It could have been worse today.
Less than 16 minutes into a 60 minute game Purdue was behind 28-0. Penn State had the ball four times and scored four times. The only reason it was not worse was because they decided not to go for two four times to make it 32-0. At the point where Pat Freiermuth crossed the goal line after receiving a pass from Sean Clifford the Nittany Lions had 225 yards of offense and Purdue had -4 yards and a single first down. It really looked like a bloodbath was on our hands, especially with Purdue players dropping like flies. At one point I am pretty sure I was third in line to play receiver, and I was standing in a Wal-Mart in Greenwood.
To make matters worse, after gaining a total of two yards in five plays following the Freiermuth score, Purdue had to punt back to the Nittany Lions trailing 28-0 and it looked like it was only going to get worse. That’s when Simeon Smiley intercepted Clifford and had a nice return. Jack Plummer then had a 43 yard pass to David Bell, setting up a later touchdown pass from Plummer to Amad Anderson Jr.
That only made it 28-7 with 7:18 left in the second, but it at least gave Purdue a chance, however small. From there, a shorthanded defense did its job. Even with Cam Allen gone following a targetting call and Anthony Watts leaving after an injury, the defense stiffened and held Penn State to nothing for six straight possessions.
I don’t think we can give too much credit to this. Purdue’s defense has been an issue all year, especially as games have worn on. Penn State was moving with impunity to this point gaining 242 yards before Smiley’s interception. On the following six drives it gained 119 yards, 58 of which came before a missed field goal before halftime. The defense at least gave the offense a chance at that point.
Unfortuantely, the offensive line was unable to reciprocate. If we’re going to praise the defense the offensive line deserves criticism. It was beyond awful. Grant Hermanns and Matt McCann on the edge at tackle would have been better served had they stood still and done nothing, or at least fallen down in advance of Penn State’s pass rush. Plummer was sacked 10 times and pressured an unknown number of times. Shaka Toney got him three times. Yetur Gross-Matos had two sacks and was at least breathing over Plummer’s shoulder when he had to take a leak at halftime. Plummer was either running for his life or chicking the ball so he could get rid of it all day. That would be why Purdue had 104 yards of total offense, 62 of which came on our single scoring drive.
Still, the defense kept giving the ball back, only for Plummer to scramble for three plays before punting it back. It really could have been a lot worse. I have to credit the defense, beleagured and injured as it was, for consistently giving the offense a chance. The line was just incapable of protecting Plummer at all.
This is why I am encouraged though. Purdue was grossly outmatched. It had three wide receivers available (Anderson, Bell, and Jackson Anthrop) that had caught a pass before today. The way the game started it looked like the Nittany Lions were going to hang 60+ like the last time they played us. Instead, Purdue fought. We didn’t win, but we made damn sure the final 45 minutes were not going to be easy.
That gives me some hope going forward. Yes, this team, right now, can make a bowl game. to do so, it has to beat Maryland next week. Sure, the Terrapins blew out Rutgers today, but Rutgers is awful even by Rutgers standards. Beat the Terps and we get to play an Iowa team that scored only three points today with a coach that thinks the missionary position is too wild and crazy. Then we would get Illinois, who is tragically still Illinois.
We can win the next three games even with the current players available.
Why not carry it further? After that, we have Nebraska and Northwestern who combined to struggle to 23 total points today against each other. Then we get Indiana, who is Indiana.
There are seven games left this season, and I absolutely believe Purdue is capable of winning six of them even in its current state. I believe that because of the fight it showed today.
If it wins five and makes a bowl it would be huge for 2020.