2012 Purdue Football Week 10: Penn State Nittany Lions Preview

Hunter Martin

Can Purdue turn around the sinking 2012 season vs. Penn State?

It has gotten bad around Purdue football. Only about 37,000 people are expected to show up at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday, which is a pathetically low number of fans. It has gotten so bad that I fear we will have more Penn State fans in our own stadium than we will Purdue fans. What was supposed to be a season of contention for the Big Ten title has deveolved into fans making Craiglist postings about Danny Hope's job and the athletic director giving the dreaded vote of confidence to him:

"Everyone around our football program has high expectations for the 2012 season. We have worked very hard over the past four years to improve our personnel, facilities and every phase of our program, which is evident. Our student-athletes, alumni, fans, coaching staff and administration all expect to see the program move forward and take a step up the postseason ladder. Currently, our performance has kept us from reaching our goals. But we have a third of the season left to play, and our focus is to achieve that consistency over the remaining four games. We need to press forward, converting potential into results and having fun playing Boilermaker football." - Morgan Burke

I wonder if the Craigslist fiasco had anything to do with this. That posting went up on Saturday and, in this realm of Twitter and lightning fast news, was pretty much widely known and even picked up by ESPN and such by Sunday. It's an embarrassment for the University, and Burke's message is merely an attempt at damage control that says nothing.

Read it again. In 109 words Burke says nothing of substance. He would have accomplished more if he had said, "We've sucked so far, but there are four games left and dammit, I want a Pizza Bowl check so we're going to keep trying. Softball stadiums don't build themselves!" There isn't even a call to buy tickets to support the team in the remaining two home games! For someone so focused on the bottom line, he doesn't even try to boost ticket sales for a game that will be woefully undersold (seriously, you can have tickets for less than $4!) in order to support, "Our student-athletes, alumni, fans, coaching staff and administration." Even one line, something like, "We are still working to make this a successful year and it begins with Saturday's home game against Penn State, where we need you to show up and support your student-athletes," would be enough to show he actually cares about the football team. Nope, instead we got an e-mail sent out to students concerning the Penn State scandal and how nothing inappropriate (cough INFLATABLES cough) should happen, as if covering a child rape scandal would bring out the worst in people:

We all know that PSU has been through a tough time this past year, however this football team has rallied around itself to overcome issues beyond its control. We, as Boilermakers, will be respectful to the players, staff, and fans of Penn. State. Inappropriate and obscene actions directed at these issues will not be tolerated by The Ross-Ade Brigade or Stadium Staff.

Morgan Burke: more concerned about fans bringing an inflatable penis into a game than another fan.

Of course, it is hard to generate excitement for a team that has completely and utterly fallen apart in three of its last four games and choked in the fourth game due to breakdowns in some of the easiest areas to fix. Since our own athletic director won't try to drum up excitement for Saturday's game I guess it falls to me to look into how we can beat Penn State and at least win SOMETHING, because I, for one, am f***ing tired of watching this team play like crap.

2011 Record: 9-4, 6-2 Big Ten

Bowl Result: Lost to Houston 30-14 in TicketCity Bowl

2012 Record: 5-3, 3-1 Big Ten

Blog Representation: Black Shoe Diaries, Nittany White Out, Linebacker-U.com

Series with Purdue: Penn State Leads 11-3-1

Last Purdue win: 20-13 at Penn State on 10/9/2004

Last Penn State win: 23-18 at Penn State on 10/15/2011

Time & TV: 3:30pm, ESPNU

Weather: 45 degrees and 30% chance of rain

Odds: Penn State by 2.5

The last time Purdue beat Penn State was the game before The Fumble. There have been some close calls in there, like last year when a missed extra point, field goal, and two-point conversion were costly in a five point road loss. As is expected from a team that is known as Linebacker U., Penn State's defense has been impressive against Purdue. The most points a Boilermaker team has ever scored against Penn State is 28. Since our win in 2004 Purdue has scored 15, 0, 19, 6, and 18 points, all in losses. The shutout in 2006 was the only time a Joe Tiller coached team was ever shut out at Purdue.

Penn State Offense vs. Purdue Defense

The first factor will be our defensive line. Purdue does not stand a chance unless the defensive line of the Notre Dame and Ohio State games shows up. That defensive line was dominant, but for most of the rest of the season it has been a massive disappointment. Kawann Short is banged up, so Ryan Russell, Bruce Gaston, Brandon Taylor, and the rest have got to play well. We've seen it happen this year, so I know it is at least possible.

The reason they need to play well is that Matt McGloin is quietly having the best passing season in the Big Ten. He is pretty much a strict pocket passer, so getting pressure on him is important. The offensive line led by Matt Stankiewitch and Mike Ferrell has given up 12 sacks, but McGloin has completed 189 of 304 passes for 2,115 yards and 16 TDs against only three interceptions.

The running game is not that great. Zach Zwinak is serviceable with 411 yards rushing and three TDs while Bill Belton has 259 yards and three scores, but Penn State only averages 134 yards per game on the ground. If they run for more than that we have once again failed defensively.

Allen Robinson (52-631-8) has emerged as one of the best receivers in the Big Ten. He is helped by Kyle Carter (35-441-2), giving the Nittany Lions a nice duo that is very effective about moving the football. Matt Lehman (15-184-3) will be your tight end that will roam completely uncovered over the middle on 3rd and 16 unless, you know, we decide to actually cover him.

I hate to be so negative, but I can't help it after last week. It wasn't so much that Minnesota beat us, but that we let a true freshman in his home start bomb away when we haven't really been burned by the deep pass in some time. When a struggling defense starts coming up with new issues it is never a good sign.

Purdue needs to get after McGloin, prevent the running game from having a season-best day, and stop them on third downs. On paper, it looks good, at least.

Purdue Offense vs. Penn State Defense

The good news is that Robert Marve is finally starting. He had a good rapport with Dolapo Macarthy last week and actually moved the football after Caleb TerBush did virtually nothing for two and a half quarters. I'll never understand why we gave up on the running game after Akeem Shavers busted a 40-yard gain against a bad run defense, but Gary Nord's reasons are his own and we can only marvel at his genius.

The bad news is that Penn State loves to sack the quarterback. Marve's mobility is already limited and it takes only one hit to go back to TerBush. The Nittany Lions have 23 sacks as a team. That's nearly three per game. Deion Barnes leads with four, but this is a group where anyone can get back there. Michael Mauti, Jordan Hill, Mike Hull, and Anthony Zwettel all have multiple sacks.

Mauti and Gerald Hodges are tough against the run as two of the better linebackers in the league. Mauti is a well-rounder ‘backer with three interceptions as well. Teams only rush for 128 yards against them.

The good news is that the genius of Nord with his screens will be in heaven. Penn State is somewhat suspect against the pass. I say somewhat because their defense only gives up 201 yards per game through the air, but Mauti has 60% of their interceptions.

Purdue has proven in recent weeks that it is fine on its opening drive. Unfortunately, it has done absolutely nothing offensively until midway through the third quarter (or later) in three straight games aside from that opening drive. If Marve opens the game with a scoring drive it is imperative that he at least lead some drives to get a few first downs in order to rest the defense.

Special Teams vs. Special Teams

Raheem Mostert continues to be out as a weapon, which is unfortunate because he could make a huge difference with some big returns. Penn State has given up a 92-yard kickoff for a TD and Adrian Amos is their top returner at only 18.2 yards per return. Akeem Hunt, with chances, should be an advantage.

Sam McCartney is back as the kicker and did not miss (or have one blocked) last week, but we're all holding our breath on every placement and punt. Sam Ficken has recovered from his disastrous Virginia game and is 5 of 12 on the season on field goals.

Cody Webster is a definite advantage as a punter, but Penn State has blocked a punt for a score already.

Game Outlook:

Yes, Penn State is 5-3, but aside from Ohio State the best team they have played is Northwestern. That game took a fourth quarter meltdown by the Wildcats for them to win. Part of their record is a product of a schedule that is heavy on some bad teams (Iowa, Illinois, Temple, Navy), but the Nittany Lions have done what they needed to do in those games.

As the Q&A stated earlier today, it will depend on how Penn State rebounds from their earlier loss. Mauti and Hodges have been excellent senior leaders on the defense and are players I would love to have for their leadership qualities alone. The fact that they are damn good football players makes them even better.

For Purdue to win it will have to get after McGloin and avoid three-and-outs. Those are the two largest factors. The game is therefore in the hands of Marve and the defensive line.

Book hotel rooms in Detroit if:

  • Marve consistently moves the offense and we score 30+.
  • The defensive line becomes dominant again.
  • We commit to the run and have success with it.
  • We hold them under 150 yards rushing.
  • We cover Kenney and Robinson.

Chip in a few bucks to the Danny Hope Buyout Fund if:

  • Multiple three-and-outs happen again in the first half.
  • The defensive line gets pushed around.
  • Marve is not protected behind the line.
  • Penn State rushes for 250 yards as a non-running team.
  • Caleb TerBush sees the field
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