The fine Northwestern blog Lake the Posts was nice enough to exchange some questions with me this week. He too is concerend with Purdue's current curse at quarterback, or at least with offensive skill players. After this game we may have to start all walk-ons, but that is for another time. My answers to his questions were posted here, but here is what Lake the Posts had to say about this weekend's game.
Hammer & Rails: Purdue fans were strangely encouraged that Minnesota nearly pulled off the win on Saturday. I view this as a huge swing game for Purdue's bowl hopes with winnable games against Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana later on. Am I dreaming, or does Purdue have a chance?
Lake the Posts: Of course Purdue has a chance. You know how it goes - NU fans have never - and I think I mean this sincerely - more confident in a potential win than Saturday vs Purdue. I can't recall the last time we were favored by double digits in a Big Ten game (NU favored by 10). And THAT is exactly why you have a chance. I've been screaming from Ryan Field for years that the good news/bad news is that the NU teams play EXACTLY to the level of the opponent. Which is great when the name on your jersey is Iowa or Wisconsin, but not so good when it reads "Eastern Michigan".
It is clearly a sign that the program has reached new heights when we win a Big Ten road game and fans are disgusted with the play. OK, disgusted might be a tad strong, but a week after posting double-digit penalties and sloppy turnovers to let Central Michigan get off life support and back in a game we let Minnesota hang around. The 'Cats were on the verge of blowing the doors of the game midway through the first, up 14-7 and knocking when we fumbled at the 5. Minnesota converted 3 TOs into 21 points (all of there points) and our 10 penalties just kept Minnesota alive and kicking. I think the night game atmosphere, a chance to go 6-0 for the 1st time since 1962 (we started 5-0 in 2008 then lost to Sparty) will make it an incredibly tough assignment for Purdue. We've played pretty damn poorly the past two weeks, so despite wins, I sense we'll come out focused.
H&R: The consensus is that Northwestern is the weakest undefeated team left in the country. Please refute this argument.
LTP: Sure - again, we're dealing with historical bias. Have you seen Michigan's defense? No way they're a contender with that bad of a defense. Yes, they sport the most exciting and productive offensive player in the nation, but c'mon. Beating Notre Dame doesn't constitute a quality win. Nearly losing to UMASS is somehow not held against them. It's too early to tell, but I like our chances against Mizzou and K-State among others. We've got a phenomenal offense and bend-but-don't break "D" that always comes up with a play when it has to. Trust me when I tell you Dan Persa (10 TDs, 2 INTs, is the most underrated player in the nation. If not for Denard Robinson stealing all the highlight time, his name would be in the Heisman category. He is #1 in the nation in pass completion percentage (79.4%), #3 in QB Pass Efficiency Rating and there is no stat that measures his incredible running ability. The amount of 1st down runs he's had in clutch situations is uncanny. You should be afraid. Very afraid. (Ed. Note: I am afraid) He's AVERAGING 324 ypg in total offense. That would be one man - not the team.
H&R: At 5-0 with no Michigan or Ohio State on the schedule, are you
already dreaming of Pasadena just a little?
LTP: Not yet, but getting there. Again, the simply awful discipline on Saturday keeps us very much in check. I will say when you look at our schedule the mentality - especially considering our recent success vs Iowa and Wisconsin - is that there is no game that scares us on the schedule. We simply don't deal well as a program with being the favorite. We're ranked #25 in the Coaches Poll and we've only had one win when ranked under Fitz in either poll and four losses when we've been ranked. The program needs to know how to find the jugular and go for it to get to the next level. Consider that since the start of the 2008 season only Ohio State and Penn State have more regular season total victories than NU and we're doing some great things during this stretch. We've yet to figure out how to take control of a game and runaway - except against you guys in 2008 when you decided to fold-up tent and in-fight in Evanston in a game that was the only Big Ten game I've relaxed at in years.
H&R: This looks like your typical Northwestern team that spreads the ball around. You can run a bit as well. Will you take advantage of a young secondary or a bad run defense more?
LTP: What we should do and will do are completely different. We are just awful on the ground game, yet are spinning a tale that only the coaches and players are listening to - that "we will perservere and run the ball". When you have the nation's most accurate passer and he is unstoppable with a bevy of super-talented receivers THROW THE BALL.
Yet, we continue to hold open tryouts in game for search of a RB. Mike Trumpy, a RS freshman, has earned his way to starter, yet we continue to run 3-4 guys a game out there and have no run game flow. We couldn't be stopped in the air by Minnesota, but yet decide to keep things in check by running. Honestly, the mix should be 75/25 pass-to-run and the runs should come after we've just lit up the "D". No one has proven they can stop us in the air - no one. I think it's time for NU to realize who we are and play to the strength. That being said, we'll likely run way more than any of us would like.
H&R: Finally, what can Rob Henry expect to see defensively in his first career start?
LTP: I think he'll see 7-8 men in the box with a lot of packages enticing him to throw long and Hankwitz will confuse him scheme-wise. Our DLine, until Saturday had been a strength, but Minnesota beat us badly on the line of scrimmage and ran at will to milk long drives and try to make it a limited possessions game. Our secondary is the weak link as we bite hard on play fakes and have had some serious mishaps with blown coverage. I get a sense we'll be more aggressive on the blitz as well, as we played pretty conservatively against Minnesota.
Thanks again to Lake the Posts, as he'll have excellent coverage of Purdue all week.