The threat of rain was large in God's country, but it held off with the exception of some spitting showers in the second half, so Hope was able to approach the game with his intended gameplan...but that didn't matter. This one was filled with surprises...and most weren't the type that you like to see as a fan.
Purdue escaped South Bend with no injuries of note...but versus the smaller Western Illinois Leathernecks, Purdue left the game battered, bloodied and bruised. The most-costly and noteworthy injury was that of All BT WR, Keith Smith. While there's no official press release of the extent to his right knee, the video, look of the play in person and reaction from officials and the WIU bench makes you think that Smith's season is over. Obviously, that is a season-changer. While Purdue offense has yet to get into rhythm, Smith was most-assuredly going to profit from the system once things solidified. Now, the sure-handed, solid route running Senior will probably not be a part of whatever happens from here out. Keep in mind, there's still no official injury report...but whatever comes of this, it's not good.
Brandon Taylor, Gerald Gooden, Albert Evans and Robert Marve were all also injured in the game in varying degrees...none as serious as Smith's it seems...but Taylor's forced him out of the game as did Gooden's and Evan's.
Hope said the game wasn't about the final score during his post-game interviews and the coaches needed to see what the young guys could do...and while I think that's important, I think it to be much more important to get the ones and twos to the point where they look like finely-tuned units. In my opinion neither does...and much of that can be blamed on coaching.
The offensive play-calling is still vanilla. Dink-and-dunk passes seem to be the norm for Nord thus far this season. Only one deep ball was thrown today by Marve...and it was incomplete. And the three-and-out possession was much more commonplace for the Boilers than their DI-AA opponent. That's very disheartening. Atop of that, the linebackers seemed to be out of position for much of the day as the zone Purdue was running was leaving gaping holes for dump passes to TEs and running backs. Purdue's defense against interior runs has been solid for both games, but on sweeps and pitches, the linebackers and ends tend to be in poor position to make tackles more than not.
On a day that saw another very-respectable D-I program (VaTech) fall to a lower-division team...and another mediocre D-I program (Minny) lost to an FCS team, I guess it's good that Purdue left Ross Ade 1-1. But, this wasn't that great of an opponent that Purdue played today, and our Boilers simply couldn't separate themselves. GBI was worried all week that Purdue might have a let down (after a loss, I thought that'd be difficult) and judging by what I saw, I'd say that's true. But, that in itself is a coaching problem. Simply because the fanbase is bored by the opponent (which we here at BS all were coming in), doesn't mean the players should be. And honestly, Purdue looked lethargic, uninspired and unemotional for much of the contest today. That's the hardest thing to swallow for me.
I am not saying the sky is falling. I am definitely saying there's a ton to work on in the next two games before the BT season begins- but it's not all on the players. I expect to see more out of the coaches in the coming weeks. If things don't improve from the coaches and players alike, this season might be very long.
Ryan Kerrigan led the team in tackles and TFLs. Plus, he forced yet another fumble, had a sack and was involved on nearly every play in one form or another...all while being held, double-teamed and triple-teamed. He's a monster. He hits hard, is very quick, doesn't take plays off and I think can get even better. With all of the great DEs we've seen in the last 15 years at Purdue, I think he could be the best...that says a ton. Along with Kerrigan, Kitchens, Gaston and Short also played very well at times...and the young guys' consistency should improve as they get more comfortable. Short already is looking vastly improved from last season.
Josh Johnson was very active, was second on the team in tackles and gave us a ton of reason to believe (for the second-straight week) that the DBs will be fine as the season progresses.
Dan Dierking finished every run very well, ran patiently and was reliable, yet again. Sure, this wasn't the most-athletic defense, but he had over 100 yards and averaged an eye-popping 7.3/carry...without a really long run (33 was the longest). His backfield mates also played well. Particularly, ATM, who only ran the ball 5 times, but definitely took advantage of his opportunities and finished with 81 yds rushing. One of the plays might have been what J was referring to on the Handsome Hour a week ago as ATM was able to have the wherewithall to keep going after rolling over a would-be tackler and galloping to a 40 yard touchdown. I'm still hoping the offensive line will be able to create more space in the middle, especially against teams that are undersized...but I might be dreaming at this point.
In my mind, Marve didn't take a step forward today. You can still see he has tools and his athleticism buys him time when there simply isn't any protection...but I want to see him progress which I'm positive he's capable of. That said, I believe the play calling left something to be desired. Henry played pretty well as Marve was trying to shake off the effects of a shot to the shoulder. In fact, he seems to have lost the odd throwing motion that bothered me so much in the spring. But, he missed OJ Ross on a slant route that most-definitely would have ended with Ross in the endzone had the pass not been thrown at 4's feet.
And speaking of Ross, he looked great on a kick return and showed some of the speed & quickness we had heard about on offense...can't wait to see more of him. And, like it or not, he'll be playing a lot more due to K. Smith's injury and C. Smith being a bit dinged up as well...honestly though, I think it's imperative to have his speed on the field if nothing else it'll keep DBs honest.
The kickoff coverage was much better than it was versus UND and the team was gang tackling all day on special teams coverage. Dierking and Johnson both played well on special teams coverage units.
Reason for Hope?
Joey Elliott ended last season strong and had over 3,000 yards, and 22 TDs once the dust had settled. But, his first three games left a ton to be desired...especially as his TD/INT ratio was not good.
Toledo 17/28 220 yds 3TD/3INT
NIU 20/31 188 0/0
Oregon 24/41 266 1/2
The rest of the season, he averaged 261 yds/gm, 2TD/1INT and completed over 60% of his passes.
I think Marve is naturally more talented than Elliott...so hopefully he can get more comfortable and the coaches can put he and the rest of the offense in a better position as the season progresses. But as I said before, there is a ton of room for improvement.
The cupcake jaunt continues as our Boilers play Ball State (who is coming off of a loss to Liberty), then Toledo, who ranks 100 or higher in almost every major statistical category...both teams, like Purdue are 1-1.