An early season game in Ross Ade usually promises heat, but today's conditions were as brutal as I can remember as a fan. Before LBD, my brother and I got into our seats, I was sweating profusely...and while the heat would make me drenched over the next few hours, my Boilers made me sweat as much as the 100-degree-plus heat index.
From the get-go, Purdue's offense sputtered like a Yugo...and went now where. The offensive line had no push and subsequently, Bolden had no room to run. TerBush was ducking and running for his life and missing easy passes and the rhythm that every offense needs was non-existant for the entire first quarter.
At the same time, MTSU's QB had a firm grasp on everything in the stadium and played with poise and amazing awareness. In fact, when me and my pals moved, Kilgore pointed out the change high in the Ross-Ade stands. While he doesn't have the strongest arm, he was very effective in finding the open receiver- usually a running back dragging across the middle...but sometimes, he even placed the ball as the LBs had MTSU's backs covered well.
The Ricardo Allen returning punts experiment looks to be a colossal failure. After attempting two punts, Allen had netted a very costly fumble and an ill-advised fake fair catch that pinned Purdue deep. Waynelle Gravesande was impressive, to me at least, for the first time in relief duty- he was sure-handed, made good decisions and was actually looking to return the ball, not just make the catch as in previous seasons.
The defense was pretty solid in the first half as Gaston and Short provided the push up the middle that we thought they would...but the ends, which we called a question mark looked like, at best, a work in progress, and at worst, a glaring weakness. Dwayne Beckford had one of the most-athletic interceptions I can remember and was hard-hitting. Joe Holland nearly fell down a few times due to sheer exhaustion as the game went on at the end of a few plays. But, he tackled better than last year, and in spite of having a few plays where he looked toasty, he was actually in great position in coverage time and time again...But bigger than that, he was leaving absolutely everything he had on the field as a Senior leader should do.
Allen and Johnson played generally great in coverage and MTSU didn't seem too eager to test them. But the safeties were pretty inconsistent. In fact, in the second quarter, after Allen's fumble left a very short field for the defense to defend. Link made no attempt on a fluttering ball over the middle, then missed the chance to make the tackle and stop the score. The former walk-on has definitely played better games, and I guarantee he'll play in more this season...but this wasn't a great one for 35.
There was a great 7 minute period in the second quarter in which the offense and defense played inspired football at the same...but after that period, they seemed spent...until their collective brightest moment late in the game.
The feel of the game was awful late in the third quarter. Hope brought Robinson to see if he could do anything as TerBush continued to struggle to hit open receivers...and he played a lot like he did in '10; which isn't a positive. In his defense, it's tough to do anything in just one possession, but the offense looked very out of sync with him playing...But the TerBush-led unit was not any better for large chunks of the game.
TerBush missed a ton of passes and seemed most effective passing to receivers running sit-down routes in the zone. In other words, he couldn't hit guys on the run. But he seemed very effective passing to tight ends and seam routes. The worst part of his game was definitely touch passes to running backs in the flat as he seemed to be guiding the ball and not getting his feet set. If the last portion of the fourth quarter hadn't happened, this game would seem to be an utter failure for many parts of Purdue's squad- from coaching, to offense and defense. But, you do play four quarters, and Purdue saved their best for last...and TerBush was an excellent microcosm for Hope's squad as he had great command of the offense for that final drive.
Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden were extremely effective, both having some great runs after making guys miss. But Shavers touchdown up the gut, on very fresh legs was a thing of beauty as his burst was evident as was his elusiveness. Bolden took some shots on his surgically-repaired knee and got up each time and was still strong in the fourth quarter. He ended the day with a whopping 7.1 yds/carry on 17 carries. Crank mixed in a few good runs with excellent finishes...all-in-all, the running game was solid.
The receivers looked OK, but Siller and Edison, not surprisingly were the most-consistent all day. Ross was dinged up at various times in the game, and while excellent on kickoff returns, was kept off the field for chunks in the second half. Siller, with one exception, was sure-handed and played solid, and Edison was very exciting on his limited touches...one a game-winning reception that showed his speed in the open field.
Ricardo Allen started the game poorly, but made up for it late in the game by squirting through the right side on MTSU's final field goal attempt. After Purdue nearly-blocked an earlier attempt, this time that same unit got a good push again and 21's hand knocked the kick down to seal the three-point come from behind victory. As a result, the the inconsistent and seemingly-exhausted Boilers escaped another pre-con disappointment.
We'll have more perspective on the game in the coming days...and this is just my perspective based on a quick look at limited stats and my first-hand view of the game. While this game was sometimes very tough to watch for Purdue fans, the most important of the stat of the day and the most beautiful site of all was the final score on the big board at RA.
Good guys 27, Blue Raiders 24.