As a fan, I am incredibly frustrated.
Obviously the start of Purdue’s season has not gone to plan. Most people had the Northwestern game as a toss-up and that’s pretty much what it was. Even if Lorenzo Neal doesn’t get the roughing penalty to clinch the game there is no guarantee Purdue drives down for a winning TD. We already had two drives that quarter that ended without a first down, so we had our chances.
Then there was Eastern Michigan. EVERYONE had that as a Purdue win all summer long. It took a combination of dumb penalties, turnovers, special teams miscues, defensive miscues, a monsoon, and EMU playing really well for them to win by a point, and EVEN THEN, if Jared Sparks gets his foot down a tenth of a second sooner we have first and goal at the one with a 2 point lead and a chance to ice the game with 5 minutes left. Honestly, had Purdue simply been outplayed for two weeks in a row I think I’d feel better. Instead, we beat ourselves both times, with the EMU game being doubly frustrating because if you change one of about a dozen things we still played poorly, but at least we win.
Now the entire season feels like we’re on the brink. I think you can agree that 2-2 was a conservative expectation coming out of the season’s first four games since all four were at home. That at least kept the hope of a second straight bowl game alive, but again, that was considering EMU as a win. Well, it can still happen, but it needs to come at the expense of two good teams in Missouri and Boston College.
There’s nothing we can do about the first two games, and I hope the team itself is as frustrated as I am. Missouri is still very much a winnable game. This is a team we completely dominated on their own field last year, which was shocking. Purdue had not beaten a team not named Illinois on the road since 2012. It hadn’t won a Power 5 non-conference road game since 2005. We hadn’t beaten ANYONE at the FBS, home or away, by 32 points since Eastern Michigan in 2012. If you make that qualifier a Power 5 conference team you have to look back to the 2008 bloodletting against Indiana in Joe Tiller’s final game when we destroyed Indiana 62-10.
The Tigers come into this game as a hot team. They are 2-0 this year and won their final 6 regular season games last season before losing their bowl game, so they have won 8 of their last nine. They have looked good in wins over Tennessee-Martin 51-14 and Wyoming 40-13, but we’re fully capable of beating them. It will not be easy, however.
2017 Record: 7-6, 4-4 SEC East
Bowl Result: Lost 33-16 to Texas in Texas Bowl
Blog Representation: Rock M Nation
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 7-2
Last Purdue win: 35-3 at Missouri on 9/16/2017
Last Missouri win: 14-7 at Missouri on 9/26/1953
Head Coach: Barry Odom, 11-14 in 3rd year at Missouri
Who to Watch on Offense
Drew Lock – QB – Lock has a good chance of being the top quarterback drafted in April. He’s that good. He threw for 3,900+ yards as a sophomore in 2016 and 3,399 last season. So far this season he has 687 yards passing and 8 touchdowns against zero interceptions, so he has outplayed both David Blough and Elijah Sindelar combined. He is completing passes at a 75% clip and has just one game in the last two years where he has been under 200 yards passing: against Purdue last season. He even had 56 yards rushing already, almost half of his entire total from last year.
Lock had one of the worst games of his career against Purdue last season, so we can’t rely on that again. He has to be salivating at the fact that EMU threw for 300 plus yards in the rain against us. If the Purdue pass defense from last week shows up he is going to absolutely torch us. Last season we were able to shut down Missouri’s running game and disrupt Lock’s rhythm early with different blitzes. That will be key once again. If he is given time to throw he will kill us. Oh, and for good measure, Lock has not been sacked through two games. Purdue was feast or famine vs. EMU, sacking Tyler Wiegers six times but letting him pick us apart the rest of the day.
Emanuel Hall – WR – The 6’3” senior has been excellent so far with 14 receptions for 342 yards and three touchdowns. Last season he had 33 receptions for 817 yards and 8 TDs as primarily a deep threat. Purdue completely shut him out, however. Hall is going to be a challenge for Purdue’s corners, and I have bad thoughts of how Tim Cason was burned on Saturday. Someone needs to step up here, be it Cason, Dedrick Mackey, or Kenneth Major because Lock is going to be looking for him deep.
Johnathan Johnson – WR – Johnson had three receptions last season against Purdue for 32 yards, but overall he passing game was anemic at best. This year Johnson has 11 receptions for 100 yards and two scores. The 5’10” junior is not the physical presence that Hall is, but he is an excellent possession guy.
Damarea Crockett – RB – Purdue absolutely shut down Crockett last season, holding him to 19 yards on 10 carries. He was a 1,000 yard back in 2016 and has 115 yards and a score on 31 carries so far this year.
Who to Watch on Defense
Purdue won last season because it basically played a perfect first 20 minutes. The first three drives went the length of the field for scores and the defense got a pair of quick stops in there. David Blough was excellent in directing the offense and Tario Fuller was gashing them for big gains. There was still some luck, however. D.J. Knox had a fumble near midfield that Gregory Phillips pounced on to save a scoring drive. If that doesn’t happen, things turn quickly.
So far the Missouri defense has been defense and the Purdue defense has been underwhelming at best. We have got to limit turnovers, watch the offensive line penalties, and get quarterback play similar to last year or this game will get out of hand quickly. Missouri is giving up 91 yards per game on the ground and 171.5 through the air, but against lesser competition. This absolutely must be the game where the offense gets on track. We need a first possession touchdown in the worst way.
Terez Hall – LB – The sophomore linebacker has been solid so far with 11 tackles, a sack, and a pair of QB hits. Along with Cale Garrett the linebacking group has been excellent at pursuing the ball so far. Hall finished last season with 85 tackles and 12.5 for loss. He can get into the backfield at will, so the change to Purdue’s offensive line this week (Shane Evans at guard, Matt McCann to right tackle, Eric Swingler to the bench) will be big.
Terry Beckner – DL – Beckner is a disruptive force on the defensive line that has a pair of tackles for loss. Last season he had 38 tackles and seven sacks and given the way EMU’s NFL prospect on the line gave us problems, Beckner is a concern to say the least. He has lost a pair of seasons to knee injury but was excellent last year.
Adam Sparks – CB – Sparks started the final eight games last year as a true freshman and emerged as a solid corner. He ended up picking off a pair of passes and finishing with 34 tackles. What’s fun is that he will likely be matched up with his brother, Jared Sparks, on the outside. I always find these meetings fascinating.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Tucker McCann – K – Like our own Spencer Evans, McCann is 4 of 6 on field goals, but McCann has hit from 50. Evans missed from 51 against Northwestern and had a costly miss from 38 against EMU.
Corey Fatony – P – The one positive Missouri had last year against us was Fatony just absolutely booming punts. He ended up kicking nine times for a very impressive 48.2 yard average, but he is below 40 this year so far.
To be honest, it feels like the entire 2018 season is in the balance in this one, and things can go sideways in a big hurry with the potent offense the Tigers have. If Purdue wins it finally regains some momentum and has a chance to claw back to 2-2 against a good, but beatable Boston College a week later. If Purdue loses… it can get bad. There is a very good chance Boston College will be in the top 25 next week, and a road game at Nebraska is never easy. That could have us at 0-5 going to Illinois before we even get a shot at Ohio State, Michigan State, or Wisconsin. Simply put, another loss makes a 3-9 (or worse) very possible, while a win revives bowl hopes.
Among the final 10 games I feel like we have a legitimate shot to win 7 of them (8 if you believe Michigan State isn’t that good). The EMU loss sucked, but all it really did is remove pretty much any margin for error to make another bowl game (think Rutgers last year). Purdue needs a big boost right now and I hope it comes out angry Saturday night. It is pretty much a must win if this year is to be anything more than building towards 2019. It is another big home game atmosphere, and with it not being a weeknight game like Northwestern I expect a good crowd. the playcalling also needs to be consistent. If Blough is in, let him take some shots downfield. He did it in 2016 for crying out loud.
That said, the Tigers are good. It is entirely possible they can blitz us 21-0 in the first 20 minutes just like we did on their home field last year. I really don’t see a close loss in this one. I think either Purdue responds and finds a way to win or the Tigers come in and drop half a hundred on us.