Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Purdue vs. Southern Illinois: 2nd Down

2nd Down: What Needs To Happen 

Darrell Hazell noted the intensity his Boilers played with against Notre Dame last Saturday.

His team was flying to the football defensively, showing some impressive ability to cover Notre Dame's talented offense. Purdue's offense was also impressive, moving the ball with ease in the first half on the way to a 14-10 lead in the second quarter.
Danny Etling showed frustration as the game got away.
(photo is from zimbio.com)

Despite how disappointing it was when the offense faded away late in the contest, this game could easily be taken as a sign of progress for this program.

The effort cannot go back to what we saw against Central Michigan.

Purdue fans want to see a team that will come out and play with aggression for four quarters. Southern Illinois is an FCS program (albeit a decent one). They have no business coming into Ross-Ade Stadium and pushing around a Big Ten team.

Purdue fans on social media are saying this start is the same as 2013 in that the Boilers' strong performance against Notre Dame will only lead to more disappointment and losses later.

It's up to the team to demonstrate that last year's nightmare was just a step in a rebuild.

I want to see some continued development from linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, who showed me against the Irish that he can step up in big games. Purdue held Notre Dame to a field goal when they had a chance to take a commanding 14-0 lead, thanks in no small part to Bentley's backfield tackle on 2nd and Goal.

I want to see Danny Etling build off his two-score first half performance against Notre Dame and show the fans that he's developing and the right choice to start. People keep talking about Austin Appleby, but I have yet to see evidence that would make me believe he's any better.

I remarked on Twitter today how enormous it would be for Purdue to take care of business at the end of non-conference play.  Heading into the Big Ten season at 2-2 with struggling Iowa and Illinois teams coming up could be a great scenario for Hazell's building program.

That said...

Let's see a whipping on Saturday.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Purdue vs. Southern Illinois: 1st Down

First Down: Progress

I don't subscribe to moral victories, I just don't.  But there were some positives to come out of Purdue's 30-14 loss to #11 Notre Dame on Saturday night.

1) The offense looked competent against a big time opponent for at least half of a football game.  I think this was a huge step if for nothing but confidence.  The same defense that sat a bagel on Michigan for the entire game and we moved the ball seemingly at will in the first half. We didn't finish as well as I would have liked (fumble inside the 10 and a missed 4th down conversion) but we moved the ball and put up some points. Obviously the 2nd half was a different story with a much more erratic Danny Etling, but I loved what I saw in the first 30 minutes.  I have been critical of the Shoop-fense at times too, but if that's the blueprint I can see what he's going for and it could be successful going forward.

2) The defense looked as good as a defense that gave up 30 points can look.  We all know coach Hudson's side of the ball is a work in progress at best, but I was encouraged to see a bit of a rush for once.  It seemed like our front 4 were able to get much better push and if not hit at least rush Everett Golson quite a bit.  They still got theirs and the late 1st half touchdown really really hurt, but I was very impressed with the physicality from Purdue's defense. As I think will become a trend, Ja'Whaun Bentley was very good again, showing great football instincts. That kid is going to be a stud. We also got our first taste of Little Dog who had a nice coverage sack.  It is nowhere near where it needs to be, but the defense was so much better this week than against CMU.  Again, all I ask for is effort and heart and I think the defense showed both of those things Saturday night.

3) Danny Etling looked good.... ish.  It's hard for me to be crazy ecstatic about a QB who's best half of his career was being an outstanding game manager, but that's how I feel. It seems like that's really what coach Shoop wants, don't turn it over and take an extremely calculated shot every once in a while. The first half for Etling was by all accounts exactly what John Shoop wants from his quarterback. The 2nd half.. not so much. But this is a positive post right? I really hope we see 60 minutes of his first half performance this week, but I'd settle for 45. It is glaringly obvious that Etling is Purdue's quarterback. Period. So let's roll with it.  Here's hoping our game manager learns from an excellent first half against the Domers and performs confidently again this Saturday against Southern Illinois.

Those are the 3 big positive takeaways I had from Saturday's (and I can't emphasize this enough) loss,    and are absolutely some things I expect to see this weekend as well. You won't win them all or even win very many in a rebuild; you just have to keep building higher.

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Purdue vs. Notre Dame: 4th Down

Fourth Down: Why there's hope...

Ok let's face it, if you read past these first few sentences you are unequivocally drinking the kool-aid. That being said, I'm going to entertain a few thoughts as to why we have a glimmer of hope to put forth a good showing Saturday night.

1) We always play the domers pretty well.  Last year we competed, start to finish, with a team we had no business competing with.  That was probably the one game all year it looked like our guys had some heart and pride.  A few more completed passes and you never know what could have happened. Problem? We still didn't really scare ND and probably still don't.

2) Purdue's offense does have some playmakers.  Mostert is the fastest man in college football and he's already shown an ability this year to see holes better than any point in his football career so far.  Although he has looked less than pedestrian so far this year, Yancey was a difference maker last year and looked to be a true go to wideout for then true freshman Danny Etling.  Purdue has finally gotten sure-handed production from the tight end spot; Justin Sinz. Who catches everything. Problem? We literally have no idea who is going to throw (or attempt to throw) the ball to Yancey and Sinz, and if there isn't a credible passion option that will greatly reduce the amount of gap opportunities for Mostert.

3) Notre Dame could look past the Boilermakers. Maybe, just maybe, the Irish might overlook Purdue in anticipation of clashes with Stanford and Florida State on the horizon.  After mostly close games in recent memory, I would be very surprised if this happened, but ask yourself; would you take Purdue for granted as a Win on your schedule right now?

This may sound like back-handed optimism, and I guess that's because it is.  I don't expect Purdue to compete with Notre Dame.  I didn't expect that even before last weekend's outings for both teams. All I'm saying is that it wouldn't be unprecedented and wouldn't be because Purdue doesn't have some real talent at a few places. Don't be shocked if it happens again, at least for the first 2-3 quarters.

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Purdue vs. Notre Dame: 2nd/3rd Down Double Dose

I hate being so busy. 

I've spent the last several weeks trying to get a lot of things in order. Juggling a part time job, producing a news show and taking care of things on the professional level has combined to make for a stressful period. 

None of that is important to this website, however. It's time to get back down to business and move on in the same way the Boilers need to move on from the horrible thrashing they endured on Saturday against the powerhouse Chips from the MAC. 

Today I'll discuss the greatest question we're all asking right now. 

Wednesday Double Dose: Who's Our Quarterback? 
Danny Etling 
Austin Appleby

When Danny Etling took over halfway through last season, I was extremely curious about how he would play. With a pitiful offensive line and questionable playcalling at times, he struggled as a true freshman. There's no denying, however, that a completion percentage of 55.8 in 2013 was just...average. 

People became excited when, despite a blowout loss to IU in the season's final week, Etling stepped up his game and threw for 485 yards and a whopping four scores. I was especially impressed (despite the quality of defense Purdue was facing) with a deep bomb he threw to Danny Anthrop in the second half. 

Things changed after Etling was named the starter to begin 2014. 

He struggled severely with accuracy. Wide open receivers were missed constantly. There was no rhythm at all to his game. 

Footing was and is an issue after two weeks. I can't count the number of times I've seen our sophomore quarterback awkwardly throw ducks. The worst play he's made came against Central Michigan, when a wobbly and far-too-high pass to the sideline was intercepted and returned for a score in the first half. 

Is this a confidence problem? Could Etling possibly improved drastically...enough to make starting him against a team as good as Notre Dame worth it? 

I'm not so sure. 

I think Austin Appleby has shown he possesses leadership and intangible abilities off the field. The media loves this outspoken freshman, who always talks about Purdue fighting to get better. A quote he gave this week was especially interesting: 

"I feel like I give this team the best chance to win this football game." - Austin Appleby 

Whoa. That's a big statement from someone who has yet to take many meaningful snaps in his college career. 

But I think he deserves a chance. I think a team that's struggling with identity and confidence could use a booster. Someone like Appleby knows how to fight through adversity. He'll have a commanding, calming presence in the huddle and give his teammates confidence that they can feed on. 

Darrell Hazell told the media that he doesn't want to make a "big deal" out of this situation. That sounds at first like it might be a nod to Etling...but personally I think it's coach speak. 

Anyone with eyes can see that Etling isn't confident in the pocket. If you can't make the throws...especially the simple ones...you aren't fit to be a Big Ten quarterback...or a member of the Cradle. 

Time will tell. 

Note: This video is another reason why I think this kid deserves a shot. How would it hurt? Can it get much worse? 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Purdue vs. Notre Dame: 1st Down

First Down: Where are we?

Well... I honestly still have not digested exactly what we saw on Saturday but I do know that none of it was good.  Literally everything we did well in week 1 to guarantee a win was abysmal in week 2. We turned it over, gave up sacks, missed a field goal, and outside of a very few guys showed very little grit and heart.  I know this team is young, but damn, that can only be an excuse for some of it.  Young doesn't make you get trucked play after play by a MAC running back (yes I know he was originally at UM, but there's a reason he's not now right?). Young doesn't make you not sell out for a relatively well thrown ball at the goal line.  Young doesn't make you over and under throw guys by ten yards.

One of the biggest things I wanted going into this season was to watch a team I felt like truly gave it's all every play of every game.  If you win great, but it's a lot easier to support a team that loses while giving valiant effort than one that loses and shies away from contact and that so blatantly loafs on plays (Russell).  

Before I get into the complete cluster that is the quarterback situation, there was one lone bright spot in my estimation and that was true freshman Ja'Whaun Bentley.  This kid is just a football player.  We have had fast guys, athletic guys, strong guys, and tough guys, but not too many recently that are just damn good football players.  He has made and will continue to make some mistakes in coverage and gap assignments, but his anticipation and instincts are so solid. The interception he made was textbook; show, fall back, read the QB's eyes, make a play on the ball. Nice job young fella, stay the course. 

Now on to the quarterback situation.  Look, I don't know what the best option is long term; it may be any of the three guys on the roster right now or it could be none of them.  What I do know is that at very worst, Austin Appleby needs to get an entire game to see what we've got there.  

I will digress for a second but hang in there I promise it will make sense.  Remember last year when we were running the ball well and making some halfway decent plays on offense with Rob Henry?  The main problem was that he literally could not complete a pass and that handcuffed us. But for some reason when he was usurped by Danny Etling the offensive play calling did a 180. We went from a running team to a spread one that was in shotgun all the time. I really think that if we would have run the original offense with Etling it would have been much more successful.  

This brings me to my main point, IF coach Hazell decides to give Appleby a shot this week I really hope it is in the offense that Etling was running.  We are at worst a decent running team, and we just need a QB that can complete passes and at very minimum give the threat of going downfield.  I know we were coming from behind but when AA got in there Saturday the Etling game plan went away entirely!  Etling was asked to make quick drops and quick throws, AA took longer drops and attempted passes much further down the field.  If we do go with Appleby I want to see a healthy dose of Mostert and Hunt, and then maybe just maybe we can try to stretch the defense down field a bit after getting some basic completions.  Give him a chance to run the offense and not just sit back there and chuck it.  

If the most improvement is supposed to happen week 1 to week 2, let's better hope this team thought WMU was a scrimmage.  If we give Austin Appleby a shot, I will at least watch with some legitimate interest.  We know what we have with Danny Etling and it's not all bad, but it's time to give someone else their shot. 

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Purdue vs. Central Michigan Preview

I'm sure we all remember the 2007 Motor City Bowl. That queasy mixture of excitement over all the points and yards we were putting up with the realization that it took a record setting QB performance to get past a MAC team.  It was probably pretty similar to how a lot of people felt last week, sans the record setting QB performance thing.  We beat a MAC team and put up a bunch of points to do it.  This Saturday we get our second Mid American Conference opponent in as many weeks, and it wouldn't shock me if this contest is every bit as close and probably closer than last week.

I would expect Mostert and Hunt to meet a little more resistance at the line of scrimmage than last week, even if because of nothing more than defensive philosophy.  The coach of the Chippewas, Dan Enos, is a Michigan State alum, former coach, and disciple so expect more of a focus on running the ball than in the bowl game from 2007.  Their running game could be especially more featured this week as there is a chance they could be without the services of star wideout Titus Davis who is nursing a sprained knee.

On the Purdue side, I think we will obviously see a continued effort to run between the tackles for those big burst type plays.  Additionally I could see some more spread calls to get the ball moving horizontally from Danny Etling out to his playmakers on the edges.  I know we are talking about that nasty word "screen pass" but one would think that the quicker we can get the ball into the hands of the receivers the better, considering the timing and accuracy issues last week.

Central Michigan should be better than Western Michigan on paper, but WMU did have a stud running back come out of the woodwork and that certainly contributed to Purdue struggling to close out week 1.  I think tomorrow will be a battle, and contrary to my prediction a few weeks ago I would be surprised to see Purdue win this one by double digits.

Prediction Time
I do think all in all that the Purdue team we have this year is good enough to take care of business against average MAC teams, and the Chippewas are an average MAC team.  We're not talking about last year's Northern Illinois here.  It will be a very competitive game, and in the end I think we take strides in the downfield passing game, continue running the ball effectively, and do enough to make it past this one.

30-24 Purdue

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Purdue vs. Western Michigan: Prediction Time!

Below are our predictions for the opener. Boiler Up! 

"I think we're looking at a better start than Coach Hazell's first season. 

How much better, though? I'm not very sure. How will the offense compare from last season's miserable numbers? Can Purdue get stops at the right times? 

I think the Boilermakers will come out hungry and looking to make a statement. The work ethic of the players, and their attention to detail, is slowly improving. 

I'll keep my prediction short and to the point so I can get out to tailgating this morning. Danny Etling throws three touchdowns to no interceptions, including two to DeAngelo Yancey. 

Defensively, Ja'Whaun Bentley immediately makes his presence felt with a strong performance. Ryan Russell registers a sack. 

Purdue starts off the season in convincing fashion against a Western Michigan team that is playing a lot of freshmen. 

Purdue 31 
Western Michigan 10" 


Game 1: Purdue vs. Western Michigan
"Although I have an idea what to expect from Purdue's offense schematically, I honestly don't know what we will see in terms of execution and overall production.  Seeing as WMU had a worse run defense than Purdue last year (which is hard to fathom), I would tend to think that a healthy dose of Raheem Mostert will be seen tomorrow.  I will be surprised if he turns into an every down back this year, but I think he will absolutely get that shot tomorrow. My guess? 25 carries for about 90 yards and a score at some point. 
As for the passing game, we have heard from Coach Shoop that Danny Etling will be asked to make quick, accurate, and confident throws so hearing that tells me there will only be a few shots downfield.  Given the production from Yancey last year, having a healthy group of complimentary wide receivers, and a nice tight end duo, I can see the passing game being a pleasant surprise.  I'll say Etling goes 19-37 for 240 yards and 2 scores. 
That brings our point total so far to 21. My score prediction in the season preview was 34-17, and that should be just about right.  Throw in 2 field goals and a special teams touchdown or Akeem Hunt lightning bolt run and you're right there. 34 points for Purdue is my call. 
Defensively, I think, actually I hope, that we see a more physical Purdue team and a more fundamentally sound tackeling Purdue team than last year.  We will get burned more than once, but I don't think the dam will break in this first game.  I'd venture to guess we will give up 3 scoring drives for 17 points. 
So there you have it, Boilers win the season opener 34-17.  I don't think it will be a flawless performance, but should be good enough to peak a little interest from fans and to get a comfortable W. 
Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Hail Purdue" 

-Conner Clinkenbeard