a slow pace with no vertical threat zero excitement or pop. Everything developed slowly, the offense was never in rhythm and the only play that worked consistently was the jailbreak screen; that's not good, obviously.
But today, Etling led Purdue on a drive or two in which Purdue marched quickly down the field and for the first time in a few seasons, the 1, 2, 3, 4 FIRST DOWN chant was more than just an antique that we kept around for nostalgia. Sure, he made a ton of mistakes, but at this point, I can take mistakes, if there's a reason for it.
What I don't have much time for is watching Seniors, on either side of the ball playing bad football, making big mistakes as Purdue is getting its nose bloodied week-in, week-out. Seriously, a bunch of true Freshman can have similar results and learn a thing or two in the process.
Before I say this next statement, keep in mind, I'm just a caveman with a website...I don't know much other than what I've seen in the games and practices that I've attended...but Henry needs to be a DB. I know I suggested slot last week, but I'd rather have Freshman and Sophomores playing receiver right now as they get on the same page of the new offense and a new QB...on the other side of the ball though, injuries have depleted an already-thin defensive backfield...and Henry's athleticism shouldn't go to waste. Hey, I'm just spit-balling. One thing is clear: it's time to look forward. The substitution of Etling for Henry might be the moment in which the coaching staff started doing it as well.
So, we're five games into a season in which the W-L record is exactly what I thought it'd be when I gazed into my cloudy crystal ball back in August...But I really didn't see beatdowns like this one coming. That fragile psyche of this team that I talked earlier is probably teetering or has already tipped...a bye week might help the coaches get the players focused on the essential work that needs to get done now; and there's plenty of it.
In my opinion, the best case scenario for the good guys over the next three games is 1-2...but 0-3 seems pretty likely. Progress would be seeing a slightly healthier defense that can tackle consistently, special teams units that don't give up the big play and an offense that can score more than garbage points and on the first drive.
Like you, I'll be tuning in and going to the games that I can because I have a disease...and there's only one cure for my disease, and it's not more cowbell.
A different question: I know injuries happen, things change, blah blah blah, but how long til we see Appleby's transfer paperwork? We can argue the decision to pull the redshirt off Etling, but NO ONE can argue the statement that was made by taking his redshirt off of him with Appleby sitting right next to him. I can't see an athlete of Appleby's skill hanging around knowing that the new guy basically just got anointed. Thoughts?
Not trying to excuse the coaches, but they made it clear during training camp that their number 1 criteria for their quarterback was that he could take care of the football. They must have been concerned with how well Etling would do this based on what they saw. I know Henry also performed well during practice and really didn't do anything to disqualify himself from being #1 until he saw real action. Given the progress he made in the ND game, I don't blame them for leaving him in against Wisky. I actually think the timing of them finally going to Etling makes sense.
Let's rock, Etling! The difference was immediate and obvious with the vertical passing game. Like Winamac said it was like the receivers have to realize hey we may actually have to catch passes in stride now. This guy along with Knauf, Yancey, MacCarthy, and Anthrop will have our basketball on grass back within a couple years. Defense won't get much better this year but maybe we can keep them off the field longer now.
It sounds insane to say this, but I am actually optimistic about the rest of the season. It actually appears that we have a legit quarterback for the first time in 9 years. Sure, Etling made some mistakes but that is expected from a true freshman who got his redshirt pulled halfway through a game. The biggest surprise was how well Etling handled pressure. Instead of backing up 15 steps and then throwing the ball away, he stepped into the pocket to keep the play alive.
Interesting...now that people have seen an actual QUARTERBACK run the offense they realize that Henry had more than ample time to pass the damn ball all along. I've never seen such an inept passer in division one football in my life. Thank FREAKIN GOODNESS someone pulled the plug on him. But obviously our coaches need to take some refresher courses on how to analyze and place the talent you have to give you the best chance to win. And I'm gonna say it right now...John Shoop has about as much business being an OC at Purdue as Sexy Rexy did being an NFL starter in a Super Bowl. And every bit of this falls on two people. I think you can figure those out. I'm not throwing in the towel just yet on the HC but I think he's in pretty deep over his head right now and he's realizing to win with the talent you can recruit to Purdue, you can't play Tressel ball. You have to be FAR MORE INNOVATIVE offensively than ANYTHING Shoopy can draw up. I'm not even going to touch on the defense as they still haven't stopped vomiting all over themselves. Who knows, maybe Hudson needs to hit the road too? Pathetic football all around. I too have zero patience for 'happy talk'. You either got it or you don't coach. Show me something.
Yes today was beyond awful to watch. With every snap on offense and defense I cringed today - in the first half. When Henry tried to stretch the field the balls seemed to always be under-thrown and we seemed to want to use a heavy dose of jailbreak screens. However I couldn't help but see that, at least on the offensive side of the ball, that we improved substantially as soon as Etling got in. Suddenly receivers were open. Suddenly our passing game was stretching the field. The zip Etling put on his throws was excessive and quite honestly prevented I believe about 3 more interceptions he would have thrown otherwise. It seems that his throws are excellent mid-long range. He has to learn to not blast Akeem Hunt from four feet away and overthrow him. He also can't stare down his receivers. I believe that touch/awareness will come with experience.
I posted a while back that I thought lack of trust plagued this offense. Etling sure looked like he trusted the O-Line to protect him. He stepped up in the pocket and delivered some very solid passes. He also got rid of the ball without taking a 15 step drop or backpedaling half way down the field only to throw it away At times he even looked like his ability to extend plays with his legs or take off to extend drives seemed superior to Henry's. Since we were down by so much Northern Illinois knew that we were going to throw and we were still moving the ball. I believe we hung 524 yards on Northern today. But mistakes killed us and like I said I really believe that those mistakes will decrease as Etling gets reps.
I must say I am very confused as to what our coaching staff truly saw in Henry that Etling does not have after watching this. The offense has to be so vanilla with Henry under center. Etling allows you to really empty your playbook. Rob Henry went 5/16 for 130 yards 1 TD and 2 INT. Etling went 19/39 for 241 2 TD and 2 INT. Both performances are not great but Etling clearly has the advantage here (not to mention we finally had a 100 + receiver for the first time this season).
As for the defense I'm really at a loss for words. The defense looks defeated every time it takes the field and that appears evident by the missed tackles. And Ricardo Allen appears to be extremely overrated. He got burned a few times today. The D-Line didn't do anything against an O-Line that is undersized and I don't get it. The strategy should be to keep this defense as well rested as possible because there seems to be about zero talent/heart here. Russell and Gaston were supposed to be the anchors - they haven't been impressive so far and they need to start making plays. Rico needs to stop getting beat deep (He's only been credited with a single pass break up this year). Yikes. And unlike our offense there is a heavy dose of starting Juniors/Seniors on that side of the ball. I read an interview with Greg Hudson by JConline before the season started and I distinctly remember him commenting on the lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball and it appears he was just being realistic.
I hope this is the bottom guys because I can't imagine it getting worse than being blown out by a MAC team. If we start Henry in two weeks again...well let's just say I hope they burned Etling's redshirt to actually get him all of the reps this year. Give us some glimmer of hope to believe in, coach!
Henry had all day long to throw the ball today and still couldn't make good decisions. Today was not about the O-line - at least not in that particular regard. Etling's numbers should have been a bit better today as far as receptions. He went 0-4 out of the gate in the second half, and every one of those balls as I recal should have been caught; the receivers just weren't used to catching a ball from an actual honest to goodness geewizz he can throw with proper mechanics and has arm strength quarterback. They'll get used to that. I was just happy that I felt like we could move the ball. At least on offense I'm actually a fairly happy guy right now. Wow; being a lifelong Boiler causes you to set the bar really low, huh??
Defense, you ask? Don't get me started.....
@winamacboiler I said that right as I saw Etling warming up...I love that guy too; everyone knows that.
@winamacboiler Agreed...I believe Appleby will transfer. Very unfortunate.
@BoilerRob Something tells me Carrot Top would've looked good in practice against our defense. There are other ways to pick your starting QB other than how well he performs against the #1 defense in practice....a fairly significant one is can your quarterback actually pass.
@BoilerRob I wish they would have made it sooner, but I completely understand why they didn't. I for one am perfectly willing to wipe the first five games out of my memory starting right now if they'll just show the ability to move the ball. Like someone said a few weeks ago, our defenses weren't great with Tiller either, but we were able to hang enough points on people that we were always a threat in the game and the defense being a bit soft was never a deal killer.
@acboiler About this season, I feel the same way that I did about Painter's first season. That team only won 7 games (I think), and they looked bad at times, but that team never gave up, and that is how I knew that Painter was a GREAT choice for a coach. Don't get me wrong, this football team has given up at times, but Hope did A LOT of damage to the team's psyche. I can't put my finger on why I think Haze is the right coach for this team, but something just tells me he is, the same way I knew Painter was (is) the right coach for the basketball team. So, I'm not too optimistic about this football season (and I REALLY hope I'm wrong on this point), but I know there are great things to come in the future.
@BoilerBloodline I will admit I did think and still do think we might have some cohesion problems on the O-Line. My argument is simply how bad our run game has been this season rather than pass protection at this point. I always thought that Henry just didn't trust the O-Line. I'm starting to believe now that it is possible he didn't trust himself to fit the ball into the right space. I think Henry also knew that if a receiver was 20 yards or more downfield he had a very small chance of hitting them. And I think every defense we faced figured out Henry's limitations by half time. Our offensive line does look like its making progress. The best play they made Saturday was I believe a HB dive up the gut. The play initially got stuffed in the backfield until our O-Line moved the pile about 9 extra yards to get the first down.
Come to think of it Henry seemed to really be the buzzkill during the Notre Dame game. I'm wondering if the result would have been different if Henry didn't pull the trigger on that pick six interception that really seemed to turn the tide of the game.
Lastly I think Shoop was just trying to tailor the offense around Henry. There is a reason we were shifting a ton pre-snap and trying to use some (and I'm trying to be nice here) "innovative" running plays. He was trying to establish a rushing attack to open up some play action and dump off passes for Henry to get off. That being said I'm really disappointed that the coaching staff picked Henry over Etling. Etling may make some mistakes but the talent differential is just glaringly obvious - not to mention that Rob Henry made a ton of mistakes as well. Something tells me that the decision to play Rob was political. They coaching staff must have seen problems in the locker room they thought Henry's leadership could take care of - or at least thats what I have to tell myself.
We have a bye week this week. I think that when we play Nebraska we are going to really see if this coaching staff can make adjustments and will be able to better assess their competency level. I still think that we are getting too emotional at this point. We aren't at practices or games (in the huddle). We don't have a full understanding of what is going on here. We just see a shitty result and don't like it (I don't want to have to go into work tomorrow and deal with all the Northern fans as they brag about how horrible Purdue is). Hopefully we see progress in two weeks.
@vtheodos I wouldn't get too excited about the prospect of emptying the playboook, if anything I expect it to get more vanilla with a true frosh under center. Basically, the coaches are going to need to simplify things to make Etling's decision making easier. Also, once opposing teams get some film on Etling, it is going to be even more difficult on him.
@winamacboiler I believe the receivers were simply not used to Etling's velocity when he entered the game...kinda seemed obvious. Balls were going through their hands. They figured it out though.
I agree: after a rough start, Henry had time, but he seems only capable of rolling right and he simply can't hit his receivers with any kind of consistency. Etling looked marginally better -- he could at least throw it more than 8 yards -- but the improvement at QB showed that the questionable talent runs deeper than that one position as there were far too many drops, and even worse tipped balls.
Anyone who scouted NIU knew they were going to score, particularly against our Defense-that-should-never-be-mentioned, but our offense showed itself to be inept on multiple fronts, and this one isn't one we can put on Shoop.
@boilerdowd @winamacboiler Also, on more than one play the receivers weren't ready for the ball to be there so fast. I remember Knauf barely catching a ball on an out route because it was in his face right when he turned his helmet.
I think Etling's arm improves the o-line also. I'm sure that there is a little more motivation when they know that their hard work is going to pay off with a completion.