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Virginia Tech 51, Purdue 24: What Else Can You Say?

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Purdue allegedly played a football game today. Allegedly.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Allow me to copy and paste what I wrote earlier about today's game:

I do not want to take a single thing away from Virginia Tech. That was a team with a very, very good defense that played a fantastic game. Their defense was more than enough to win even if their offense had played to expectations. What's embarrassing is Purdue's own defensive "effort", and I put effort in quotes because to leave the quotes out would imply that the Boilermaker defensive unit actually did something. Instead, they gave up 461 yards and 37 points to an offense run by a backup quarterback that struggled to move the football for the entire first half last week against an FCS team in Furman with 20 fewer scholarships.

That is where this game was lost. John Shoop and his inane offensive "schemes" (notice the quotes again) certainly did not help with a plethora of 3 and outs, but the defense made one big play when Antoine Miles sacked Brenden Motley, forced a fumble, and Danny Ezechukwu returned it for a touchdown. They then had a chance to make one play that could have changed the entire timbre of the game, but they failed to do so.

After the Ezechukwu scoop and score Purdue had the Hokies facing 3rd and 6 at midfield. As is typical for Purdue, we flat out refused to cover their top receiver in Isaiah Ford and he converted and easy 3rd down. Here is a team that struggles to pass a pretty obvious passing situation. Ford is their main target on almost every passing play, and he was uncovered for a 13 yard catch. Purdue was leading 14-10 in the second quarter, had the momentum, and with one play they could have changed everything coming after it. That simple conversion near midfield was a collapse that caused an avalanche. From that point forward VaTech outscored Purdue 41-10. Bucky Hodges caught the TD pass later in the drive to make it 17-14, and that was really that.

Sure, Purdue did respond as a nice end around to Jarrett Burgess set up a Paul Griggs field goal to make it 17-17 with 2:24 left in the first half, but this was where the defense had its second major failure, and again, it came on third down and long. The Hokies had less than 2 minutes left in the half and were facing 3rd and 11. Somehow, an underneath handoff that was meant to be a conservative run and punt to end the half turned into a 16 yard run by Trey Edmunds. It was one of only 9 carries on the day by Edmunds, but from the VaTech 24 yard line it was a backbreaker.

Given a first down the Hokies were like, "Well, if they aren't going to stop us, we might as well score" instead of going conservative, they scored a TD, got a quick 3 and out, and damn near scored again before the half, all inside 2 minutes. Again, this is an offense that is normally very conservative and it was playing with a backup QB on the road, and Purdue completely and utterly folded by being out of position and allowing a third and long conversion on a frigging running play.

It was really over after that. Purdue proved it could not get a stop when it mattered, and that was before we talk about the offense.

So yes, let's talk about the offense. Could offensive genius John Shoop have called a worse game? Your average playcalling session:

  • Incomplete on first down
  • Run Markell Jones or D.J. Knox into the heart of a ridiculously tough defense on second down.
  • Incompletion by Austin Appleby on third down
  • Punt.

It was blatantly obvious to everyone even before the game that you could not run into the teeth of this defensive line. It was only the strong point of a very good defense. In fact, what little success Purdue did have in running the ball came on the few plays it ran to the edge or involved misdirection. But what did Shoop do? "Hey! We got stuffed up the middle, but it will work next time!"

Purdue had 144 yards rushing, but 60 came on one run by Jones well after the game was decided. Another 29 came on a well executed end around by walk-on 25-year-old freshman Jarrett Burgess. So 89 of Purdue's 144 rushing yards came on two plays. Appleby led the team in carries with 13. Appleby. Not your two pretty good running backs. Appleby. The 6'5" lumbering quarterback.

As for Appleby, he had another bad game. I do credit VaTech for having excellent coverage on Purdue's receivers, but at some point Boiler receivers have to gain separation. They did not do that. Once the Hokies took the lead for good just before halftime they knew they could put it in the hands of the defense.

And that is where the final failing was. Purdue was still in the game at halftime. A 24-17 deficit at home with 30 minutes to play is nothing. Instead, there were zero adjustments on either side of the football after the break. Here are Purdue's offensive possessions in the third quarter:

  • 3 plays, -1 yard
  • 3 plays, -3 yards
  • 4 plays, 32 yards (ended on an interception)
  • 3 plays, 2 yards (blocked punt for TD)
  • 4 plays, 7 yards

With the game in the balance Purdue gained a single first down, had a punt blocked for a TD, and defensively gave up 10 points (credit to holding them to 3 points after an 82 yard kickoff return). Of the few plays Purdue ran, five were incompletions and five were runs up he middle of 4 yards or less. Good defense or not, that is pathetic.

Again, I don't want to take a single thing away from Virginia Tech. This is a good team with a good defense. They played more than well enough to win today and it was impressive to see a disciplined, well coached team play at Ross-Ade Stadium for once. They were still a team that Purdue, in year three of a complete rebuild, should have been able to compete against. Instead, they mercifully took a knee with 2 minutes left or they would have scored another TD and taken possession of the record for points scored by a visiting team (which, by the way, has already been given up twice under Darrell Hazell in 55 points by Northern Illinois in 2013 and Ohio State with 56 points a few weeks later).

Purdue will be lucky to win another football game in 2015. If it is getting blown out at home by the likes of Virginia Tech it cannot compete with the likes of the rest of its schedule. It's not that VaTech is that bad, it is that the remaining nine teams Purdue plays are that good:

  • Can Purdue beat a Bowling Green team that has already thrown for 1,300 yards in three games, has beaten a Big Ten team by 21 on its home field, and is far better offensively than the one that beat us today?
  • The thought of Purdue beating Michigan State or Wisconsin on the road is just laughable.
  • Perhaps Minnesota, the Virginia Tech of the Big Ten (great defense, lousy offense)? Well, we saw what VaTech just did.
  • Nebraska was down by 23 with 9 minutes left at Miami today and forced overtime. They have fight, so I fully expect Purdue to roll over at the slightest challenge.
  • Illinois thumped Hazell's old team to start the season, but hey, Darrell has beaten them for one of his two FBS wins at Purdue, so we have a shot.
  • Northwestern is far better than we expected, so there is another loss.
  • Iowa beat our future savior in Brock Spack with ease, so we're screwed here.
  • If Hazell and Co. want to make history their best shot is against Indiana. It has been 68 years since the Hoosiers have won three in a row against Purdue.

This was a demoralizing loss not because Purdue lost to a good team, but because they had a 14-10 lead after a huge momentum-building play and completely folded in every aspect of the game afterward. It was a callow performance from the moment Danny Ezechukwu crossed the goal line, and officially started the "Countdown to firing Darrell Hazell" watch. I even like Hazell. I like his demeanor and the way he handles discipline, but I like winning games more.

At least we were kind enough to invite Joe Tiller back to the funeral where we buried everything he built.