When it comes to writing about football and basketball I like to write from a statistical perspective. Most of my preview articles are stat-based because I don't often have time to watch the other 11 teams in the conference play football or basketball before they play Purdue. With a 6-7 season you can expect that some things statistically went against our Boilermakers, especially when you consider that Purdue was 0-6 against FBS level teams that had finished with a winning record and 5-1 against FBS teams with a losing record (the one loss was to 6-7 Minnesota).
Aside from those numbers, which explain a lot, here are some more:
Purdue's leading rusher in terms of yards per carry was punter Cody Webster - Webster had 20 yards rushing on two carries of fake punts. That's impressive, but he was a wide receiver in high school. He knows what to do with the ball. Sam McCartney also was credited with one carry for four yards. In terms of actual running backs the leader was Brandon Cottom with a 9.1 YPC on 23 carries, buoyed up by an 87-yard TD run early in the year. still, if you average that over 23 carries that tells me he should have been rushing more than twice per game.
Purdue was outscored in the second and third quarters 238-189 - Not surprisingly, much of this came from the Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma State games where the offense went into hiding for most of the second and third quarters. I didn't look up the number of three-and-outs in those games because it would be too depressing.
Purdue gave up 182 yards per game on the ground and 24 rushing TDs - You can't win in the Big Ten if you don't stop the run and Purdue most certainly failed at stopping the run. One of the best games on the ground came against Iowa, and they were practically down to converted third string punters at running back. Remember AIRBHG.
The best quarterback played on a torn ACL for most of the season and only played in two of eight quarters against the two undefeated teams in the country - Still, Purdue damn near pulled off a stunning upset twice. In fact, Notre Dame may not be playing for a National championship on Monday if Robert Marve isn't inexplicably benched for the third quarter and Caleb TerBush allows a 10-point lead to be built with a three-and-out, three-and-out, interception third period. Remember, this is when Marve was healthy. Also, he somehow wasn't worthy of starting after 1. He had the best game of his career, and 2. The previous guy was coming off of a suspension and already missed an entire year due to academics.
Purdue only attempted 14 field goals on the season, making nine - McCartney was 5 of 7 with a long of 36 while Paul Griggs was 4 of 7 with a long of 46. Purdue had four games without so much as a field goal attempt, but still had a game-winner with Griggs at Iowa. That 46-yarder was the only made kick beyond 40 yards all season, so Purdue needed to be inside the 25 if it wanted points.
Purdue had seven kick attempts blocked - Three punts, one field goal, and three extra points were blocked in the first seven games. One punt was returned for a touchdown and one extra point blocked prevented Purdue from stunning Ohio State. It may be (Please, dear god, let it be) the last time I can say this, but GIBBONEY!!!!!!
The lack of a downfield passing game meant Purdue averaged just 10.5 yards per completion - Many yards were after the catch too. Akeem Shavers, a running back, had the highest YPC at 10.6, mostly because of an 83 yard catch and run and two other catches and runs.
Purdue's leading receiver had only six catches for 77 yards in the final three games - Antavian Edison was one of Purdue's top guys, yet bad defenses were easily erasing him by the end of the season. That's more on the coaching staff than Edison.
Purdue's leading tackler was a walk-on safety - This is nothing against Landon Feichter, who lead the Big Ten with four interceptions and had 80 tackles, but when you're recruiting for a Big Ten-level defense It is likely not a good sign that a lightly regarded walk-on is outplaying scholarship guys at a position you've recruited extensively. Credit goes to Feichter for earning his way and I hope he can get even better, but for much of the season he was undersized and was making tackles because so many others blew assignments. How many teams did we play that had one, if not two linebackers with 100 tackles? Purdue's top linebacker was Will Lucas with only 66 tackles. You can't win in the Big Ten without good linebackers. That's an immutable truth.
Purdue scored 209 of its 373 points in four games - It's a damn good thing we had Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, Marshall, and Indiana scheduled as truly awful defenses. They made even Gary Nord look great for awhile.
Akeem Shavers averaged nearly five yards per carry - He got less than 14 carries per game. Against Minnesota and Penn State he had big runs of 40 and 37 to set up an early score and give us a lead, but he was barely used the rest of the way. Again, these were both games in which we were leading at some point, not playing from behind immediately. Don't forget Cottom was there to move the chains and clock too.
Akeem Hunt averaged eight yards per carry - He also had 328 yards through seven games as the number two back. He was also a big play receiving threat with 204 yards and two scores on only 13 catches. Naturally, he had eight carries for seven yards in the final five games. He did have a catch for a 63-yard TD against IU, but it was his only catch in the last four games. The genius of the Nordfense is having your best weapons like Hunt, Shavers, Cottom, and Edison go completely unused.
Speaking of completely unused, there is Gary Bush - He was the No. 3 receiver with a modest 41 catches for 460 yards and seven TDs. Against Illinois and Oklahoma State he didn't catch a single pass and was just 4-61-1 against Indiana. It should be noted he did a lot of work in the Nordfense screen and we went away from that in the last four games.
The defense got worse as the season went along - Purdue held a team playing for the national freaking title to 20 points, three of which were gifted from an interception deep in our own territory and three more on a lucky 3rd and long catch that came on the final drive of the game. As a team Purdue gave up 406 points on the year, but in the first three games Purdue gave up only 42 points, seven of which came on a pick-six by Eastern Michigan. In the final 10 games Purdue gave up 36.4 points per game after giving up just under 12 defensively in the first three games. Again, that was while playing a team playing for the National Championship in one of those three.
As you can see, the talent was there to compete. You don't nearly beat the only two undefeated teams in the whole country, on their home fields no less, without the talent. This was a coaching issue, and they failed miserably at their jobs, each and every one of them.