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Halfway Home: What is Purdue Football Doing Well?

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There are at least a few categories where Purdue is doing really well in the Big Ten.

Iowa v Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Yes, this is going to be a post grasping for some rare good news when it comes to Purdue football. The season is halfway in the books and even though Darrell Hazell has been fired, Purdue is still 3-3 and, mathematically, cannot be eliminated from a bowl game until November 12th against Northwestern at worst. Will Purdue win the three games necessary to be playing in December? It seems unlikely, given that the easy part of the schedule is over, but getting at least 1-2 wins against the likes of Minnesota, Northwestern, and Indiana seems at least possible.

I think that is what we are looking for here in the final six games. We want to see improvement on an individual basis. We want to see this team overcome the turmoil behind the scenes and come together on an afternoon to steal a win or two. I think the ideal scenario is them coming together to beat Northwestern at home, then spoiling Indiana’s season by winning back the Bucket for themselves.

Realistically though, any win is going to be hard to come by. The Purdue run defense is awful and I don’t see it getting good enough to make much of a difference. To get to a bowl Purdue really needed to beat Cincinnati or Maryland, and it did not.

But let’s take a look at what is working, at least statistically:

Third Down Conversions – Defensively, Purdue is the worst team at the FBS level in defending third downs, giving them up on 51.6% of opportunities. Offensively, Purdue is a lot better. The Boilers are 15th nationally, converting 49% of the time. That’s good for 3rd in the Big Ten as well. The offense is not the problem. Purdue is also the worst team in the conference at defending 4th down, as teams are 5 for 5 against us.

Penalties – Purdue is one of the least penalized teams in the country, getting flagged only 4.5 times per game. That’s 16th nationally.

Passing Yards Per Game – David Blough’s big game on Saturday may have been mostly against backups, but he is now 22nd nationally in yards per game at 292.7. That leads the Big Ten individually. As a team Purdue leads the Big Ten at 305.5 yards per game.

Total Offense - In terms of total offense Purdue is fourth in the conference at 441.8 yards per game. Do not ask about defense.

Pass Defense – The Purdue pass defense is a respectable 6th in the Big Ten at 182 yards per game. Sure, this is most likely the result of teams not needing to pass because Purdue has given up more than 300 yards on the ground in three straight games, but hey, pass defense!

Kickoff Coverage – Purdue is second in the conference in kickoff coverage. The Boilers have not gotten a touchback yet, but they are one of the best teams at limiting returns.

Evan Panfil – Panfil is tied for fourth in the conference with four sacks. With one more he would be the first player in years with more than 4 sacks in a season.

Pass Protection – The offensive line has given up only eight sacks. Six of them came in one game (Maryland). So, aside from playing one game without functional offensive tackles we’ve been surprisingly good.

What’s Not Working:

Aside from “A Lot”:

Third Down Defense – As mentioned, Purdue is not just the worst team in the Big Ten at defending third downs, it is the worst team in the country. Teams are 49 of 95 against Purdue, and an additional 5 for 5 on fourth down.

Run Defense – Even using the three non-conference games, two of which Purdue held their opponent under 160 yards, Purdue’s run defense is the worst in the Big Ten at 264.3 yards per game. That’s also 124th nationally out of 128 teams. Rutgers is close, however, because Ohio State and Michigan are still running on them. If Purdue plays Rutgers both teams might run for 500 yards.

Run Offense – This is skewed because Purdue has been behind a lot, so it is passing more than it is running, but Purdue is 13th in the conference at 136.3 yards per game. At least the ground game is a threat as opposed to in 2013.

Total Defense – Purdue is the worst team in the Big Ten at 446.3 yards per game and it is 13th in giving up 34.3 points per game.

Turnover Margin – This is another area where it is very bad to be in last place. Purdue is a Big Ten worst -7 on the year.

Kickoff Returns – Purdue is averaging only 19 yards per kickoff return (and it gets a lot of opportunities. This is 13th in the Big Ten.

Red Zone Offense – Purdue can move the ball, but scoring once it gets inside the 20? Purdue is the worst team in the Big Ten at that. The boilers have scored on only 63.6% of its red zone trips (14 of 22) It has 10 touchdowns, 4 field goals, and a pair of turnovers.