"...Purdue is good in spite of itself, it seems, at this point."
After spending 5 total days in the state of Indiana during the month of September, I'm back home in the Boiler state. As a result, I'll get back to doing what I do- watching Purdue in person and on TV and over-analyzing what's happening on the field of play and around the program for our Boilers.
I welcomed myself home last night by eating dinner with my kids and reviewing the Marshall game via DVR...as I type, I'm watching the game again on BTN. "Watching" the game via gamecast didn't really tell me anything other than the score. In fact, I thought Purdue might have gone into a sort-of victory formation for the second half based on the lack of success the team was having- prevent defenses, second-team and third-team players, uber-conservative play calling...etc.
But, watching the game, I got a different feel...and here are my thoughts.
The first half was as J already said in his post- The super-stars shined and made a definite impact. TerBush looked sharp, for the most part, and played the way I thought he was capable of playing in the wake of last season. The offense though, still does not have the pace of a Marve-led offense, especially in the hurry-up...something I hope can be improved upon.
Akeem Hunt, Akeem Shavers, OJ Ross, Gary Bush and Antavian Edison played like veterans should play. When production was needed in the first half, they all delivered. Bush and Ross specifically looked like B1G players playing agains mid-major talent. Their speed and ability to make defenders miss was large...I don't think they'll be able to produce YAC v. B1G opponents like they did v. Marshall...but they were both opportunistic; which is all you can ask for.
Defensively, Short, Gaston, Russell and the emerging players, Jelani Phillips and the DB pups all were flying around the ball and making plays...but the combo of Allen and Johnson's pick sixes were something that I, nor any Purdue fan has ever seen before. While Allen gets the publicity, Josh Johnson continues to make a case for himself as an all-con player. He breaks up a ton of passes is a sure tackler and a ball hawk to boot. These two, when healthy, create the best corner tandem in the B1G...and they take advantage of that monster front that makes their jobs easier and frees them up to take risks.
All of this said, the second half was deplorable in a lot of ways.
Marshall moved the ball easily, shut down Purdue's offense and controlled the pace of the game.
Sure, it might be tough to keep your edge when up by a bunch of points...but that's what good teams are supposed do. Perhaps Purdue is still learning how to play with a lead and what it means to really step on a team's throat when ahead...but whatever the reason may be, this squad is still a work in progress.
They show flashes of greatness and potency...then they'll back it up with ineptitude and huge mistakes. Costly penalties, poor adjustments and a lack of killer instinct plague this team at this point...and as a result, Purdue is good in spite of itself, it seems, at this point.
As I said above, the veterans are bearing the brunt of the workload, as they should, but the gaping holes, in the Oline depth chart, middle of the defense and key parts of special teams show themselves each game.
Tim Tibesar's defense has been good when it's needed to be, but consistency is still tough to come by...and Gary Nord's play calling has either been sparkly-good or as dull and uninventive as an old chalkboard. And Gibboney's special teams haven't been all that special.
In other words, at 3-1, Purdue is in a pretty damned good position. They have a ton to work on in practice, lots of fixable issues...and a ceiling that is much higher than what we've already seen.
Players on the Rise
Brandon Cottom continues to impress me with his ability to make people miss and finish runs. He's the perfect change up to Purdue's smaller backs in the second half.
Gabe Holmes still hasn't put together a complete game...and I still think he's a headache for DCs. I look for him to have a big game in this killer stretch that's ahead.
Frankie Williams made a couple plays on Saturday that had me kinda giddy...under the watchful eye of Josh Johnson, I think Williams is going to grow up fast.
Phase 2 of the Season
Hope's squad got through the early season without a bad loss. They put up points in bigger chunks than we saw last season. But the competition ratchets up three or four rungs in the next few games...and Purdue's overall success for '12 will be defined by how they play against the traditional powers of the conference.
Sure, neither Michigan nor Wisconsin are ranked at this point...but that doesn't change anything. If they can win one or two games in the next three and compete in all three, this season could be a step forward for the program. If they can protect Ross-Ade and keep it unblemished, it'll a giant leap.