Purdue Report Card
Far and away, this is the best that the offense has looked this season. 6 scoring drives, 5 touchdowns, 5 different players scoring touchdowns, over 400 total yards of offense, and better than 60% on third down. Purdue legitimately has 4 or 5 guys who can contribute to the ground game (I’m counting Card and Burks) and Hudson Card has shown why we were so excited to have him come via the portal. As for the receivers / tight ends, Deion Burks again proved to be the top target but there a contributions from several different guys. It was so good to see Garrett Miller get back in the endzone after battling injuries and Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen is just a clutch pass catcher that can be relied upon. The one group that I think has shown the most improvement though is the offensive line. Hudson Card is having time to throw now and even with his mobility, he hasn’t needed to escape as much as previous games. Also, the running game speaks for itself as Purdue rushed for over 200 yards at nearly a 5 yard/ rush clip if you adjust for sack yardage. Whether it be the return of Gus Hartwig or just the group finally beginning to gel, it’s a great trend in the right direction.
Now, I have to discuss a few problems that were there Thursday and disallowed an A+ grade. Devin Mockobee has now fumbled 6 times this year through 5 games after only fumbling once in 13 games last season. Only 2 of the fumbles have been lost but this one Saturday was when it was still a 6-3 game and Purdue was inside the Illinois 30. The bright side is that Mockobee continued to play and played well alongside Dylan Downing and Tyrone Tracy Jr, but the fumbles, have got to stop. The only other gripe I have is that the offense took a bit of time to get going again. The first 3 drives resulted in 0 points (though the 3rd drive was the fumble at the 20). On the first drive, Purdue moved pretty well but a false start on 4th and 1 forced a punt. Hindsight is 20-20 but it had us in the stands reminded of the previous 3 home games at the time. Of course, the offense would take off at the end of the first half it didn’t really stop, so I am pleased.
The defense looked really good in this one and the final score doesn’t even do it justice. The defense allowed 6 second half points to Illinois and allowed just 33 yards on the first four drives of the second half, all resulting in punts. This allowed the lead to balloon from 3 to 24 and just put the game away. The door was totally slammed on the Illini and Purdue just flexed it’s muscles. Of course, the defense also played in the first half and it scored the first touchdown of the game off of a great CB blitz by Markevious Brown that resulted in a fumble into the endzone that Malik Langham jumped on. The play call came at the perfect time and Brown absolutely raced down to make the play. All told, Purdue looked like the better defense and I think this was the best game of Yanni Karlaftis’ career as he had a sack on 3rd down and a great tackle to prevent a first down on 4th down. His stats don’t really show it, but I thought Nic Scourton also had a really nice game, setting up a sack or two as well as the aforementioned Karlaftis stop. Purdue finished with 5 total sacks and 7 tackles for loss to put a stamp on an impressive performance. And I would be remiss if I don’t mention that Purdue held Illinois to 2-13 on third down while not allowing them to convert their first 10 attempts. Excellent job to set up and execute on 3rd down.
Illinois’ two touchdown drives happened after a defender fell down on a long pass to get inside the 10 and another in garbage time (the touchdown should’ve been called OPI on 4th and 10 too). There were a few times that Illinois couldn’t hit an open receiver that would’ve been a long game or touchdown, but we’re not in the business of what ifs right now.
Special Teams: C-
I think the special teams were slightly below average in this game. A blocked extra point and tipped punt are the negatives but outside of that punt, Jack Ansell averaged 44 yards per punt (2 inside the 20) and Julio Macias made all 5 other extra points and a 40-yard field goal.
Illinois averaged less than 20 yards per kickoff return while Tyrone Tracy Jr took Purdue’s lone return 25 yards. TJ Sheffield had 3 returns go for 14 total yards but caught the punts he was supposed to and didn’t let anything get downed inside the 5. For Illinois, they had only 1 punt return for 10 yards. Overall, a fair day for special teams with a few mistakes.
I think it’s safe to say that Ryan Walters calling the defense and Kevin Kane / Graham Harrell in the box worked. Kevin Kane was in the box with Walters on the sideline during their time at Illinois and that certainly paid off, so I think this should be the new norm. Same goes for Harrell who may have a better vantage point from up in the box. I thought the game was called quite nicely on both sides except for the waning moments of the first half. I didn’t have a problem with Purdue’s decision to pass on 3rd down in what led to the field goal. Yes, a run could have bled the clock more but if a run was called and it went nowhere, then we sit here and judge the coaching staff for not passing. It is what it is but what I didn’t like was the prevent defense on Illinois’ ensuing drive that led to their field goal as time expired. I think it’s safe to say that most people hate prevent defense outside of Hail Mary scenarios and I fall into that group. Allowing 34 yards off of two rushes because your defense is so far back is not ideal, especially considering it was a 6-point game at that time. The last thing I will say is that Ryan Walters is really connecting with his team and it shows. Let’s face it, this was a must win for Purdue and they went into halftime up 3 and thinking a dogfight was brewing. Then they fired off and crushed it in the second half. Whatever Ryan Walters and his staff do at halftime to adjust and pump the team up, it works and that’s a great trait to have in a coach. Just gotta do that to start the 1st half too.
Folks, hate it or love it (and most of you seem to hate it), games on Peacock are here to stay. This is the deal the Big Ten made with the media companies but also remember, this means Purdue shouldn’t be playing on ESPN News anymore. I thought the broadcast was pretty good actually, although I think the announcers need to be upgraded. At the end of the day, if you want to watch every Purdue game, it’s worth the extra few bucks a month as we already are transitioning to a streaming world. And, if you’re reading this fine article, you’re savvy enough to find someone who already pays for Peacock that can share that password (we promise that here at Hammer and Rails, we definitely do not condone illegal things but legal and shady is your discretion).
What a game to get Ryan Walters his first conference win and first win in Ross Ade. The crowd was great for Homecoming. The Tiller Tunnel was dedicated on the anniversary of his passing and his wife was able to lead Shout (the one time I’m ok with Shout). The players and coaches came out and fired away, leading to the best win on the year. Now, the Boilermakers get to go into Iowa City and take on the Nepotisms, er, Hawkeyes and their anemic offense / brilliant defense. We certainly will hope for a repeat performance of this week. Onto Iowa.