My oldest younger brother (I'm the oldest of four) wrote me a couple of months ago and said hey, I need to get some stuff done in Ann Arbor, so I'll be there such-and-such weekend, you should come up, and I said sure, no problem. (It's about a four-hour drive from here.) Such-and-such turned out to be last weekend, so I ended up in Ann Arbor the day of the Michigan-Notre Dame game. (No, we didn't go. I don't have the money and he doesn't have the interest.)
We spent Saturday afternoon watching South Florida and Michigan State argue about whose offense was worse (answer: yes), and because this was an EsPN game, for the most part, I was nearly able to forget that Purdue was playing the Fighting Trees. Unfortunately, they were too, and it took a valiant defensive effort at the end to give Darrell Hazell his first win as Purdue head coach.
Unfortunately, the fine folks who carefully charted each of Henry's passes against Cincinnati were unavailable, so I don't have a detailed breakdown of his numbers against the Sycamores. We do know that his completion percentage was up a bit (62.5%), and that yards per attempt (6.2) and first downs (8) were also up. Henry took 2 sacks against ISU - not necessarily bad things, depending on the situation. What's more important to note, I think, is that Hazell was able to break out his characteristic ground-oriented offense for real on Saturday ... and it stunk.
The Boilers ran the ball 46 times at 2.9 yards per carry. Elite offenses gain somewhere north of 5 yards a carry (the Flashes posted 5.41 YPC last season); bad offenses get around 3.5. Only the absolute worst fall below that line, teams like Maryland (2.62), Tulane (1.70), and Washington State (1.38). Purdue is currently 103rd in rushing yards per game, and with some of the defenses left on the schedule (Michigan State's problem is definitely not their defense), that's likely to go down rather than up, but even if it stays the same, Hazell will be forced to change his playcalling. In fact, he already has.
No short-yardage offense
Sequence: Purdue's opening drive. Third and two from the Purdue 40. The Boilers rush for a yard, leaving a fourth and 1 and their 41. This is a reasonable call; yes, it's in your territory, but if you can't get a yard when you need it, etc. Hunt is stopped for no gain, and ISU takes over on downs (They then turn the ball over themselves on downs. Hazell trusts his defense.)
Sequence: Purdue's first drive of the second quarter. Second and three from the ISU 8. Purdue runs the ball four of the next five plays, and here's what you get: no gain, 7 yards for a first-and-goal at the 1, no gain, no gain, incomplete pass. (That's a bad sequence anyway: pass on first or second down instead, or just run all three times. Run-run-pass is the old-school way that every coordinator learns.) From the opponents' 1, you really need to go for it, unless you're up 5 or 6 late in the game. But even against a I-AA opponent, Hazell must have felt he couldn't rely on the offense to get a yard, so in came Griggs, and Purdue took the three points.
Sequence: Purdue's last drive of the second quarter. First and goal from the ISU 1. Rush for no gain, rush for no gain, rush for no gain, penalty/end of half. Three more plays from the 1, three more no-gain plays.
Sequence: Purdue's drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters. First and 10 at the ISU 36. Run for 4 yards (quarter ends), run for 3, run for 2, run for 2, first down. Finally, Purdue converts on fourth and short.
Not much offense, period
For the game, the Boilers were 4 of 16 on third downs. They had exactly one drive of more than 50 yards - the 60-yard TD drive in the third quarter - and had five three-and-out drives. (ISU had two 60-plus drives, both for TDs, and also had five three-and-outs.) That's actually less efficient than they were against Cincinnati (4 of 12 on third downs and two three-and-outs plus two turnovers on the first series of a drive). The Purdue offense is 100th in third-down conversion percentage, 104th in first downs, 99th in passing yards ... and are averaging just under 3 points per red zone trip.
So far, it's clear where the problems are. Cody Webster is punting up a storm - Purdue has allowed negative punt return yards for the season, and Webster is netting over 50 yards per punt, second in the country behind Texas A&M (who's punted 4 times to Purdue's 9) - and obviously the kick return team did something good Saturday. The defense actually seems pretty good so far: Cincinnati had the pick-six, but also started three drives in Purdue territory and scored on only one of them, and the first nine ISU drives got them just 6 first downs and 107 yards of total offense.
But the context for these two games isn't looking very good. Usually, non-conference games don't say too much about a team's strength within its conference because there isn't enough overlap between conferences to make good comparisons. This year, however, we've got a number of common opponents that we can draw upon to make guesses about the rest of the schedule.
Abandon hope, all ye who enter
Purdue opened the season with a 35-point loss to Cincinnati. The Bearcats then turned around and dropped a 45-17 game to Game 11 opponent Illinois. Indiana State was coming off a 38-point loss to Game 12 opponent Indiana. The remaining schedule for Purdue:
Notre Dame: put up 30 points on Michigan
Wisconsin: outscored cupcakes 93-0 through two games
Northern Illinois: knocked off Iowa in Iowa City and hoping to defend their MAC title and return to the Orange Bowl
Nebraska: outscored cupcakes 93-47 through two games
Michigan State: defense has scored 28 points in two games
Ohio State: outscored cupcakes 82-27 through two games
Penn State: outscored cupcakes 68-24 through two games
Illinois: outscored opponents 87-51 through two games
Indiana: scored 108 points through two games
I guess Iowa should get credit for keeping NIU close, but other than them, it's like the old poker adage: if you can't spot the sucker at the table, it's you. Through two games, John Shoop's offense has been everything his detractors said it would be, and with the exception of Indiana, there really aren't any teams left that might give the offense a little help. It's unlikely that Purdue will be favored in any of their remaining games, except perhaps against Iowa. Unless the defense and special teams can work magic, the new quarterback in 2014 will be working for a new offensive coordinator; numbers like the ones the Boilers have put up so far would cost pretty much any OC his job.
For now, Purdue can take solace in being the third-best (checks Football Outsiders) uh, fourth-best team in the state. (No, really. The F/+ rankings have Ball State at 79 and Purdue at 84.)