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Central Michigan 38, Purdue 17: Ugh

After a step forward last week Purdue fell backwards about 25 feet.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

All that positive momentum from last week? Yeah. It's gone.

Nothing went right for Purdue today. Time and again, Central Michigan tried to hand the ballgame to Purdue. They were missing their top offensive player and the backup punter/kicker, who probably was prepared to do absolutely nothing today, kept shanking punt after punt (when we managed to force them to punt) to give Purdue good field position. There were other mistakes by the Chippewas too, but it did not matter. Purdue had more, and in more critical situations too.

Here is the full list.

  • Purdue commits a holding penalty on a nice return by Frankie Williams after the first punt. It would have given the Boilers the ball in Central Michigan territory for our second drive, but pushed everything back.
  • Brandon Greer gets a 57-yard pick six off of an underthrown ball by Etling. For the record, his receiver did him no favors to come back and fight for the ball.
  • Following a 65-yard pass from Cooper Rush to Anthony Rice for a TD to make it 14-0 Purdue has another hold on the kickoff return, forcing the drive to start at the CMU 9 instead of midfield.
  • After cutting the lead to 14-7 thanks to a nice, lengthy drive Frankie Williams is ejected on a questionable targeting call that is held up upon review. To me it looked like Williams started to hold up, but Purdue's top player in the secondary and dynamic punt returner is tossed. It also leads to a quick score to put the lead back to 14.
  • The largest mistake came with under 3 minutes to play. Purdue went for it on 4th and 1 and converted on a nice run from Raheem Mostert. Unfortunately, the Boilers had 12 men on the field. Instead of having a first down around the 20 and a chance to cut the lead in half just before halftime Purdue had to settle for a 47-yard field goal attempt that Paul Griggs missed. This was absolutely huge. If Purdue manages a touchdown here it completely changes the timbre of the rest of the game.
  • Purdue has the ugliest 3-and-out ever that included a fumble recovery/pass completion to J.J. Prince after getting the ball at midfield a minute before halftime.
  • Antoine Lewis sacks Cooper Rush and instead of falling on the ball, the defense kicks the ball around trying to get the scoop and score. CMU recovers and punts. Purdue gets a field goal after the punt, but a recovery around the 10 on the first series in the second half would have been huge. At least the 21-yard punt return by B.J. Knauf was not negated by a penalty.
  • On the very first play after the field goal Purdue commits a 15-yard penalty after a 14-yard play. CMU gains 29 yards in one play and makes it 28-10 a few plays later as a result.
  • Mostert converts a 4th and 3, but fumbles after the reception. CMU recovers. Had Mostert not fumbled Purdue has the ball around the CMU 30 with about 5 minutes left in the third and has a chance to score. CMU got a field goal afterwards to make it 31-10.
  • Down 31-10, Etling underthrows another pass that is picked off. He had a number of bad throws today, but this was his last chance, early in the 4th quarter, to rectify things and make a play. The likelihood of a comeback was still small, but possible before this throw. It ended the game.

So there you have it. That's 10 critical mistakes where it was all Purdue's fault. The Chips played well in that they did not make mistakes. Yes, it was concerning that Thomas Rawls ran for 155 yards, scored two TDs, and had another 50 yards through the air, but much of that came after the game we well in Central's favor. It was not as much of a factor as the 10 Purdue mistakes listed above.

For the second straight season Purdue was dominated at home by a MAC team. With all due respect to Central Michigan, at least Northern Illinois last year was one of the best MAC teams ever. CMU was 6-6 last year and struggled to get there. They were played harder by Chattanooga last week, a middling SoCon team that is about as far from the Big Ten as you can get. Purdue had a chance to build on the momentum, something that Darrell Hazell talked about since he was hired, and it failed miserably in doing so.

Which brings us to coach Hazell. Look, I like the guy. I mean, I really like the guy and what he is trying to implement. He is saying all the right things and is not at least trying to roll a line of bullshit like the previous staff. Unfortunately, we're 14 games in and what do we have to show for it? We're about the ugliest 2-12 you can be in that time. We have beaten an awful FCS team, a bad MAC team, and we have looked good for what, three quarters against Notre Dame? That's what we're hanging the entire program on right now.

I recognize that we're playing a ridiculous amount of freshmen and sophomores, but when those freshmen and sophomores are not just losing to MAC teams, but getting blown out, it is disconcerting at best. Hazell seems like a guy that would be great if we had the luxury of giving him 6-7 years to slowly build a program. That's not allowed in modern college football, however. You get one year to suck, one year to at least show improvement, and if you look s bad as Purdue has so far in both of those, your days are numbered. At this point, can we expect a huge turn around in year three when Danny Etling has regressed and we get a much tougher non-conference schedule of at Marshall and home against Virginia Tech next season?

I really hope this is a big step back to have Hazell light a fire underneath this team before the game in Indy next week against Notre Dame. Maybe I am wrong and Purdue finally clicks next week to stun the Irish. I am a realist though. We just got pantsed at home by a team that 10 out of the other 13 teams in the Big Ten would handle with ease. As you can see above, it is not like Central Michigan did anything extraordinary to beat us, either. They sat back, waited for us to screw up, and took full advantage. That makes the rest of the season, against far better teams, look pretty dismal.

I don't want to be totally negative, however. In the area of small bright spots:

Ja'Whaun Bentley - The kid is going to be a stud for us. He plays like a linebacker should. Can we clone him? He actually tries to hit people instead of standing there and dancing with them like I saw from Sean Robinson, Williams, and others today.

Austin Appleby - Well, people got to see him, but he is not the savior. We have far bigger issues than a simple QB change can solve.

Dolapo Macarthy - Play him more. That is all.