The players were excited to hear and see from the program alums before the game. During this past week, many tweeted how they were looking forward to this as if the event was an actual game...and lots of fans and alums were excited to see the new look team. There's good news and bad news: The good news is, in many ways, today did not disappoint...bad news was that in others, it did.
There was a DJ playing music between plays, and the alums teamed up with members of the student body and alumni to play punt, pass and kick...and during the game there were some hard hits. But the final score of the game was 14-0.
The pre-game clinic was fun for the kids- my son, daughter and nephew can all attest to that. The players, who generally don't disappoint in these situations, welcomed the little and not-so-little ones onto their home bermuda grass field for drills and just running around.
When business time came around, a few things seemed obvious: Henry leads this offense well, has a good grasp of the concepts and is ready to start. He had one of the passing TDs...didn't pass the ball a ton (didn't have to) and only had two or three incompletions on around 10 attempts. After the middle of the second quarter, Henry's day was almost much done.
Etling took the majority of remaining snaps for the black squad...and Appleby took almost all of the snaps for the gold team. Marshall played QB for one possession in the first half (I believe), but didn't have a ton of production.
The vagueness of this post, from a stats standpoint, is because there were no stats on the scoreboard. Let's be honest for a moment...just you and I- you don't come here for stats, now do you? You come here because you love the witty commentary and you hope you'll see J shirtless. Today, you will get one of those from this post.
Hazell wouldn't go as far as to say that Henry was the number 1 QB as Purdue headed into the practice-free off-season...but I'll go ahead and say it- it seems like it's Henry's job to lose, and for good reason, he looks good under/behind center in this system. I saw it in drills a few weeks ago and saw it today in a more game-like situation today.
We really like Appleby; he's big, has a canon of an arm and is a student of the game, but today wasn't a good day for him. There might be a combination of factors that caused it- it was windy, he wasn't playing behind a full-strength OLine and he wasn't playing with a full quiver of weapons around him...but neither was anyone.
That said, the best running back on the field, by a lot, was opposite of Appleby, on the victorious black team...and I don't think that's a coincidence. The gold defense was pretty tough for much of the day, but had no answer for Akeem Hunt. He looked faster than about everyone on the field...his cuts were crisp and resolute, he hit holes quickly, and as always was great in space. But he was definitely one of the guys that stood out. On one of the rare gadget plays, he almost completed a deep ball to Raheem Mostert...but it wasn't quite in stride and a DB (can't remember the number) was there to break up the play.
The two main black squad QBs were just sharp...whether it was Henry OR Etling, both of these guys looked comfortable running the show. Etling didn't have a passing touchdown, BUT, had a ton of production, and only a few incompletions. There is a lot more misdirection than we're used to, as Purdue fans, in this offense. Even though the defense knows it's coming, it forced LBs and safeties to constantly shift and respect the guys running the other way. Notably, on third and short a few times today, a slot receiver or wide out would come around end for the fake only to pull manpower away from the middle so the half back could get the short yardage needed.
On the defensive side of the ball, Bruce Gaston created some havoc for the black team QBs by sacking Byrzinskas and Henry...the sack of Henry was one in which Gaston just kinda tossed 15 around like a rag doll. Not sure if I liked to see Henry thrown that way, but I know I liked seeing Gaston do it (if that makes any sense).
Another couple guys on the defensive side of the ball that I noticed as active were Michael Rouse and Jalani Phillips. Rouse stuck out because of an opportune interception off of a deflection in which the big fella got to show his skills with the rock...he was tackled after a 15-20 yard return. Phillips was impressive because he seemed to be everywhere. His name was called a lot and his number was in the backfield...a lot.
But as noteworthy as these guys were, the guys that couldn't play due to injury might have been just as noteworthy. Four of the guys who will probably get the ball a lot in the fall weren't able to play: Macarthy (who will probably be the number one possession receiver), Cottom (who will be the thunder to Hunt's lightning), Anthrop (who will play in the i
|LBD and Cottom|
mportant "Z" position in this offense; RB/slot), and Bush (undoubtedly the most-experienced returning receiver...especially if Ross doesn't return). Their absence makes a big difference...and spreading out the talent so this could be a straight-up scrimmage, not an offense v. defense scrimmage, makes a big difference.
The 14-0 final score is probably indicative of these factors more than anything else.
A few people on Twitter asked if one thing or another was a good indicator for the team. Well, here's what I know about Spring games: I love them because I love watching football...and miss it during the off-season. The Black/Gold game is like my last drink of cold water before the sports desert is upon me...so as inconsequential as this game is in the grand scope of things, I absolutely love going to watch it each season.
BUT, I've seen some things in spring games that weren't exactly the best representations of the fall during these contests.
A guy named Drew Brees played second fiddle, on more than one occasion during the Spring game- once to his backup named Marc Burgler (I believe)...and the second to David Edgerton. You might know Edgerton from garbage duty v. IU just before Purdue clinched the Big Ten title...not much else. More recently, Sean Matti put on an absolute showcase for the Purdue fans in the Black Gold game as Dan Dierking was out with injury. Sadly, we didn't get to see the walk-on's potential, as (I believe) he passed away that following summer.
The point is, Spring football is important because coaches get to see a lot that we, as fans, just don't get to see...but the B/G game is really for fans and dorks like me.
Will Phillips turn into a monster in the fall? Will Hunt tear up the B1G like he did his teammates today? Will Appleby be in the hunt to start come August? Nobody really knows right now. But, I can't wait until the late summer when camp begins.