Illinois Wins...Fans of Both Teams Lose
We all knew that Illinois had lost 20-straight B1G games coming into today's contest and that Purdue was winless versus Bowl Subdivision teams this season...but within minutes of the start of this game, you could really taste just how bad both of these teams really were.
Neither team had offensive flow. Neither team had an identity and neither team could tackle. But, in a rock fight in which no one outside of West Lafayette or Champaign really cared about, there had to be a winner, sadly, and it wasn't Purdue.
In his second season, Beckman's team looked pretty confused and undermanned this season...that followed a season in which they registered two wins (lucky dogs).
Beckman was a relatively-hot prospect when he took over for an enthusiastic maniac prior to last season. And during this off-season, Illinois fans were hoping their Illini would get better. Well, they did...but Beckman was forced to clean out much of his coaching staff in the off-season. And even though they're better than the previous season, they're still pretty terrible.
Feels like we're looking in a mirror, doesn't it?
I'd be pissed if I was an Illinois fan right now...let's remember, their team had a ton of returning talent including a four-year starter in Scheelhasse, and what we saw today is where they are. In all honesty, do you think Hazell's team can be any better than those Illini in 2014? Sadly, I don't; unless something drastically changes.
Today, Purdue was worn down and beaten up...by a crappy team. A few busted plays and missed tackles led to a couple scores. Check that- Purdue was PLUS FOUR in the turnover battle and only scored twice. After Hunt scampered passed poorly-tackling Illini, and Etling made a few nice plays that led to a TD, Shoop got back to what he's done all season- nothing. I've said it for weeks- it looks like Shoop is trying to run the offense into the area where the most defenders will be...BRILLIANT! On Hudson's side of the ball, Purdue only allowed two TDs...that's good. But tackling was bad again, and coverage was porous even in a vastly-improved, weather-aided effort. But the defense did its job...holding an offense to two TDs in this era is pretty rare.
Etling showed a few glimmers as he went through progressions and made a couple tough throws, but in the second half especially, Illinois' blitz was battering him. He finished a respectable 20/29 with only 163 yards, a TD and an INT. Three receivers (Posey, Sinz and Mikesky) all had four receptions...but Mikesky dropped a perfect pass on a post route that might have won the game for Purdue.
Hunt had 18 carries for 102 yards...but one of those runs was a 62 yard play that gave him the TD. More times than not, he was running the ball on first down and going nowhere. The offensive line struggled to make space for anyone who ran the ball, but Etling had a few runs on busted plays that were successful.
I really liked Cottom's potential coming into this season, but it looks like he really struggles while blocking...so Purdue has two backs in the rotation- one who can't run between the tackles and the other isn't a good blocker. My hope is that Hunt is in the slot next season and one or two of the young guys steps up. Regardless of who is running the ball though, it'll be tough in this system, with this OC, and with this OLine. I wish things were different, I wish I could say I saw some good things from the guys up front, but it would take a much more trained eye than mine to see that, I'd guess.
The defense had a couple of sacks...and the linebackers didn't give up a ton of wide open pass plays to Illini TEs, that's good...but the defensive backfield allowed Illinois' best receiver to run around uncovered for most of the day. Ricardo Allen had a solid day in his last game at RA with an interception and a good day in coverage...Richards also had an INT and nearly returned a punt for a TD (if it wasn't for a few legit block in the back penalties on the same play).
Losing 20-16 is definitely better than getting beaten by 40-plus points...instead of nothing to build on there was a play here, and a play there that was worthwhile. But the result of this game is probably an indictment of Illinois more than it is a sign of Purdue's progress this season.
I think everyone clad in our colors is sarcastic, depressed, disheartened and/or disgruntled...and the result on message boards and Twitter is Purdue fans fighting amongst themselves as they question who is a real fan- those who don't believe anything positive will happen under Hazell or those who believe Hazell was the right hire because of his resume and personality. I think both factions are too smart to completely ignore how lousy this product really is right now. The offense is uninventive and undermanned, the defense looks out of position and underpowered, and the special teams is now pretty lousy too (Griggs was 0-2 today, and the usually solid Webster had a few of his worst kicks of the season today into a stiff wind).
The good news is the good guys will be playing another awful defense next week in the disappointing Indiana Hoosiers. The bad news is IU scores a lot of points against bad defenses (uh-oh). For your reference, they scored 52 (Purdue scored 14) versus this Illinois team, 44 versus PSU (21) and 73 versus ISU (20). The really good news is this season is almost over and the basketball team shows real signs of life and reasons to be hopeful. Those guys play Siena tomorrow at noon.