Undefeated Purdue Continues to Dominate (Only) the FCS, Beats EKU 45-24
Purdue opens the 2016 season with a (mostly) resounding 45-24 win over the Eastern Kentucky Colonels, giving Coach Darrell Hazell his 7th win in 37 games.
Listen, FCS schools ain’t got nothing on Coach Hazell. 20-14 vs Indiana State in 2013, 35-13 vs Southern Illinois in 2014, and 38-14 vs Indiana State in 2015. Get right outta here FCS teams (and that goes double for ISU).
(If Purdue would have lost to EKU, after six wins in 3 years, that’s rock bottom. Avoided that, so I’m counting it as a successful Saturday.)
Offensively, the first quarter looked like a completely different Purdue team from the past three years. They didn’t overcomplicate things by forcing QB David Blough to make plays, riding their clear strength: a very good running back in Markell Jones (145 yards, 24 rushes, 1 TD), and a great performance from Purdue’s interior linemen. Purdue opened the game with three offensive touchdowns (one from Jones, two from Blough), a Gelen Robinson pick 6 gave Purdue a lovely 28-8 lead midway through the second quarter.
The 2nd and 3rd quarters, though, were exactly what we’ve come to expect from Hazell teams. 6 drives, 150 total yards, 20 minutes of gameplay, 0 points. If there are any takeaways from FCS games, it’s that Purdue can easily fall into spells like this against lackluster opponents.
The passing game looked disorganized, with imprecise routes compounded by accuracy inconsistencies from Blough (who finished 25/43 for 245 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT). Going forward, Purdue needs Yancey (1 catch, 35 yards) and Posey (5 catches, 41 yards) to be more reliable safety blankets for Blough, especially as the schedule gets stronger. There were fleeting moments where everyone was on the same page and the passing game looked solid, but they can’t afford to be this inconsistent.
If you catch a replay, watch Blough’s interception with 5 minutes left in the 2nd quarter. Yancey ran a really weak comeback route, and though Blough’s pass was a little outside Yancey refused to fight for the ball. Purdue can’t have that against, you know, talented cornerbacks. (Domo Young had a nice game, 74 yards on 8 receptions, but had only three good games in 2015. Here’s hoping he hits a stride this year.)
The defense is where things were worrisome. Purdue allowed 176 yards on the ground (off *47* attempts, but still). And though 20/37 for 222 passing yards looks good, the individual coverage gaps looked alarming at times The secondary looked much better against EKU’s worse quarterback (Maty Mauk, the starter), but looked hapless in several 3rd down situations against the better Bennie Coney.
This was against an EKU team that didn’t release the name of their starting quarterback until EKU ran their first offensive snap, then benched the starter, then brought the starting scrub back due to a concussion to Coney. Make no mistake, EKU’s offense is one of the worst possible offenses any FBS team will play in 2016, and Purdue’s defense gave up almost 400 total yards.
The secondary is gonna be a real issue. The passing game needs to get more consistent. The linebackers look OK. The interior offensive line had some great moments, and Markell Jones is Purdue’s only unimpeachable star. But Purdue got its 7th win of the Hazell era, and after semi-tense 2nd and 3rd quarters, avoided a potentially catastrophic loss. I’ll take it.
(Shoutout to the beautiful people who made it to the game, filling at least 50% of the stands. We salute you, heroes who sacrificed your Saturday for this.)
Highlight of the Day:
C’mon. Markell Jones hurtling a safety. There is no competition.