I like admitting I was wrong when my Boilers prove me that way...and I was wrong today. I thought Purdue would lose big in Happy Valley. But moral victories don't go in the left hand column and Purdue dropped to 3-3 on the season earlier this afternoon.
I thought Purdue would struggle to run the ball, because pretty much everyone has versus PSU's stout defense...but once again, I was wrong- they didn't struggle on the ground at all. Shavers hit holes with resolution and gashed the Lions time and again, and Bolden, in spite of not being quite 100% played one of his best games in a Purdue uniform including a nifty run up the middle that probably would have been 6 had his hamstring not hampered him at the end of the run.
Bolden averaged 7.5/carry on his 95 yard day, while Shavers averaged 4.2 and finished with a total of 54 yards. Coming into today, PSU had been consistently in the top-3 of the league in rushing defense allowing around 2 yds/carry; Purdue finished with 4.9. While both Bolden and Shavers did a great job making people miss, the offensive line created space versus a very talented, athletic and strong front seven...and for me, this was the O-line's best performance of the year, while running the ball, simply because of the competition.
Robert Marve made one of his worst decisions as a Purdue quarterback in the second quarter. As protection broke down, he rolled left and passed right into triple coverage...and predictably the pass was picked off. At the time Purdue was down 6-7 and there was little time on the clock. Purdue probably would have gone into the half with a one-point deficit, but in the wake of the interception, PSU hit a 29-yard FG and the score stood at 10-6.
Hope and company continued their consistent pattern of holding Marve accountable, and didn't play him again in the game after the mistake. Marve was only given five opportunities to complete passes, of which the Boilers connected on two. And regardless of which side you fall on of the quarterback debate, I think no one can say Marve's being given any chance to succeed.
TerBush played OK. He finished completing 48% of his passes and had 162 yards, one TD and two picks. One of those INTs was a blown call from the officials, the second was a desperation play in the closing minutes as Purdue was gasping for life. But he continues to hold onto the ball very long and is playing with fire as he rolls very deep seemingly without any idea what he's going to do with the ball. But TerBush led the offense in a way that Purdue was in a position to win.
As the offense moved the ball pretty well against a good defense, the defense held a mediocre offense in check enough to win the game.
The on-going problem of not applying enough pressure on the opposing quarterback continued as Purdue's front four forced the corners to hold their coverage for 4-7 seconds with regularity, and the DBs were pretty solid. Sure, that could be partially the fault of PSU's mediocre QB play, but the defense wasn't really a problem. They held PSU to 43% passing, under 4 yards/carry and only two touchdowns. In the modern era of football, that sounds like a pretty damned good performance.
When it looked like Purdue was dead in the water early in the fourth quarter, Josh Johnson deflected a PSU pass on the goal line and Albert Evans picked the fluttering ball off and ran it back to midfield. Purdue's offense responded by driving the ball 45 yards and scoring...and couldn't punch in a two-point conversion.
In the past few years, it seems that there's always one part of the effort that seems to all but place the victory as a gift at the feat of our Boilers' foe. Today was no different, and this time, it was the usually-trusty special teams that played extraordinarily-poor.
Wiggs missed a field goals inside of 30 yards and an extra point. Then, following that first touchdown as our Boilers had seemingly grabbed the momentum, he kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds and gave PSU good field position. Granted, the wind was so gusty that it made Beaver Stadium look like a garbage dump at times as plastic and paper swirled around the field...but PSU's kicker went 3/3.
Atop of the kicking woes, one coverage breakdown resulted in a 97 yard KO return, and its timing also killed the momentum. Following Shavers's lone TD (pictured above) that made the game a one-possession contest, PSU's Powell weaved through poorly-spaced, over-pursuing Boilers down to the 3 yard line. He foolishly threw the ball in the air and the officials called an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that put the Lions back on the 18. The defense held, but the final FG of the game extended the Lions lead to the final score of 23-18.
One of our ongoing complaints about this coaching staff is its lack of situational awareness. The final possession of the game, Purdue's offense looked confused, and the play calling, specifically on third and fourth down was completely-uneffective. Plus, with over two minutes left, one of the nation's best punters, all of their timeouts available and while playing a horrible offense, it seemed punting the ball was not an option.
On top of that for some reason, Nord called for TerBush to make 12-15 yard deep rollouts time and time again, and had TerBush running the read option in situations that seemed ill-advised.
On the other side of the ball, Purdue was playing a two-QB system that has struggled against everybody to move the ball, yet they refused to blitz PSU's hapless duo. One thing they did well is finally added an extra tackle on passing downs, replacing one of the mostly-ineffective DEs to try to apply pressure on Bolden and McGloin.
Perhaps the largest sign of poor preparation by the coaching staff is the on-going problem with costly, poorly-timed and easily-avoidable penalties.
A Win is a Win...and a loss...
PSU isn't worthy of its top-25 ranking, let's get that straight right now. While they're a bunch of talented individuals, they're just not a very good team. But, they keep finding a way to win. On the flip side, Purdue also seems to be talented-enough to have a better record than .500, but they find ways to lose time and time again.
Now, their backs are against the wall as they'll play their second of four (or five)-straight ranked teams in a row. If they can't find a way to rise to the occasion and beat someone they're not supposed to, our Boilers season will be over in November for the fourth-straight season.
While there is still plenty of football left to play in 2011, Hope is quickly fading for the old gold and black.