The rebuild is still going to take some time. We’re going to have to recruit some better linemen and receivers. That’s what is going to mkae a difference in the future.
The hope of a surprise bowl game in 2017 is now a longshot, as we have to face an angry Iowa team and a good defense in Indiana after losing to Northwestern tonight. The Wildcats were able to break the stalemate with a long punt return for a short field, then take advantage of a huge stop inside the five. They then flipped the field with a 7 play, 96 yard drive to go up 14-0 into the half.
That drive was really the difference. Purdue had missed on short field after a 4th down stop near midfield. If Purdue scores inside the 5 to tie the game it might flip the game. Instead, Purdue came up just short, and the defense had one of its biggest failings in giving up 96 yards in roughly 90 seconds.
For the most part the defense did its job after that. It gave up a field goal drive to start the second half that was a little demoralizing, but it continued to make plays for most of the night. As usual, it played well enough to win, but the offense couldn’t do enough.
Let’s just state the obvious. Purdue’s offensive line, held together with duct tape, hopes, and dreams for most of the season, is breaking down, especially without Grant Hermanns. Also, Jarrett Burgess, who barely played before a week ago, has emerged as Purdue’s best receiver. This is a natural athlete, but he had 2 receptions for 27 yards in his entire career (32 possible games) before last week. The walk-on former baseball player has been a bright spot the last two weeks and maybe he makes a difference going forward. Still, if he is our best receiver we have some issues. Those issues were were seen for most of the night as the offense was completely ineffective for a half.
And credit for that goes to Northwestern. Their defensive line was dominant in preventing us from having a running game and the offensive line both kept Clayton Thorson mostly clean and letting Justin Jackson gain some tough yards to move the chains. Yes, we kept him mostly in check, but he had a few key plays where he gained tough yards.
And that is all we can do going forward. Goal No. 1 is winning the Bucket back, as it has been in exile in Bloomington for 1,442 days as of today. Going 5-7 with the Bucket is a definite step forward. Also, Iowa, our next opponent, clearly has a wildly up and down offense. Against Ohio State they ran wild for 55 points. Against Wisconsin today they barely managed 60 yards and had no offensive touchdowns. We’ll see what happens.
And it will get better. The offensive line is improving. Nick Holt has made unequivocal strides with the defense this year, as Purdue has one of the 20 best defenses IN AMERICA when it comes to giving up points (less than 20 per game on average). The culture has changed. We also continue to fight like mad bastards, as we were down 20-0 and still had somewhat of a chance in the 4th quarter. Clearly, if you add better talent some very good things could happen.
So let’s see what happens next week.