For a third straight week Gerad Parker had Purdue looking like a completely different football team. He is easily outperforming Darrell Hazell by getting this team ready to play each week. This week his charges even fell behind 10-0 early only to storm back and take the lead. David Blough threw four first half touchdown passes and, after being gifted seven points thanks to an Antonio Blackmon interception that set up a short TD pass to Brycen Hopkins on the final play of the half, Purdue led 28-23 with 30 minutes left.
Purdue was also slated to get the football to start the second half. With a hot offense and momentum the Boilers had a legitimate chance to build on their first half and keep things going. It was virtually the same situation as the previous week against Penn State, only Purdue actually converted its scoring opportunity before halftime.
History then repeated itself from the Penn State game. Blough was intercepted to set up a short field and an opposing team touchdown. The Gophers took the lead and would never relinquish it. Unlike against Penn State, Purdue was able to stay in this throughout the second half. During the competitive phase of the game the Boilers gave up just 14 points and had the football down 37-31 with a chance to win.
Just getting to that point was a testament to the anti-Hazellness (and yes, I am making that a word) of this new team. After struggling to move the ball for much of the second half Purdue trailed 37-28, but managed to get into field goal range. J.D. Dellinger converted, shaking off his miss from last week and hitting a 34 yard field goal before the defense got a critical stop.
Unfortunately, the depth issues that were there earlier in the second half showed up in the worst way. Needing about four inches to keep a potential game-winning drive alive, Jack Wegher was stuffed and fumbled on fourth down. The play itself was very poorly designed. Purdue was running out the shotgun behind a shaky and beaten up offensive line. It was a similar play to a fourth down stuff in the first half where Bilal Marshall was stopped in almost the exact same spot on the field, setting up Minnesota’s first touchdown. This stop ended the game and did give Minnesota another score, but it was only cosmetic in nature.
Aside from the play call, the fact that it was true freshman Jack Wegher, a player who was redshirting as recently as 3 weeks ago, got the carry is a major sign of the struggles Purdue is facing right now. As it stands, the offense can have free reign throwing the ball for about a half. David Blough has been great at that, too. He has thrown for 7 touchdown passes against just one interception in the first half the last three weeks.
But a banged up team with no depth shows itself in the second half. Michael Mendez was forced to leave yesterday’s game. He is emerging as a solid player and building block for next year as a redshirt freshman, but Purdue could barely run the ball at all with him in there. Without him, forget it. It also hurts that we were down to Wegher at running back, too. Markell Jones is a warrior, but he is clearly playing at about 65% if that. Brian Lankford-Johnson is also hurt, as is Richie Worship. I am not sure where David Yancey or Tario Fuller were, but the point is that Purdue’s once deep stable of running backs was limited to a true freshman at a critical moment. Purdue has been unable to run the ball because its backs keep getting nicked up.
Purdue has rushed for 24, 46, and 23 yards, respectively, in the last three games. It cannot establish any offensive balance, and opposing defenses are teeing off to get more second half pressure on Blough, thus reversing the first half trends Purdue has established. Purdue’s tendency for turnovers at the worst time has also been damaging. For a second week in a row Purdue gave the opposition the football with a very short field. Three times Minnesota got the ball inside the 40 after a turnvoer. It scored 21 points. Purdue only benefitted similarly once for 7 points. That is your game.
At this point any hope of a bowl is lost. Yes, Purdue is mathematically alive for the postseason, but even if it beats Northwestern this coming week few people give them a chance to beat Wisconsin in two weeks. The Boilers are still good enough to be competitive and hopefully steal a game here in the final three. That would serve as a huge momentum boost for the returning players under head coach X for next year. I would honestly sit Markell Jones until the Indiana game and let him heal as much as he can. I would try to get to that game as healthy as possible for some of the banged up players and then give everything to end the embarrassing three game losing streak to the Hoosiers and deny them their own bowl bid.