Can Hazell's Boilers Really Surprise Us?
I've been surprised twice this season:
First, The way our Boilers played versus UND surprised me because I was pretty deep in the crapper heading into that one. I didn't believe they could compete with that team. But Rob Henry manged the game well, the defense kept UND in front of them for most of the game, and the Irish were staggeringly-conservative for much of the game. Plus, Notre Dame isn't that good...all of these factors led to a closer-than-expected loss in RA.
A couple weeks later, Purdue showed no fight versus Northern Illinois and was just smashed by a MAC foe. That one shocked me more...because of its historical significance.
Now, after a few weeks of practice and regrouping, Hazell has made it clear that changes will be made in the game plan, in formations and in play calling for the tilt with Nebraska. As many of us referenced via Twitter this week, Bo Pelini's 'Huskers are black shirts in legend only. This team's defense is not good...stats tell the story...so do your eyes, if you've watched them. It's comprable to when bad play-by-play teams still reference "basketball on grass" for Purdue...or when we chang 1-2-3-4 FIRST DOWN! at Ross Ade. Those legends and traditions are relics of a bygone past. Pelini clearly doesn't have his teams practice defense during their weekly practices...and Purdue's offense has been nothing close to Cowboy Joe Tiller's slingin' it around offense.
Bruce Gaston will be at DEnd, Rob Henry will be playing safety, Danny Etling will get his first start at QB, Anthrop and Monterosa will take the place of the suspended Knauf, and three Freshman DEnds (Repogle, Howard and Panfil) will probably see the field for the first time in their careers.
Purdue might run a 3-4, the offense will be less of a pro-style offense as things spread out a bit...this is all well and good because it shows the coaches aren't just accepting crappy play...but all of its for not if we don't see a heartbeat from this mostly-dead Purdue football team.
Hazell's not been happy with the level of effort nor degree of execution from his squad the last few weeks...and if he had been, he wouldn't be worthy of being a B1G coach, honestly. Purdue has played an awful brand of football. The players and the coaches are both responsible for that. If it's the psychological make-up of this team, it's not important. If it's the fact that they're leaning on so many Freshman and Sophomores for depth, that doesn't matter either. What does matter is the opposition smells blood in the water...and they go into feeding frenzy mode when playing Purdue. The opportunities to succeed have been plentiful for them thus far...and no team on the schedule will show mercy.
Our predicto will be posted soon, if it hasn't been already...and while I haven't seen all of the predictions, I can say that I doubt any of us think Purdue will compete for an entire game, let alone win. But, like you, I'll be tuning in to see if the changes yield any positive results or reasons to look forward to the not-so-distant future. Based on what we've seen so far, that in itself would be a surprise.