I’m not going to lie. I was in College Station on Saturday for the Clemson vs TAMU game and I couldn’t find a tailgate willing to put on Purdue vs EMU, so other than following the game on my phone, today was my first actual viewing of the game.
Here are some of my initial reactions, and what I’ll be looking at further this week.
Purdue’s offense took 5 trips into the red zone (inside the opponents 20) and came away with 12 points. That’s the difference in the game.
Purdue’s tackle situation is not good. Right tackle in particular is a huge problem in pass protection. Purdue was having to chip the EMU LDE b/c we couldn’t block him straight up. I wonder if a line shuffle is in order once Evans is back to full speed.
Purdue lacks a true deep threat. Sparks looks like a good possession receiver and Rondale is explosive with the ball, but EMU was not worried about getting beat deep. This is partially because Purdue’s line can’t hold up and partially because I don’t see anyone out their right now that can run a go route and win down the sideline. When Mahoungou provided that threat at the end of last year, the offense took off. It may be time give 6’5 freshman Kory Taylor a look. I’m sure he’s way behind the other receivers in terms of understanding the offense but if he can win one on one on the outside, I don’t really care.
It was a mixture of decent receiving and poor blocking. Purdue needed the tight end position to dominate and it’s been a poor showing so far this year. I’ve yet to see Hopkins threaten down the seam of the defense. That’s another aspect of the offense that has been sadly lacking. The other team’s safety is free to fly around the field on most plays.
Purdue had 2 100 yard rushers, so it’s hard to pin the loss on the running backs, but the Jone’s fumble (2nd of the game) was a back breaker. I still think Tario Fuller is the only RB on the roster that is a threat on all 3 levels. Knox had a long touchdown run because the safety got caught in the box. Other than that, any time the Purdue running back had a chance to take on a safety, the safety brought them down. If Purdue is going to run conservative pass routes, they are going to need their running backs to hit home runs. Right now, we’re hitting singles and doubles for the most part.
Blough hasn’t shown the ability to throw it down the field this year. All his passes were in front of the EMU linebackers. He’s not bringing the 3rd level of defense into play, and that’s freeing up both safeties to cruise around the box and get outside on our screen passes and jet motions. When Blough is in, the game is played in a 15 yard box, and EMU took advantage of that early in the game. Blough is a decent runner, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.
Here’s the rub with the quarterback situation. Sindelar is the more talented quarterback. He also needs help from his offensive line and receivers to display that talent. He’s not getting that help. When Eli is in at QB, Purdue has more room to operate both vertically and horizontally, but that’s not helpful if the line can’t hold up against EMU.
The only explosive player I see on the Purdue defensive line is Lorenzo Neal. The pass rush looked somewhat better and Higgins flashed on occasion, but on most plays, the EMU quarterback had plenty of time. It’s either feast or famine with the Purdue pass rush. It either got home, or didn’t get within 10 yards of the quarterback. I saw way too many plays where our defensive end engaged the tackle and just stayed right at that spot for the entire play.
I thought this was the bright spot for Purdue. Jones showed off some elite athleticism and when he was turned loose, he found a way to effect the play almost every time. Jones is clearly outplaying his meager high school rankings. Great find by the Purdue coaching staff. He still makes mistakes, but he’s making them at 100 miles an hour.
Bailey is as stead as they come, but I’m going to be honest; he isn’t playing up to his lofty preseason expectations. He needs to be a double digit tackle guy for Purdue’s defense to take the next step. He ends up out of the play too often from my taste. I still wonder if a move to the inside wouldn’t help keep him more involved.
Barnes is still learning. I’ve seen him either chose the wrong gap or get blocked out of his gap on a few big running plays. He’s got to make better choices as a middle linebacker. The other team can’t bust big runs up the middle without him laying a finger on the back. He’s willing, but I’m not convinced he’s consistently able yet.
To be blunt, there is a glaring lack of physical talent in the Purdue secondary. I’m not sure Purdue fans appreciated just how important Josh Okonye and Da’wan Hunt were to Purdue’s defense last year. You could put them on an island and they could hold up. When EMU saw man coverage they went right at Purdue’s corners and dared them to make a play. They were physically over matched 1 on 1 vs EMU on the outside and EMU knew it going into the game.
Our safeties are slow and can’t get outside on deep passes. Teams are going to take 5-10 shots deep down the sideline a game if our deep safety can’t get outside the numbers from the deep middle, and I’m not sure either is physically capable at this point.
That was an absolute disaster in the kicking game. We missed an extra point and a 38 yard field goal in the clutch. A shanked punt gave EMU great field position that ended up in 4 play touchdown drive in the 4th quarter.
We had no kick or punt returns worth mentioning.
This team isn’t that talented on either side of the ball. That doesn’t mean we can’t win, and that absolutely doesn’t mean we should lose to a team like EMU. That said, I didn’t see a huge talent gap on the field Saturday. I feel like EMU had the best 2 defenders on the field (Rachwal and Crosby) and their offensive line was significantly better in pass protection. When you’re playing a MAC team, you expect your offensive and defensive lines to dominate, and that didn’t happen, or at least didn’t happen enough.
Purdue can overcome a lack of overall talent with execution, but if they don’t execute, they can and will lose, and they didn’t execute.
The talent won’t get any better this year. I think you’re going to see the coaches try to get some more athletic players on the field, even if that means sacrificing some experience, but even then, we don’t have a stable of stud athletes in reserve.
The execution will get better, and Purdue will win some games. That needs to start next week. The Boiler have no margin of error against a Missouri team that looks more and more like a match-up nightmare.
If anyone has something specific they would like me to cover, leave it in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.