Bowling Green had every reason to blow this game wide open with 539 yards of total offense and the way they were able to move the ball at will.
Purdue had every reason to blow this game open with a +2 turnover margin. Multiple failed Bowling Green drives inside the 20, and all the momentum with a tie game two minutes before halftime.
In the end, it was yet another aggravating, infuriating loss where the Boilers did everything in their power to lose. The Falcons were attempting to hand the game to Purdue, but the Boilers would not take it. Purdue committed 92 yards worth of penalties, but 75 were on the final three Falcon drives. Two of those penalties were on third down too, and the Falcons got 14 critical points (though, it should be noted, on both third downs Bowling Green easily converted third and long even without the penalties).
As frustrating as that was, this game was lost with two minutes before halftime. After a Frankie Williams interception Purdue had a chance to break a 14-14 tie and take control of the game. In fact, knowing that we were receiving the second half kickoff, a score within the final two minute could have used halftime as a de facto defensive stop and a chance to build on a lead out of the locker room.
The interception occurred with 6:54 left in the half, and Purdue did everything right for about five minutes. Purdue got a first and goal at the 6 and a run by D.J. Knox got half the yardage needed on the first play, then Purdue put on a clinic in how to screw up in all three phases of the game:
- On second down Knox had the predictable run up the middle out of the shotgun. It worked for only a yard.
- Instead of trying something different to take advantage of a team that was giving up 250 yards per game on the ground coming into the day, Purdue ran the same play for no gain.
- Here is the critical play. I am always an advocate of "If it is inside an extra point on 4th down, you go for it unless you need 3 points to win on the final play." Darrell Hazell never hesitated in trotting out Paul Griggs, who missed a 19 yard field goal. A 13 play drive to the 2 resulted in no points. Essentially, Purdue accomplished the same thing had they not converted, only the Falcons got the ball at the 20 now because of the missed field goal. Shaky kicker or not (and Griggs right now is shakier than Michael J. Fox) you absolutely have to go for it there. Your worst case scenario is a team backed up to its own goal line. The Boilers never tried to get outside the tackles on the previous two plays or gave David Blough some kind of option. If you go for it and score, you're up 21-14. If you go for it and miss, Bowling Green might be a little more conservative and packs it in before the half with 98 yards to go. Even if you make the field goal the Falcons get the ball in roughly the same field position they got it with a chance to move like they did.
- So the missed field goal give the Falcons the ball at the 20, and Purdue proceeds to go into the prevent defense that has prevented them from stopping touchdown drives all season long. The Falcons are already a fast paced offense, but the positioning and defensive scheme cooked up by Greg Hudson led to the easiest touchdown drive you will ever see in 1:14. Matt Johnson was essentially playing pitch and catch to his receivers, who were sitting right in the middle of a squishy soft zone. Gehrig Dieter easily caught the first two passes for 23 yards. Running back Travis Greene had a 22 yard underneath reception. Dieter and Ryan Burbrink caught a couple passes, then Greene worked the delay for an easy 18 yard run to the 1. Bowling Green ripped through the Purdue defense for 80 yards as easily as you will ever see an 80 yard TD drive.
As you can see, offensive failures (failing to score on three plays from the opponents' 3 yard line), special teams failures (missing an 19 yard field goal), and defensive failures (allegedly you can call what Purdue did on those seven plays "defense") resulted in a critical 14 point shift at a huge juncture in the game. Sure, Purdue had plenty of chances afterward to win the game, but it was in this span that is made the biggest contribution to the loss.
Of course, there were other issues. There was, in my opinion, a gigantic blown call that also resulted in a major shift. With the game tied 28-28 in the fourth quarter Anthony Brown intercepted Johnson and returned it for a touchdown, appearing to give Purdue a lead. Unfortunately, a flag was thrown on the play. It was ruled that Danny Ezechukwu interfered with the receiver and the result was a first down. Purdue did get a stop on the drive, but it took seven points off the board. What made the play controversial is that Johnson overthrew the receiver by at least 10 yards. It was an easy interception by Brown, and the receiver, even without interference, had zero chance to catch the pass. This came right after David Blough found Gregory Phillips for along TD to tie the game, so a touchdown by the defense shifts things monumentally.
Those were the things that stood out. They were the monumental shifts in a game that was ultimately decided with nine seconds left. They took away from an excellent debut by Blough (340 yards and 2 TDs with only 10 incompletions and a desperation interception). They also stood out from other issues.
It was infuriating that Purdue regularly gave a 10 yard cushion to Roger Lewis and Dieter, who pretty much had to jog out about 7-10 yards, turn around, and wait for a pass to the edge. This was the bread and butter play for the Falcons all day long. They also had the fake handoff/underneath pitch they regularly ran for positive yards. These two plays were run all day and Purdue never had an answer or an adjustment to stop them.
Then you look at what Purdue did offensively. Blough was outstanding, but the only running plays Purdue had were shotgun handoffs up the middle to Markell Jones and Knox. Aside from the touchdown run by Jarrett Burgess, that is the only innovation Purdue had in running the ball against a defense that was giving up well over 200 yards per game on the ground. Not learning the lessons from last week, Purdue continued to run into the teeth of even a bad defense. It is no wonder that Purdue's longest run from scrimmage was only 13 yards. It never attempted to do anything other than run up the middle, and Bowling Green never had to adjust.
Maryland ran for 156 yards even while playing from behind most of the game. Memphis ran for 155 yards and Tennessee ran for 399. As for Purdue, with its alleged good backs and "Power running" attack? 77 yards on 38 carries.
How is this acceptable? Shit, Purdue did better last week against a better defense. Somehow, Purdue failed to attack a glaring weakness by repeatedly banging its head against a wall instead of seeing how much space was around it.
Of course, the defense was just as bad. In addition to the regular 10 yard cushions there was absolutely no pressure on Johnson all day. Coming into today Purdue led the Big Ten in tackles for loss. Bowling Green had also given up a ton of sacks. This is a recipe for quarterback pressure, yet all day Johnson had time to calmly collect the snap, read the defense, see his primary, secondary, and tertiary options were covered (when they were covered), take a sip of coffee, have a smoke, read a very interesting article in the Atlantic, then either find a receiver that got open because our defensive backs dropped from exhaustion or scramble for the first down.
Basically, against a bit of a sieve of an offensive line the defensive line (the strength of Purdue's defense, mind you) could not get pressure, and receivers were regularly wide open with seven or even eight players in coverage. Purdue forced a single punt all day long, and its best third down defense was the overthrown pass intercepted by Williams and a snap over Johnson's head recovered by Andy James Garcia.
This is all on coaching. It is one thing if Purdue is just getting beat in all phases by superior athletes. It is something else when players are repeatedly out of position on defense and the offense runs into a brick wall when 5 feet to the left there is wide open space. Greg Hudson could not have failed any more than he did today. John Shoop at least deserves a modicum of credit for preparing David Blough to have a nice game, but his play calling of the same runs ad nauseum were still an issue.
To conclude this article we are going to split it into two parts. First, we have:
Wildly Optimistic and Even Today Things Are Sunshine T-Mill
Okay. Let's breathe. Purdue is 1-3, but if not for mental mistakes it could easily be 3-1. At some point the mental mistakes have to go away. Aside from Michigan State and Ohio State the Big Ten is wide open and there are still some teams with major weaknesses ahead. Minnesota looks awful on offense. Nebraska is rather pedestrian. Illinois still has hints of being Illinois. Northwestern is all defense no offense. Iowa is ridiculously conservative. Indiana still has a ton of Indiana DNA. Purdue could win any of those games individually, so if the alleged "click" happens why can't they get hot and have a miracle turnaround under Blough, who looked legitimately good today, and win five of those? They just need a break and gigantic momentum shift.
West Lafayette is Ashes and Fire Everyone Involved With The Athletic Department Including Albert Berg Who Started Purdue Football in 1887 T-Mill:
Purdue just lost to a MAC team at home for the fifth time in the last nine games. Bowling Green did everything possible to hand this game to a bad Big Ten team and still won. There are huge, glaring issues with both unit coordinators. Even given weaknesses to attack on both sides of the ball Purdue failed to take advantage. Minnesota still has a good defense. Nebraska is still Nebraska. Iowa and Northwestern are good defenses on the road. Illinois can at least score some points and is 3-1. Indiana appears to have its greatest team in decades, has won two Bucket games, and, quite honestly, deserves to look down on us. We're compeltely an utterly screwed since the coaching staff is missing obvious things, the athletic department won't focus on football, and the conservative BOT and President make Purdue pay to use its own facilities.