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Purdue Football: Everything But The Tackle

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Purdue’s defense played well enough to win but tackling was an issue. Nebraska will try the same approach.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Wisconsin at Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Purdue’s defense played well enough to win against Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a tough offense to hold up against when they are free to play at their pace and pound the ball at your defense while only passing when they want to pass. Purdue’s offense allowed that to happen, not their defense.

At the same time, tackling was an issue for the Boilermakers. On numerous occasions the defense was in the perfect position to make a play, but failed to finish with a tackle. The defensive coordinator can only put guys in the right spot, if they don’t finish the deal, it’s on the players.

This 19 yard run by Braelon Allen in the first quarter is a prime example of Purdue’s tackling issues. This should be a tackle for loss, instead it set up an eventual Badger touchdown. Purdue did everything right on this play except get the running back on the ground.

Unfortunately, that’s the object of the game when you’re on defense.

Pre Snap

Wisconsin

The Badgers are lined up in their traditional “we’re running, try and stop us” set. You’ve got 5 offensive linemen and 2 tight ends lined up inside the run box. They’ve got 2 wide receivers, but they’re job is to pull 3 guys out of the box (2 DBs, and a Safety) and block.

Purdue

The Boilermakers counter with 7 in the box. They’ve got a defensive tackle, a nose guard, a stand up defensive end, and 3 linebackers in the box. 2 corners are in man coverage, with 2 safeties in support.

My only gripe regarding the defense Saturday was their conservative deployment of the safety. I would like to see an 8th player in the box with 1 deep safety, or even 9 in the box with no safety (cover 0) to make Mertz throw the ball. When Wisconsin has a hat for every defender in the box, they’re happy.

Run Blitz

Wisconsin

This is their “wall of corn fed beef” blocking scheme. They put a helmet on a helmet, use the tight end to kick out the back side defense end and let the running back pick his crease.

Purdue

Great play call. They blitz middle linebacker Kieren Douglas into the A gap, and he gets skinny and makes it into the backfield unimpeded. He’s got the running back dead to rights. At best, this is tackle for loss. At worst, he slows the running back down enough to blow up the play and let his reinforcements arrive.

No Hitter

Wisconsin

Allen embarrasses Douglas with a quick cut to the left without breaking stride. He’s now into the “pick your crease” portion of the Wisconsin offense, and he’s found a nice lane on the left. Their left tackle has the end sealed and the tight end has kicked out the linebacker.

Purdue

Douglas was in the perfect position to make a play, but he over ran the tackle and didn’t even slow down the Wisconsin back. This play should have been blown up behind the line, instead Allen didn’t have to break stride to send Purdue’s middle linebacker flying by and out of the play. Even with the missed opportunity for a big play, Purdue’s defense isn’t in bad shape. Linebacker O.C. Brothers (purple circle) has a blocker on the inside, and the running back cutting outside. He’s free to make the tackle.

Strike 2

Wisconsin

Allen shakes off Brothers (trailing purple circle) without slowing down. This should be a run for no gain, instead, Allen has made two Boilermakers look silly, and is heading towards the second level. This is how Wisconsin wins football games.

Purdue

Two Purdue linebackers were in position to stop this run either behind the line or at the line. Neither managed to slow Allen down, much less tackle him, but the Boilermakers are still in decent position because they’ve got linebacker Jalen Graham (purple circle heading towards the ball) playing safety. Looks like he’s going to keep this from being a big play.

Strike 3

Wisconsin

Allen hits him with a little stop/start move and Graham ends up crawling on the ground as Allen steps over his fallen carcass (Notice Brothers on the ground behind the play, trying to recover from getting shook. Graham isn’t alone in his shame.).

Purdue

3 linebackers have attempted to tackle Allen on this play. Graham (trailing purple circle) is the only one who managed to slow him down (Allen had to step over him). The Boilermakers still have Dedrick Mackey in position to limit the damage.

Strike....4?

Wisconsin

Still trucking. Allen is holding Mackey off with a stiff arm and trying to scoot down the sideline.

Purdue

Mackey makes contact with Allen at the 13 yard line. Instead of fighting through the stiff arm and cutting Allen down at the legs, he decides to hand fight with him while trying to strip the ball. This is code for “don’t want to really make the tackle but want to show some effort”. I hate when defensive backs do this. Get the man on the ground Mackey, you’ve been at Purdue since the Carter administration, you should know better.

Leave it to the Nose Tackle

Wisconsin

Allen brushes Mackey’s “tackle” attempt away like a gnat, but he gets greedy and either loses track of his height or the distance from the goal line. He almost ends a great run with a fumble (yellow circle) through the end zone because he inexplicably tries to stretch the ball over the goal line from 4 yards out and throws it out of bounds.

Purdue

Full credit to Lawrence Johnson, the 6’3”, 310 nose guard managed to chase this down from behind by sheer hustle. Most nose guards stand next to the center and discuss dinner plans once the running back hits the second level. Johnson is hustling, takes a good angle, and manages to finally force Allen to the ground. He almost forces the turnover. NFL scouts notice this sort of thing. Great job by Johnson on an otherwise terrible play.

Overall

Purdue ran the perfect defense to stop this play, but the linebackers went 0-3 in relatively unimpeded tackle opportunities. Mackey had no interest in making a tackle that could have limited the damage. Johnson’s hustle is the only thing that stops Allen from trucking Jabari Brown at the goal line and putting the ball in the end zone.

Nebraska’s offense isn’t great but quarterback Adrian Martinez and running back Rahmir Johnson can do some things in the open field. Freshman running back Jaquez Yant is a beast at 6’2”, 225 and is averaging 7.2 yards a carry. He could be a problem as well. They’re going to force Purdue’s defense to make tackles in space, and the Boilermakers have to do a better job than they did against Wisconsin, otherwise the Huskers will end up with 2, 100 yard rushers, just like the Badgers, and this game ends in a Purdue loss.