That warm and fuzzy feeling of football season didn't really last that long. With just over nine minutes left in the game Purdue was up 31-27 and had the ball. With the way Purdue was running the ball it seemed like at least one first down was in the cards. This would've allowed Purdue to burn three or maybe even four minutes off the clock with just one additional first down. That's a best case scenario of course. Well, not best case scenario but you get my meaning. All Purdue had to do was figure out how to move the chains a couple times and there's a chance this game would've ended right there. Instead, Purdue ran three plays for a total of 1:33 of game time. The Purdue defense, who was gassed at this point, allowed Marshall to march down the field for the go ahead touchdown. It was all over except that final pick six.
In a beautiful bit of symmetry, and a Purdue football mainstay, Austin Appleby started the game off by throwing one of the most telegraphed passes ever that resulted in a pick six just seven seconds into the game. Shades of Caleb TerBush versus Notre Dame right there. Fortunately, this didn't break the team's mind or spirit. In years past the game would've been all over right there. There's one sign of growth! I know the majority of fans don't want to hear this but lots of positive things happened today. It didn't result in a victory but it was most definitely a positive step. After that first pass Appleby ran an efficient 11 play 75 yard drive that culminated in a D.J. Knox touchdown. I don't imagine this will be the last time we see that young man in the endzone this season.
The highlight of the first half was definitely the two consecutive Austin Appleby stiff arms. The second of which resulted in a a nice touch pass to Danny Anthrop for a nine yard touchdown pass. It really was a thing of beauty and showed the literal and figurative strength of Appleby's game. He's a decent improvisor and also a big strong QB. Purdue needs to put him in a position to succeed more often. The play calling didn't do that today. I get that you can't always do what the opponent thinks you're going to do. I get that you can't do what the situation card says you should do. I get all of that. What I don't get is playing against your strengths when all you need are first downs. Three drives in a row in the second half Purdue failed to convert important third downs. On back to back third and twos Purdue tried for the short pass despite the fact they were getting roughly three yards a carry. Then, on a third and five Purdue went against conventional wisdom and tried to run for five yards. It didn't work out. Despite all of this Purdue somehow went into halftime with a 21-17 lead.
The Purdue defense played roughly 2.5 solid quarters of football. They stumbled to start the game allowing 10 points (I'm not holding the pick six against them) in the first quarter and then allowing Marshall to march down the field in the fourth quarter for the easy score. Overall though the defense looked much improved. They allowed 27 points to a high flying and high scoring Marshall football team. The linebackers, especially Ja'Whaun Bentley, looked very good. The linebackers dropped back in coverage over the middle multiple times to great effect. The defensive line even surprised me today by being in the backfield quite a bit. They even forced and recovered a fumble. The Purdue defense was also pretty solid on third down all day forcing Marshall to go 4-11. Also, Purdue didn't allow a 100 yard rusher, so there's that.
The third quarter saw Marshall come out and immediately take the lead on their first drive. This was again another point where in years past Purdue would've folded. Again, this wasn't what happened today. Purdue fought back and regained the lead. On the very next drive. The third quarter also saw Purdue and Marshall trade interceptions that resulted in neither team getting any points. First, Appleby threw a roughly 40 yard interception but Purdue's Leroy Clark immediately intercepted young Mr. Birdsong. This gave Purdue a prime opportunity to build on their 28-27 lead. It wasn't to be though as Purdue would go three and out and only gain four yards. Paul Griggs then doinked a field goal off the left upright. Marshall regained the ball and literally fumbled on the next play. It was a delightful mess of a quarter.
Much like last year Purdue struggled on offense in the second half as they had just 10 points after intermission. I really don't know what they are feeding these guys at halftime but someone might want to change it up. Purdue was able to muster just a field goal in the fourth quarter. Purdue should've had a touchdown but Appleby missed a wide open Jordan Jurasevich in the back of the endzone. Marshall had no such trouble as they returned their second interception for a touchdown and scored the game winning touchdown on one heck of a drive. Appleby topped off his day with one last desperation interception.
- The running game was great for Purdue. Markell Jones had 72 yards on 12 carries plus a touchdown. D.J. Knox has 102 yards on 22 carries to go along with a touchdown of his own. These two are the bright spot.
- The Purdue defense allowed just 163 yards rushing while holding supposed Superman Devon Johnson to just 89 yards.
- DeAngelo Yancey looked like the player we got to know two years ago grabbing 5 receptions for 78 yards.
- The offensive line looked fantastic.
- The defense didn't allow a 100 yard rusher.
- Special teams wasn't so special for Purdue. A kickoff went out of bounds. They missed a field goal. They allowed a pretty great punt return as well. It certainly could've been worse. Maybe the team needs a special teams coordinator (yes I'm kidding).
- Danny Anthrop looked a step off out there. He's clearly not 100% at the moment. Perhaps as the season moves forward he will get back into it but today certainly wasn't confidence building.
- I will probably get shouted down for this but I'm gonna put Appleby here. Yes, he had four interceptions but one was in garbage time so I'll say three. Yes they were bad throws, but he also made many good decisions and looked better than he did last year. The problem here is that he was supposedly chosen as the starter because he would minimize mistakes and her certainly didn't do that today with four picks and one fumble (Purdue recovered).
- Play calling. As mentioned above there were clearly mistakes in play calling. The third down play calls just made no sense at all. I can't understand what Shoop calls about 90% of the time. Purdue needs a better play caller in the box.
- Appleby telegraphing his passes was clear numerous times. That first pick six was inexcusable. I think if you throw me in pads I could've made that play.
- Losing to a Conference USA school is never good. Never good.