This is really getting annoying.
There are very few "Marquee" home games that Purdue gets. Because of our lack of lights there is only one game, maybe two, every season that people circle on the calendar as big games. I know this because I met two alums today that rarely come to games but they came to campus today and were at Harry's before the game because it was a marquee game that drew a lot of interest.
This was not only true for Purdue fans. The national media was looking at this as an "okay Purdue, if you're really a Big Ten title contender, win this," game. In that regard, we failed.
Since Danny Hope took over as coach it seems as if every major chance to make some noise has resulted in a catastrophic failure almost from the first snap. Some notable examples:
11/14/2009 - I billed this game as "Show up for the Seniors: Beat State because a victory would have meant a chance at a bowl game for a maligned senior class. The very first snap was a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Purdue lost to Michigan State 40-37, but had to fight from behind all day.
9/4/2010 - Purdue opens the season at Notre Dame with a strong defensive performance, but even with a "special talent" in Robert Marve the game plan is milquetoast at best in a 23-12 loss. Yes, this was a road game, but it was a marquee game with everyone healthy (the only one that year) and Purdue didn't show.
10/1/2011 - The less that is said about this game, the better. A hyped up atmosphere is instantly pissed away with an interception and an early score. Purdue was never in it the rest of the way.
There have been others, I am sure, but aside from home games against Ohio State, this team has shown an appalling lack of readiness not only for big named opponents, but big named opponents that are beatable. Notre Dame in each of the last two years and Michigan this year are hardly invincible juggernauts. They were winnable games, but Purdue not only lost, but was barely competitive.
I should have known today was going to be trouble. The third play of the game was a third and one before many people had even settled into their seats. We line up to run power with Brandon Cottom as a fullback and Akeem Shavers dotting the I. A simple handoff should equal a first down and the opening drive can continue. Kenny Demens admittedly made a good play to hold him to no gain.
Well, as far as Purdue was concerned, we might as well have packed up shop and went home from there.
Michigan made a methodical drive for a score, held us to a three and out, then drove for another score. That was the ballgame. Everything else was merely window dressing. In less than 10 minutes of game time Michigan had effectively ended the game because our offensive plan was completely inept.
Michigan was somewhat suspect against the run, so we passed to the boundary. We knew that we needed to keep the ball out of Denard Robinson's hands, which is easy to do if you exploit a running game. Instead, Caleb TerBush took a horrible sack as one of our few first quarter plays and, on a critical 4th and 1 where we even called a timeout, we throw high to the boundary that goes off of a receiver's hands for a backbreaking pick six.
There are many frustrating things about this game, but the two biggest ones were the refusal to try and establish a running game and the poor play of TerBush. Getting good Denard is already a strike against us, but bad TerBush and a poor offensive game plan was a recipe for the disaster you saw.
Among the other mind-boggling decisions today:
- Sticking with TerBush when he is clearly struggling and not going to Marve until it was virtually hopeless. Hope said this week that if TerBush struggled, Marve would be the guy, but he left TerBush in too long.
- The decision to kick a field goal on 4th and 16 down 21 early in the fourth quarter. Yes, it is fourth and long, but YOU ARE DOWN THREE TOUCHDOWNS!!!!!!!!!!!!! (please excuse the all-caps hyperbole) A field goal does nothing there. I don't care if it is 4th and 16 millimeters or 4th and 16 kilometers. Go. For It. It is your last chance to even have a small chance at victory. As I tweeted, I could see Danny Hope's vagina from my seat on that play. And for the record, my wife yelled that out loud and it is a quote from a female character in a movie, so no need to get butthurt about it.
- Michigan went out of its way to keep the ball out of Raheem Mostert's hands. They were clearly terrified of him on kickoffs, but we never even made an effort to get him involved offensively.
- If Rob Henry is supposed to be a change-of-pace QB, why in god's name does he not get a Wild Henry look when nothing else is working?
- Gary Bush, Antavian Edison, and O.J. Ross are three of the fastest receivers in the conference. How about we try to hit them in stride maybe once?
- No Dolapo MaCarthy? No effort to get the ball more to Akeem Hunt or Mostert? No innovation whatsoever, again, until Marve goes in and you're already down three scores with 14 minutes left?
- Marve gets yanked after hitting a receiver on the hands in stride, but the ball bounces off for a pick?
This is a game you just want to walk away from. As bad as it was, we still control our destiny in the Leaders Division as long as we win next week. Unfortunately, I don't have any confidence anymore that we can get it. As good as we looked in the first four games we took about five steps back today. I won't have any confidence in a win next week unless a few things happen:
1. Robert Marve starts. He needs to be in there unless his knee is physically separated from his body. He is clearly the better option than TerBush even hurt.
2. We somehow remember that it is legal to cover the middle of the field on third and long. Michigan didn't have many third and longs, but they converted every single one with a receiver running wide open over the middle of the field and no pressure at all on Robinson. One was a touchdown to Devin Gardner, another was the fourth and four pass to Gardner on the first drive for the Wolverines.
3. Hunt and Mostert need the ball more. They are touchdowns waiting to happen, so give them the ball in space.
4. We don't have to face Robinson again, who had one hell of a game.
I really credit Michigan's defense for making big plays when ours could not and Robinson for bouncing back, but this game will sit as yet another example of Purdue not coming through when it mattered.