Writing for H&R has been a dream so far. It has already afforded me many career opportunities, and I couldn't be happier about that. I got to cover the Big Ten Media Days for the site a couple of months ago--which was awesome--and yesterday I had another amazing opportunity come my way. Not only was I going to get to go to Purdue's opening football game and cover it for H&R, but I had a press box seat, access to the sidelines in the final five minutes and an invitation to the post-game press conference with Coach Hope and select Purdue players. Needless to say, I was pretty damn stoked, and it only made it that much more awesome that Purdue crushed its first opponent at home. Life is wonderful.
Anyways, getting back on track, I had the chance to hear many interesting things from Coach Hope and the players in the post-game press conference in the bowels of the new Mackey Complex. For starters, Hope discussed Robert Marve's performance, which frankly was stunning. And Hope knew it. He noted Marve's early interception and fumble whilst scrambling, but he recognized that Robert was one of the biggest reasons we pulled off such a lopsided victory. He also thought Rob Henry played well, despite some of the mistakes that he made early on.
With regards to Caleb TerBush's suspension, Danny said "We are going to be a disciplined football team and we had two varsity players who broke team rules, and as a result, they were given one game suspensions. That's the way it is. We have to be a much more disciplined football team, whether it is on the field or off the field. That will be the difference in us being champions in 2012, so I don't have any remorse in the decision and I think Caleb will concur." Still no word on what team rule #19 broke. Neither Coach Hope nor any of the players would tell reporters the details of TerBush's suspension, and that's fine with me. Based on his comment, I respect Coach Hope's decision, whatever rules were actually broken by those players.
After such an electrifying performance from Marve in TerBush's absence, the controversial topic of whether TerBush or Marve would be the starter moving forward was on the tip of everyone's tongue. When asked by reporters if Marve had stolen the starting spot from TerBush with his performance, Hope said "We will look to see how Robert played and we will look to see how they practice throughout the course of the week. We aren't going to make a decision today. I'm not taking votes or anything right now. We are going to look at it and make an assessment as a coaching staff of what is best for our football team, but obviously all three of those Quarterbacks are important to us."
So, long story short, the way Hope made it sound Marve might be the starting QB next weekend at Notre Dame, end of story. We will have to look towards the end of the week to see where the coaching staff is leaning--starting TerBush or Marve against Notre Dame or even handing the reins to either guy for the rest of the season, minus freak occurrences of course.
Hope also had a lot of praise for sophomore Safety Landon Feichter in his first game as a starter. Feichter had one hell of a game, and Danny recognized it, saying "He's a wide open guy--old school, really tough, really fast. He's not as big as some of the other Safeties in our league, but he packs a lot of punch and he has a lot of fight about him. He didn't play perfect, obviously. He made a couple of mistakes. Eastern Kentucky was hard to defend in some ways because they gave you different formations, different groupings and different things in the backfield. You really had to trust your eyes. And I think there were a couple of times where he may have gotten mixed up on who he had, as far as his assignments in the backfield from the Safety position go, but overall I thought he played well today--he made some hits, had a pick six. He's a good football player. He hits hard and he really cares about winning."
I also really like this Landon Feichter guy. He and fellow starting sophomore Safety Taylor Richards are both very good football players and they should bring some consistent, solid play to that position over the next few years, which was a concern this offseason after both longtime starting Safeties Logan Link and Albert Evans graduated in the spring. After seeing some tough, high-level play from both Feichter and Richards yesterday, my concerns are now dead and gone.
Coach Hope was also especially happy about the discipline the team showed all game long. Purdue only committed three penalties for 15 yards in yesterday's game, including an illegal kickoff out of bounds by a freshman Kicker and two late false start penalties against backup O-Linemen. When asked to comment on how he felt about the matter, Coach Hope said, "We were very pleased with that. We've had a couple of days of football now and I know the general consensus from most of the [other Big Ten] head coaches that played already prior to our game was that they were not near as far along as they thought they were. This is usually a game where you come out and you usually make mistakes, the first game. And we made some mistakes, but we did a good job as far as the penalties go. Take the kicking game out of it and we only had a couple. That's a significant improvement from this time last year or any point in time last year, and we played a lot of people. We felt like, coming into the game today, we would probably play at least 55 guys while the game was still on the line. That's a lot of players. We travel 70 and we dressed 96 today, but I took the roster and came up with what I thought would have been the travel roster if we were going to travel this weekend here and circled everybody who I thought would play in the game and I circled 55 names. So, we played a lot of guys. We took the redshirt off of a lot of players today, and we played some guys that hadn't played in a while based on injuries and I think to come out of the game with only a couple of penalties was huge for us."
Specifically, Danny also had a lot of great things to say about the discipline and efforts by the O-Line throughout the game, commenting "We didn't give up any sacks, I don't think. You'd have to check those stats, but at one point in time--by the fourth quarter--I don't think we had given up any sacks. And Eastern Kentucky has been a good pressure football team. I think we threw for 300 yards, and no sacks? That's a good thing. And we rushed for between 150-200 yards, which is also a good thing."
Ultimately, Coach Hope was more than pleased that his football team was able to accomplish two major goals that he supposedly set for them in yesterday's game: allowing as few sacks and committing as few penalties as possible.
Yet another thing Hope was excited about was the way the defense played against EKU. Even though they were faced with covering for five offensive Purdue turnovers throughout the game, our defense still only allowed six points and 188 total offensive yards yesterday. That is definitely a dominant performance by our defenders all around. And they did other things very well, too. They caused four EKU turnovers, including Landon Feichter's pick six, a diving interception by Outside Linebacker Will Lucas and two fumbles recovered by Jalani Phillips and E.J. Johnson, respectively. Kawann Short also shined in an individual performance that included a sack on the QB and two blocked kicks on an EKU extra point and a field goal attempt.
Something that Coach Hope was not pleased with was something that he said he is still hoping will be Purdue's major weapon this season: Special Teams. He said, "Special Teams was a challenge. We have a lot of new specialists and we will have to work our way through that. But, they're all great talents and they get excellent instruction. Eastern Kentucky is an outstanding football team with regards to Special Teams. They do more than I think any of our other opponents put together do. They were a lot to prepare for and we were challenged some in that area. We had an extra point blocked, we got a punt blocked and we even muffed a punt. We made some mistakes on Special Teams and in some ways that might be good for us to bring some awareness to where we are actually at."
I completely agree with Coach's assessment, not just of Special Teams, but the entire team and it's performance. We played very well yesterday, but we made quite a few mistakes. It is good, however, that we made those mistakes now so we have time to correct them before we play teams like Michigan and Wisconsin. I would rather have that, at least, than see our guys play a flawless game against some cupcake FCS school and then realize we are ridiculously undisciplined and are making a ton of mistakes against conference opponents.
Being that Danny is an EKU alum and a former head football coach there, he had a ton of great things to say about the program. But, I think one of the most important things to take away that he said on the subject was this: "I love EKU. It's a fantastic place and I know a lot of the kids there, but the game today was about the Boilermakers. We paid those guys a lot of money to come here and play at our place and we were going to take advantage of every rep that we could. That's why it was so important for Rob Henry [and others] to be out there. I love the Colonels, and I always will. But, today, that ball game was about the Boilermakers."
I think that was a very emotional and inspirational thing for Hope to say. Certainly, yesterday was all about the Boilermakers, as we looked like a solid team that could give other Big Ten teams a serious fight. I really hope he has many more opportunities to say something like that in the post-game press conferences later this season.
Lastly, Coach Hope had a lot of praise for a few true freshman who made contributions in the game yesterday, specifically the multi-talented local product Danny Anthrop. With regards to the West Lafayette native, Hope said, "He's a blast. He's doing fantastic. I'm sure glad we have him on our football team. He's very fast and tough. He is strong, he likes to play. He'd cut his arm off for his teammates and his coaches, and if he were to cut his arm off he would bleed gold and black. He's very, very proud to be a Boilermaker. And he's a heck of a prospect and winner. He's certainly a winner. So, great things in store for Danny Anthrop. He's a wide open guy, and he's fearless in a lot of ways. Throughout the course of the season, he will make a difference, some on Special Teams, some as a Wide Receiver, some in the backfield and some just with his work ethic because he certainly leads by example. I'm really glad to have him on the team."
As the Boilermaker football team wraps up its first win of the season and moves on to facing Notre Dame for the Shillelagh Trophy, a few things have materialized that fans and analysts should pay close attention to. Purdue clearly has an effective, high-tempo offense this season with many weapons, skilled QBs and a solid O-Line. Yet, we definitely need to cut done on the turnovers. Teams like Notre Dame and many of our conference opponents will take full advantage of those mistakes if they go uncorrected. But, hey, that's what film sessions and practices are for.
On the other side of the ball, the defense looks to be the best it has been in recent years. Even against a cupcake team, holding the opponent to only six points and 188 yards of offense when your O gives up five turnovers is no easy task. There are many excellent players on our D right now and it should show throughout the course of the season.
Special Teams really needs a lot of work, but we have some solid athletes within those units. This is always an area that is suspect to struggles early in the season and often gets better as the year progresses. Our main concerns are finding guys who can make up solid blocking units for field goals and punts and also finding a goddamn guy who can cleanly catch and return a punt. But, I digress.
In all honesty, I am very excited for the new football season and I am much more confident in our football team than I was before seeing yesterday's game (and also many of the struggles other Big Ten schools faced smaller programs!). Hopefully, Purdue can carry this momentum with them to South Bend and give the Fighting Irish one heck of a football game next weekend.