|Just let 'em play.|
In Hope's second year at Purdue, his team was decimated with injuries in a way that many coaches never have to deal with...no one can argue that point. Losses to quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers were the toughest to swallow...and I believe Hope didn't ever want to see that happen again. In the wake of that, he instituted his now infamous two or three QB system...last year, he signed an additional 100 quarterbacks* and he and Coach Nord seemed to change their overall philosophy.
Hope's inability to decide who is the quarterback is definitely one of his problems as a head coach. I think that he really believes all three of his QBs can do the job...so much so that he won't let one do it effectively...and this is the issue across the board really.
When was the last time Hope/Nord's offense just rode a hot hand? I think I can give you two examples...on opposite sides of the ball.
The first comes versus Toledo in Hope's debut- Nord and Hope allowed Bolden to run and run and run...to the tune of 234 yards and two TDs. The sizable effort by Purdue's Pocket Hercules helped our Boilers snatch victory and strangle it with a constrictor's grip. The second time we saw a guy just take over a game for Hope was the same year when Ryan Kerrigan terrified Terrell Pryor and the Bucknuts into submission (granted, Brandon King also played a sizable role in that defensive effort).
Now, Purdue does everything by platoon...mass subs, on both sides of the ball are commonplace. And the effort to develop the young guys seems to have stunted the growth of everybody.
A good example of this idea is within the ranks of Purdue's wide receivers. Purdue spreads the wealth (if you will) around, so no one's getting rich. In fact, Purdue hardly ever has a receiver go over the century mark. Part of that can be blamed on the fact that Purdue's passing game just isn't very proficient these days...but another piece of the puzzle is that guys don't get into the groove because they can't.
The play calling hurts this immensely as well. Nord's vanilla brand of plays give TerBush a wide array of 2 and 3 yard outs to choose from...these passess essentially waste downs and don't allow speedy receivers to show anything but their ability to get hit in the back. Sidebar: do you think Coach Nord knows that the throwback across the field is supposed to be a play that's set up, not a bread and butter go-to play? There's a reason no one is ever surprised when our Boilers run it.
Purdue's running backs are no different. Typically a team that runs the ball well will give the ball to the hot hand again and again and again. Most teams will allow that guy to run the ball 18-25 times/game. Not Purdue. In fact, in spite of averaging 6, 9 or 12 yards/pop, Purdue backs will carry the ball a max of 11 times/game...and most games it'll be in the single digits. The only game in which wasn't the case was against Marshal...whose rugged front four held Shavers to 2.3 yards/carry on 25 carries. Sadly, Purdue's 150 yard rushing game is about 100 yards below what Marshall typically allows on the ground...and Shavers' 2.3 yards/carry is around 3 yards below their average allowed. I don't blame Shavers- the guy runs hard and finishes runs well...but when his opportunities include delay draw after delay draw on second and third and long, it's tough sledding.
At the QB position, Hope has refused to completely hand the controls to one quarterback. As a result, TerBush seems to play the game scared and hasn't developed...and Henry has not developed at all as Marve's injury has kept him from the field (we guess...still can't figure this conundrum out).
Look on the other side of the ball, the same situation is happening. Purdue's search for the perfect safety has kept them from having a good one...and the linebackers are in a similar situation as well...as is the offensive line...at least this is what I'd like to believe.
Let's all remember that Hope said this season had the potential to be a special one during camp as he believed Purdue had the right parts in place to make some noise in the conference. They've made a ton of noise...but that's generally been similar to that of a Hoover product.
My eyes continue to tell me that what Hope saw in practice isn't really that far off-base. Let me clarify- Purdue has talent and speed...I agree with him there. I think many opposing coaches would agree with him. But if you take speedy receivers and never run routes in which they catch the ball on the run, can they display their speed? If a running back is great at hitting holes quickly, but there are never any holes, is he being utilized? If you don't allow a QB with a big arm to throw anything but out routes, how can you be sure? If a strong and sizable front 3 or 4 is never in the position to make tackles because of their scheme, how can we really judge their stoutness? And if that same front can't every get to the quarterback, how can ball hawks change the momentum of a game?
Hope said that his team played hard, but played scared and tight on Saturday...He's right again. They've been playing scared for weeks. Players typically reflect their coach. Joe Tiller teams, at least in his first five or six seasons, never believed they were out of a game...and they stole a ton of improbably victories because of Cowboy Joe's mentality. Danny Hope coaches like a guy who's not quite confident in his ability to lead his squad in many situations...and his team displays a similar lack of confidence.
In everyone's defense, it's tough to be confident when you play/coach as they did on Saturday. But I do still believe the tools are in the shed, if they're used correctly.
As Robert Marve said on Saturday afternoon, "You just gotta play." It's as simple as that. Now, Hope and company have to let the playmakers play.
*might or might not be exactly right about this number