Close Doesn't Count in Minneapolis
If you want to, you can go back and read my predicto...if you don't want to, I can tell you that I should buy a lottery ticket. I guessed right and got lucky. This game was close...Purdue was in the driver's seat for about three quarters, but couldn't seal the deal. Purdue's game started and ended with costly interceptions by Austin Appleby; both a result of holding onto the ball too long and getting a big blind-sided by a Minnesota lineman. The former resulted in six points on Purdue's first play from scrimmage...the latter sealed Purdue's fate. The good guys lost a heart-breaker 39-38...but had no business losing.
The play-calling was vanilla in the second half, the defense allowed too many long pass plays by a QB that really isn't good...and one key bone-headed play was especially painful to watch. It looked like Purdue's defense would hold Minny late in the fourth- On a 3rd and 5, Leidner overthrew his target to the right, Taylor Richards popped a Gopher receiver 50 yards away to get a 15 yard penalty. From there, Cobb carried the Gophers about 30 yard...and Minnesota's kicker hit a 52 yard field goal that was the difference.
So last week, the good guys fought back to make it close in a game they probably shouldn't have won...this week, they pull defeat from the jaws of victory; is that progress? I'm not so sure. But one thing is clearly obvious- this team is close to turning the corner.
Austin Appleby is the difference for our Boilers, plain and simple. When he makes mistakes, he looks like he wants to get back onto the field to make up for it...and he has no problem throwing the ball through small windows to make plays. Atop of his ability to lead with actions and make throws, he can run.
Appleby was around 14/18 with 135 yards and three touchdowns (one pick)...in the first half. He finished 16/26 3TDs/2INTs. Those numbers tell a big story- As brilliant of a game as was called by Shoop and Hazell in the first half, the play-calling was bland, unimaginative and sub-par in the second half. Nearly every first down was a draw play that left Purdue with 2nd and eight or nine...then second down would be an outside run for one or two; third and long. Yuck.
This MUST be fixed for Purdue to get over the hump. An 11 point half time lead is nothing that should be sat upon. Purdue had 31 points at the half (Minny had 20 at that point). Midway through the third, Purdue still had a nine point lead...Purdue's coaches seemed to think it was over.
Purdue's defense made some plays...but isn't aOSU's from the early 00s; Hazell can't sit on leads with this team.
Mostert's 70+ yard run was the only play of note for the offense in the second half. He had two big runs that helped him to 115 yds on 5 carries with a TD. Hunt added 17 carries for 98 hard-earned yards (tons of yards after contact). Appleby ran it 10 times for 79 yds and a TD. Oddly enough, even on short yardage situations, we didn't see Green on the field; stuff like this...blind spots in the rotation are a recurring issue for this coaching staff that they need to eradicate. Green should see the field for a play or two in the second and third quarters; just as a change-up...and should always be on the field in short yardage situations (in one role or another), in my opinion.
My concern for Purdue's defense was warranted- Cobb ran for 194 yards; Leidner, the QB added 84 yards; each had a rushing TD. Leidner added 2 more throwing TDs and no interceptions. And when Minnesota needed a big play, they found it...usually on an option keeper. Leidner only completed 50% of his passes, but that was enough.
Once again, the Purdue defense couldn't get off the field when it needed to...but without the last penalty it might have still been enough.
Just as we said Purdue won as a team in Champaign, they lost as one in Minneapolis. Coaching, offense and defense were all at fault in this one...And how about this- even with all of the mistakes, the Boilers almost won on the road. In spite of the clear need for improvement, I'm confident that these guys will beat Nebraska following the bye week next week; but am not sure why. Nebraska isn't as smart or well-coached as Minnesota...Methinks Pelini will do something dumb to aid the good guys; but it's just a hunch.
Purdue ends the season with TWO bye weeks in a one month period...and a bowl game is still a possibility; not at all a likelihood, mind you, but it still can happen. If you were level-headed coming into this season, you wanted to see progress. We've seen it now.
I'm feeling greed and am ready for the landmark win for this coaching staff. For that to happen, Hazell and company must get aggressive offensively.