clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Story Title

Game 2 thoughts and feelings (That wasn't exactly the kind of history I wanted to see today.)

I find it amazing that the overtime rules have been in effect since the 1995 bowl season and we have never had an overtime game at Ross-Ade Stadium until today. Therefore, it is not hyperbole to say we have never lost in overtime at home.

Needless to say, I was worried. I have seen us play in overtime in person three times, and we have lost all three times (at Illinois in 2002, at Ohio State in 2003, and at Minnesota last year). When you throw in the fact that that was my first visit to those three Big Ten venues, and 2001 was my first visit to IU where we lost in heartbreaking fashion, we don't do well when I witness Purdue doing something for the first time.

I do, however, feel we can take some big positives from today. The first of which, simply, we won. We scored more points than the other team when the game was over. In a season when simply getting to any bowl is critical, today was a must win and we got the job done. Let's face it, after the downward spiral we have been in since The Fumble, simply getting to any bowl this year would be a plus, especially as bad as the defense has been lately. We just need seven wins and I think it is a very reasonable goal. We have two, and we have five more games that regardless of how we have looked, they are still very, very winnable games.

The second positive is that we won a close game. How many times in the past few years have we done that? Since the beginning of the 2001 season we were just 10-18 in games decided by 7 points or less before today. In many of those 18 losses we have been just one play away from sealing the deal and unable to do the job. Most of the time it has been our defense that has been unable to make that one play in order to clinch it.

Today we made that play. No matter how many yards we gave up, we made four straight plays at the end of the game to close it out. I think that is the biggest thing we can take out of today. Not only that, but they made a play on the field goal attempt as well, just to give us a chance to win it. It wasn't a thing of beauty by any stretch of the imagination, but we got the job done.
One key thing we have to look at is what the defense did in the critical moments. Yes, we gave up a lot of yards in the first half, but we stopped two drives deep in our own territory with interceptions, we got a critical turnover on downs, and we had a missed field goal that may have been partially blocked. In that regard, I don't care how many yards we give up, as long as we don't give up points. In my view, that is all part of the learning process.

We were better today than we were last week. It was far from perfect, but being better in several aspects is a positive step. We got more definitive stops this week than we did last week. By definitive, I mean we used pressure to force a bad throw or a bad play, as opposed to a quarterback having time and simply overthrowing an open receiver like ISU did. There's no doubt in my mind that had Miami played as well as they did today against last week's defense, we would have lost, because all those first half stops would not have happened.

We were more aggressive on defense, getting in the backfield more and shutting down their running game. We actually had a linebacking corps today, and it seemed like Dan Bick was all over the field. His first half interception was huge at the time, and he nearly took it to the house (of course a penalty negated the return, but it was impressive nonetheless). I would much rather have us be aggressive and simply get outplayed than have us sit back and let things happen like last week. I felt like today the aggressiveness was there, and there was simply some bad coverage and bad tackling at times that Miami took advantage of. These are areas that will continue to improve.

Our special teams was, for the most part, not an area of concern today. You're going to have the occasional shanked punt, which we did today, and Robinson breaking a big return on a punt was to be expected as good as he is. The one big kickoff return is a concern, but at least he didn't break it all the way. How about Chris Summers, though? He was impressive in just nailing a 43-yard field goal and didn't have a single problem this week on PAT's. He's only going to get better, and after seeing him in a high school game last year, I know he has the distance for at least 50 yards easily, if not 55. Of all the things today, It was not Special Teams that was the biggest concern, and that is good.

The main area of concern though has to be the way the offense was today. For the most part we moved the ball well. Bryant was electric when he had the ball, and just continued to make big play after big play. Sheets proved today he was a workhorse, as he didn't crack the 100 yard mark, but found the end zone four times. I really think that when all is said and done, Sheets will leave Purdue as one of the greatest backs we have ever had. He's only 13 games into his collegiate career and he already has 17 TD's. Jaycen Taylor really impressed me as well with 52 yards on just seven carries.

If anything, we didn't use our running game enough today. When is the coaching staff going to realize that maybe, just maybe, with one of the best offensive lines in the country and two solid backs in Taylor and Sheets, as well as a quarterback that runs the option well, that we can possibly run the ball down people's throats. To me, it's very obvious. We have a defense that struggles, and an offense that runs the ball very effectively for once. Why not run the ball and shorten the game that way? I don't care how we get the points. I don't care if we run it, pass, or bend over and fire the ball down the field out of our rear ends, as long as we move it. Running the ball serves a dual purpose of wearing down opposing defenses, the bulk of which on our schedule aren't fantastic, as well as keeping our own defense rested and off the field longer. For crying out loud! We ran for nearly 200 yards today without even trying.

We are only going to create problems for ourselves if Painter continues to lock in on only a few receivers. Once again, Lymon was open or in single coverage most of today and he was ignored. If he is supposed to be the weapon he was advertised to be, then freakin' use him, especially in these games against lesser opponents. Of our 17 receptions today, 14 went to just three guys. We have to go through progressions away from Bryant, Orton, and Keller, and use the rest of what is a very, very big strength. This will come with reps and time.

Now I am not ready to pull the plug on Painter. Before everyone overreacts, you have to realize that today was just his seventh collegiate start. That's barely more than half a season. It's not like we have Brees waiting on the bench behind him either, as Elliott is solid but has even less game experience. His three picks today were ugly. They were very ugly in fact, but he recovered and we still won. There were some great flashes there as his TD pass to Orton was a thing of beauty. If we start running more and passing less it will only open up the passing game for our receivers, and make things even easier.

If you take away Painter's mistakes on offense we have at least two more scores, if not three the way we were moving the ball, and things are just fine tonight. We need to look at the fact that aside from the three interceptions, we had absolutely no trouble moving the ball today. We also had several drops that took away some yards and points as well.

All in all, I am satisfied. I am still concerned because the defense played a pretty solid first half, but pretty much crapped the bed in the second half. It was improvement though, and we only can improve more from here. The loss of Lane hurts, but he's not the only person we have converted into the secondary, and it promising that Smith will likely see some time back there soon. With continuous improvement from the front seven, the back four will only look better and better. Four sacks and eight tackles for loss are a great start, especially against better competition.

We also have to look at some things from a schedule standpoint. Yes, Ohio State went into Texas and won convincingly, but we don't have to worry about them. Yes Michigan is rising, but we don't have them either. Notre Dame obliterated Penn State, but I don't expect to win that one anyway. We have Ball State next week, and I know we will be playing better. They may or may not be better than Miami, but regardless it will be a good test. Minnesota got exposed on the road, Northwestern lost to a 1-AA team, and Indiana barely hung on at Ball State, needing a comeback in order to win by one. Illinois got drilled by Rutgers of all teams, so that is our five right there that we have to win. Even when you look outside that Iowa struggled with Syracuse, Penn State did next to nothing against Notre Dame, and Wisconsin and Michigan State have done nothing of real note yet.

Today was a step, and despite everything it was a step in the right direction when you look at it. We won a close game, which could be very, very good for the collective psyche of this team. We were consistently solid on third down for a half. We moved the ball well on the ground, and finally, there were no unforgivable mistakes in the kicking game.

Still, it can't be overlooked that we could not contain Ryne Robinson. Why Miami went all Tiller on us and played for the field goal at the end of regulation when Robinson is a mystery, but I'll take that gift. Also, why there weren't four straight plays to him in the end zone in overtime after first and goal is a mystery as well. So we can't overlook that Miami did its own part to give us this game as well.

In the end, we won. We're 2-0 and it cannot be taken away. They weren't pretty, but they are official, and we still have one more week to improve before the conference season starts. Next week against Ball State is now larger than ever.