Earlier today I posed the following question on Twitter:
Is it really progress to go from "we suck and got blown out" to "we pissed that one away."— Travis Miller (@HammerAndRails) September 27, 2014
That's where we are as a program, yet today we almost had both.
After stopping the Hawkeyes on 4th down inside the 10 yard line Purdue had the ball with 4:55 left and the scored tied 10-10. At that point, despite missing multiple opportunities, it was a very winnable football game. Fast forward to the end, less than 20 minutes of game time later. Purdue had lost 24-10, but it very easily could have been 45-10. Twice the Hawkeyes (including that possession mentioned above) got inside the 10 without scoring, and a late interception by John Lowdermilk saw the defender pass up the glory of a defensive touchdown (and he scores easily, if he returns it) to take a knee.
Was it a defensive collapse? No. It was an absolutely exhausted defense that had done everything possible to keep the Boilers in it falling apart because the offense did them no favors.
Here are Purdue's offensive possessions after taking a 10-0 lead:
- 3 plays, 7 yards
- 3 plays, 9 yards
- 1 play, -2 yards (halftime)
- 3 plays, -2 yards
- 3 plays, 9 yards
- 6 plays, 17 yards
- 6 plays, 14 yards
- 3 plays, -4 yards
- 2 plays, 0 yards (interception)
- 7 plays, 22 yards (interception)
That's 72 yards 37 plays, four first downs, and 10 possessions. This was with multiple possessions near midfield and it wasn't like we had lit the field on fire in taking that 10-0 lead. That lead was built while leaving some points on the field with a missed FG and a possession that ended in two sacks, pushing us out of field goal range.
Through four games Purdue had at least shown that the offense could go through some dry spells, but at least avoid the game-long ineptitude that had plagued it a year ago. Today the offense was no better than it was in 2013. There is little doubt that had Iowa kicked a field goal with five minutes left in the third quarter and did nothing else, it would have still won with ease.
So who is it on? Is it at the feet of Danny Etling, who couldn't make even the simplest of throws? Is it on John Shoop who went away from what was working early on with Akeem Hunt on the outside and Keyante Green on the inside? Is it something else?
It is a combination of both, really. Etling has had it at times, like he did in the first half against Notre Dame. He has also been off. In that case, there has to be something different. At the end of the first quarter Purdue had over 70 yards rushing and Iowa had only two. The ground game was working, but Purdue went away from it. As the Boilers continued to struggle moving the ball through the air they never went back to the ground game, possibly with the massive Brandon Cottom as a lead blocker, despite the fact that it was working.
This is on Shoop and the coaches. Purdue was in the game where even a lengthy grind it out drive would have made a difference deep into the fourth quarter, but the coaches stubbornly tried to keep the game in the hands of Etling, who couldn't do it today. Green and Hunt had 110 yards rushing, but Etling's sacks (mostly because he wasn't throwing the ball away) killed drives and we never got the ball in the hands of a difference maker like Raheem Mostert.
That is what makes today so frustrating. This was a winnable game, but the offense did absolutely nothing to go get said win. The defense was more than good enough to win. It held Iowa well under 200 yards before it was exhausted and even gave the offense a touchdown thanks to Frankie Williams, but the offense let them down.
I just don't know what to think now. I feel like we're getting there defensively, but today was a massive step back on offense. Time and again Purdue had a chance to either deliver an early knockout blow or respond, but it peed on its own shoes. This is exactly why we're viewed as the worst team in the Big Ten.