Because of another rare victory under Darrell Hazell there is at least a modest amount of optimism again. Purdue did look better against Nevada. The defense has a solid day overall and, if not for four turnovers (two inside the five yard line) it wins that game going away.
But there are still red flags. In the past two games Purdue is a whopping -9 in the turnover margin with six interceptions, three lost fumbles, and no turnovers forced. Purdue has only scored on 8 of 13 red zone trips thanks to turnovers and missed field goals. The offense is moving the ball, but it has a hell of a time finishing drives.
Then there is the defense. Is it really better or was Nevada just that bad? We will know soon. Once again, Purdue is presented with a chance to show that there is real, live improvement in the form of two beatable opponents to start Big Ten play. Maryland struggled last year and is 3-0 against a fairly weak schedule. Illinois appears to still be Illinois. That means there is a chance here to get to 4-1 and maybe have some momentum.
Unfortunately, Hazell teams have never seized on that momentum.
2015 Record: 3-9, 1-7 Big Ten
2015 Bowl result: None
Blog Representation: Testudo Times
Series with Purdue: Maryland leads 1-0
Last Purdue win: None
Last Maryland win: 24-7 in 2006 Champs Sports Bowl
Maryland So Far
Last year Maryland was pretty awful. They opened at 2-1 with wins over Richmond and South Florida, but went 0-for-the-Big-Ten until a rivalry win over Rutgers at the end. That cost Randy Edsall his job and led to D.J. Durkin, the former defensive coordinator at Michigan, getting hired. So far, he is undefeated as a head coach.
So far this year he has greatly cleaned up the offense. Last season the Terrapins threw a combined 29 interceptions. That is just an absurd number, but through three games they have yet to turn the ball over. They had blowout wins over Howard (51-13) and Florida International (41-14) before surviving double overtime at Central Florida 30-24. Howard is a bad FCS team and FIU is 0-4. But Central Florida is an improved 2-2 after going unwinfeated last season.
Who to Watch on Offense
The Terps lost their top running back from 2015, but they now have one of the better running games in America, which will further test our questionable defense. Maryland ranks 11th nationally at 266.7 yards per game on the ground. They have gained close to 900 yards in three games and have run for 11 touchdowns. Lorenzo Harrison has been the featured back at 208 yards and 3 TDs, but trey Edmonds and Ty Johnson have also gotten plenty of carries. Edmunds and Johnson, along with Kenneth Goins Jr., are listed as starters this week. Quarterback Perry Hill has been effective on the ground with 86 yards and 2 TDs. I am encouraged somewhat by the fact that Purdue shut down Nevada on the ground and the Wolf Pack was a good running team.
Hills has had a much, much better senior season as the starter at quarterback. Last season he threw for 1001 yards and 8 TDs against 13 interceptions as he split time at quarterback. This year his completion percentage is up to 61.7% from 50% and he has yet to throw an interception. He has 463 yards and 3 touchdowns as Maryland has excelled at not turning the ball over. That is where Purdue really needs to fix its turnover issues. If it turns the ball over 4 times or more again it will lose.
D.J. Moore (12-209-2) and Teldrick Morgan (8-129-0) have been the primary targets in the passing game. Both average over 16 yards per catch. There is also the versatile Will Likely III, who plays both offense and defense in addition to being an expert returner.
Maryland is definitely a run first team. They are ranked 102nd nationally in passing, and so far they have not had to put the ball in the air much. Since Purdue just faced a strong running team that could be an advantage.
Who to Watch on Defense
The Maryland defense has been pretty average of late. They aren’t great, but they aren’t exactly awful. The run defense is in the 60s nationally at 155.3 yards per game and the pass defense is in the 50s at 210 per game. They did, however, lose starting corner Denzel Conyers in the Central Florida game to a torn ACL.
Jesse Aniebonam – DL – The junior is an experience starter who already has 2.5 sacks on the season and has been disruptive with 4.5 tackles for loss.
Shane Cockerille – LB – Cockerille was mostly a fullback last season, but he has shifted to linebacker and he now leads Maryland with 25 tackles. He plays the will position in their defense.
Will Likely III – CB – One of the best and most versatile players in the nation, Likely plays both ways and can score if he simply gets his hands on the football. Just two years ago he had six interceptions and returned two for touchdowns. Many teams simply avoid throwing his way. It is a wise decision. He does have 20 tackles, four of them for loss. He has seven career interceptions, but that number is not higher because teams fear him.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Will Likely III – KR, PR – Do. Not. Kick. To. Will. Likely. Just don’t do it. It is a very bad idea to do so. This guy is an All-American return man with over 3,000 all-purpose yards in his career. As a freshman in 2013 he was the ACC Special Teams Player of the Year. He has returned two kickoffs and four punts for touchdowns in his career. So far only once has he fielded a kickoff this year. He returned it 64 yards. DO. NOT. KICK. TO. HIM.
Adam Greene – K – Greene hit his first four kicks on the season, but he missed from 38 and 51 at Central Florida. His long is only 36 yards but if they tried him from 51 that means he at least has a good leg.
I feel like the Cincinnati game soured us for this game. In that one Purdue had a great change to change some perceptions, but once again, it failed. Maryland presents yet another chance to do so. The Terrapins are much better than last year, but no one expects them to really compete in the East. Most likely they will battle Indiana and Penn State for 4th place at best. That means a Purdue victory shouldn’t be shocking.
The thing is, a Purdue win really would be shocking. First, it would be the first time under Darrell Hazell that the Boilers win back-to-back games. Second, it would only be the second road win under Hazell (even though last year Purdue played a lot better on the road). Third, it would be a sign of real growth, something that has eluded this team for four years.
I don’t care that Maryland is probably a 6-6 or 7-5 team at best by the time the season is over. Purdue played a lot of those teams last year and got drilled in almost all of them. On paper this should be a close game. Both teams struggled in 2015 and are looking at each other expecting a fast start to conference play. The Terrapins are a 10 point favorite, however, and rightfully so.
Purdue has not proven it can even be competitive in these games, let alone win them. The turnovers are extremely problematic and nearly cost Purdue last week. Purdue will have to play near perfect football to win this, while Maryland won’t.