Boilers Roll Sycamores, But Questions Remain
Let's put the good news first, because we have so few opportunities to do that: Purdue won, and won big. While the 38-14 score didn't reflect the way the first three quarters went, it was a sound victory in a game in which Purdue never trailed. Appleby put up solid numbers (12-50 on the ground, 20-34-0 for 289 and 4 in the air) and played through some big hits, Markell Jones scored a pair of TDs, and the defense constantly harassed ISU QB Matt Adam and his RBs. But ...
- Blown coverage led to a wide-open receiver and a TD, and when the Boilers fumbled away the following kickoff, ISU had the ball down 14-7 with a chance to score. Special teams stepped up and blocked a FG attempt, Purdue kicked a FG on their next drive, and the Sycamore wouldn't threaten again, but they didn't seem that far out of it, either.
- ISU's other TD also came on blown coverage, when Robert Tonyan Jr. found himself open deep and Adam hit him to close the gap to 24-14.
- Paul Griggs missed two makeable FGs, 33 and 41. Confidence is an important part of football, especially for kickers, and it has to be a concern for Hazell, particularly in a guy who has the experience that Griggs has. Leaving six points on the board was not an issue against ISU; that will likely not be the case the rest of the way.
- Punting also became a concern; after Thomas Meadows shanked a 19-yard punt on Purdue's first drive in the second quarter, freshman Joe Schopper got his chance. He wasn't much better, knocking his first attempt from the ISU 42 into the end zone and getting just 34 yards on another punt from the 32.
- Even though Appleby didn't turn the ball over, D.J. Knox put it on the ground twice, leading directly to a steady diet of Jones. Purdue still finished +1 in turnovers, but they should have been better.
Explosive plays did in the Sycamores. All three first-half TDs were 50+ scores, including a Hail Mary that Dan Monteroso caught in stride in the back of the end zone. (Rule #1: no one gets behind the last man.) The Good Guys rolled up 540 total yards against their I-AA opponents, many of those in the first half, and averaged 6.7 yards per play, a big jump from last week against Marshall.
Yes, the defense missed some opportunities, but not many. Adam was sacked 4 times and chased many more, and two ISU backs went down on hard, clean hits and either didn't return or weren't effective when they did. While there's still work to be done in terms of staying in lanes, particularly against a running QB, the majority of ISU's possessions looked like they were playing against a much better defense, which is the way it should look. (The 80-yard drive in the third quarter wasn't great, but it also came at 24-7, and Purdue answered with a TD.)
I liked enough of what I saw (and I saw most of it, before I turned away to watch Jacksonville State nearly win at Auburn; WatchESPN only stopped working twice, which is a new record for me), but I also saw enough problems to make me wonder about the rest of the schedule, particularly because Bowling Green put up 48 points at Maryland today, and the Terrapins only stayed within 3 TDs because someone punted to Will Likely again. The Boilers played like a bad Big 14 team against a pretty good I-AA team - unless Hazell can get some of these issues ironed out quickly, prospects for a win in any of the remaining games are dim.