-Who would step up at WR?
-How would TerBush be under/behind center?
-Did Purdue have a DE in the stable that could lessen the blow of losing Kerrigan?
After the first two games a couple more questions have emerged?
-Why haven't we seen or heard more from Purdue's defensive backs?
-Why hasn't Hope used Wiggs more?
-Why are the linebackers covering wide receivers so regularly?
-Why has the play calling been so vanilla?
All of these are just gut feeling questions...but here are some stats and numbers to go along with the questions.
Yeah, they're that good!
MTSU looked pretty tough versus Purdue in the first game, and their QB looked like a guy who could be the best in the SunBelt, if not more. We all talked about how they were a bowl team...so what did they do to follow up their near-win in West LaLa?
They got crushed by Georgia Tech. They were down 42-7 at the end of the third quarter and lost 49-21. Their QB, Kilgore, who passed for 330 yards and 7.3yds/attempt v. Purdue, finished with 114 yards and 4.1yds/attempt and was yanked v. the Yellow Jackets.
On the Radio
-During Hope's show on Monday, he was positive as he usually is, but a few things stood out to me.
One, a caller asked about why Purdue is showing so many formations (I believe 10 different formations in the first ten plays), but really not succeeding consistently with any of them. In other words, right now, they're a team without much of an offensive identity.
The other thing that stood out to me was a question if Hope had any concerns about the ST units in the wake of the Rice loss. Hope answered that he has two of the best specialists in the nation in Wiggs & Webster (who is averaging 49.7 yds/punt), which is very true. Then he talked about how the units have more talent than last year because of health of the team. Finally, he said those units would win Purdue a lot of games this season...seems like an unusual statement after we saw what happened in the A Gap on the final game v. Rice.
Purdue's loss to Rice was the Mighty Owls first win in their last 22 attempts v. a BCS foe...they last time they won was versus the barely-BCS Duke Blue Devils in 2001. It was Rices first win v. a Big Ten opponent since Northwestern lost to them in '97.
-There's a ton of chatter by dumb people who claim to be Purdue fans that Joe Holland is a bad football player. I think it's a fair criticism to say he struggles in pass coverage, but to say he's not good is moronic. Holland has started 37 games in his career as a Boiler...so far.
This season, he leads the team in tackles with 24 (15 solo)...by TEN...the second most tackles on the team are by Lucas with 14. He is at the top of the B1G in this category...Pretty lousy, right??
-Third down hasn't been a good thing for Purdue...on either side of the ball.
So far this season, v. two non-BCS opponents, Purdue is converting 37% of its third down attempts...its opponents are converting 43%.
-Purdue's defense has sacked opposing QBs twice...Both from Maci, who is tied for the lead in the B1G.
MTSU and Rice sacked TerBush and Robinson 8 times (worst in the conference).
-Purdue's red zone defense is tied at last in the league...at the same time Purdue's red zone offense is all by itself at twelfth in the B1G.
-Purdue is last in the conference...by SIX, in penalties committed/gm. Our Boilers are also last in total yards from those penalties at 145 (42 more yards than #11).
-Bolden and Shavers have exceeded expectations by rushing for 170 yards (5.9/att) and 113 (6.2/att) respectively. But they're averaging 14 & 9 attempts per game. While I understand putting Bolden on a snap count until everyone's sure he's healthy, he simply isn't getting the ball enough...and he hasn't had a catch yet. In the '09 season, before his knee injury, he had 20 receptions.
-Crosby Wright has come out of nowhere, thanks to the the vacuum left by Gabe Holmes' bruised knee, to be third on the team with 69 yards receiving and a TD. Edison leads the team in receiving yards with 111 (1 TD) and Siller's 77 yards are third.
OJ Ross, while showing flashes of brilliance with the ball, seems to run questionable routes at times and has dropped more balls than his fellow starters...I like what I've seen out of Bush who has taken advantage of limited opportunities and is catching the ball much more soundly than last season.
No Purdue receiver is in the top-10 in receiving yards, but Siller is tied at fifth in catches/gm with 9.
-While struggling at times on offense, Ross has been brilliant on KO returns. He's averaging 24.5yds/return...third in the B1G. Gravesande has been a pleasant surprise as well, nearly tripling his yards/attempt on punt returns for 10.8/return...also third in the conference.
Where to now?
Well, it's clear Purdue needs work in nearly every facet of the game. There are some real bright spots, but even those guys are seemingly not being used effectively.
A pet peeve of mine is when someone talks about problems but offers no solutions...so I'll give some of mine. Sure, Danny Hope (according to a J&C article a few weeks ago) doesn't care at all what I think about Xs & Os, nor should he, honestly...but I'm just doing this for my own sanity at this point.
-Play Maci more...and start him. He might not be the most impressive guy in practice, but he is a gamer...on special teams last year, he was always around the ball...and this year, he's been able to do something that no one else has, get to the QB.
-Put Holland in a place to succeed. If that means putting his hand in the dirt on passing downs, so be it. If that means changing formations so he doesn't have to cover receivers, definitely do it. He's a difference maker and has been a sure tackler.
-Move Bush into the starting line-up. His route running is crisp, and his hands are vastly-improved.
-Give Bolden more chances with the ball in his hands on the outside- passes in the flat might be a good place to start...and TerBush simply must get the ball to him.
-Kick the damned ball...and take the points. Hope tells us about his faith in Wiggs over and over, yet doesn't seem to give him too many opportunities to put points on the board after the offense stalls. Time to put up or shut up...He's a senior after all.
-Now's the time to see a second QB. The last two weeks has yielded very positive reports of Marve's health. So Hope needs to give Marve chances to get back to game speed. I'm not saying splitting the snaps, but with an offense that has sputtered and stalled over and over, Marve should be getting opportunities.
-Do what you do, and do it well. Nord needs to shift his offense from a multiple formation unit that's decidedly mediocre to, at minimum, a team that has a few things it does very well. If that's running the option, going vertical, blasting the power I, I don't know and don't care...but right now they have now bread and butter, just bland, over-cooked boiled goose. Oh yeah, and let's work in a slant route every now and again...that's still legal (and tough to defend).
-Make it fun again. A few years ago, even though Purdue only won 5 games, they were a team that was aggressive on both sides of the ball and seemed to have a good time playing...and the fans enjoyed watching it. Sure, they made mistakes, but right now, both the offense and defense are playing a milquetoast brand of football and still getting gashed on defense and stalling regularly on offense.
Whether we like it or not (which we definitely don't), If changes and improvements aren't made soon things can go from lousy to horrible. This team could be on a collision course with the cellar of the conference and in front of around 30,000-35,000 listless fans at Ross Ade...something we haven't seen regularly since the late 80s. That's flat-out unacceptable.
But there's good news- there's still time to change things, and an FCS opponent followed by a bye week should be good for what ails our Boilers.