Let’s start with the good news: Hudson Card continues to look good throwing the football. I realize that he threw his first interception of the season last night but outside of 3 passes last night (the interception was a slight overthrow and the two slants that were well defended but dropped), Card was excellent throwing the ball. This is where the good news ends. Every phase of the game failed in one way or another last night and Purdue was damn lucky to only lose by 15. Let’s jump right in:
As of this writing, I am not certain who will be the starting running back for Purdue next week. Nobody in the rushing game played well but Tyrone Tracy Jr seemed to spark the offense a little bit in the 4th quarter following the third Devin Mockobee fumble. The offensive line looked pitiful in this game against Syracuse’s 5-3-3 approach and could not muster up anything on the ground. It is clear that the line needs Gus Hartwig back as well as Garrett Miller or Paul Piferi. I will put a fair share of the ineptitude on coaching too, however, but I’ll touch on that in a later section.
Like I said, Hudson Card looked good throwing the ball and was usually able to move around and outside the pocket to find a throw. Obviously, Card had issues holding onto the ball as he fumbled 4 times with 3 resulting in turnovers. On a closer look, however, the three fumbles in the first half were not as egregious as you’d expect. The first was on a scramble play in which Card was not going to pick up a first down on 4th and 1. That was already going to be a turnover. The second was on a blindside sack as he was starting his throwing motion and the third was on play action where the back knocked the ball out of his hand. Throw in the tip-drill interception and Card gets credited with 4 turnovers at incredibly inopportune times (all 4 were in Syracuse territory in the first half). I do think the passing attack was the lone aspect of the game that showed promise.
Remember back to Jeff Brohm’s first game against Louisville. That game was hard fought and Purdue lost 35-28. Future NFL MVP Lamar Jackson ran for 107 yards in that game on 21 carries. Fast forward to last night and Garrett Shrader ran for 195 yards on 21 carries (would’ve been 218 if not for sack yardage). The defense had zero answers for Shrader and consistently failed to contain him. Even on passes, the outside edge rushers would over-rush and Shrader would find a lane inside. Syracuse ran a simple read option last night and continually got Purdue to bite and bite hard. Plus, LeQuint Allen was able to rush for 80 yards and a touchdown by himself after the defense tried to lock in on Shrader. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s two Syracuse rushers with more rushing yards than the entire Purdue offense. To make matters even worse, Kydran Jenkins left the game after halftime and did not return.
The secondary was not great either. A lot of missed assignments plagued the Boilermakers again. They were lucky that Syracuse dropped a lot of passes. Somehow Cam Allen came away with his 12th career interception on a play in which he and the receiver seemed to both have the ball. Garrett Shrader did only complete half of his passes and threw no touchdowns, but that was more of a result of the ground game being so dominant.
Purdue had the ball 11 times in the game: 3 resulted in touchdowns, 4 in turnovers, and 3 in turnovers on downs. That left Jack Ansell with two punt opportunities to which he averaged 44 yards and allowed no returns. Caleb Krockover kicked off 4 times and 3 were returned for 52 yards. The lone blunder on special teams was a missed PAT from Ben Freehill on Purdue’s third touchdown. In the return game, TJ Sheffield returned a single punt for 6 yards off a bounce (which I hate) and got hit late out of bounds. Lastly, Purdue did not return a single kickoff.
I can no longer fathom how the Purdue offense can continuously run the ball on 3rd / 4th and 1 from the shotgun up the middle. Hudson Card has more than proved his ability to run so a designed outside rush or even a QB sneak from under center (crazy, right) could work. I understand the decision from Ryan Walters to go for it on the opening drive, though I don’t agree with it. As an added bonus, that play was supposed to be a pass but Deion Burks got caught up and Card tried to run. But even a broken play looked better than the same inside rush up the middle from shotgun when the offensive line can’t create a push. Not only that, but the defense comes crashing down to blow up the play when the line is funneling inside. You simply take too much time to get downhill if you’re in shotgun.
I think the defensive adjustments made at the half were good in spirit but players didn’t execute well. Purdue began to spy Garrett Shrader more but that very spy began to bite on the read option and Shrader was able to escape. It was undisciplined at best.
The fact that I need to have this section speaks to how bad the officials were last night. If a player is blocked into the quarterback low, it’s not roughing the passer. Same goes for a small shove to the chest. If a defender barely grazes a receiver in the end zone, it’s not pass interference. It’s also not pass interference if a ball sails 10 feet high and is uncatchable. At least 4 penalties were called on Purdue that should not have been at all. 3 of these 4 negated a 3rd down attempt and the other kept a 4th quarter drive alive, allowing 2 extra minutes to be chewed off the clock. I am in no way saying that Purdue lost because of the refs, but they surely didn’t need anyone to dig their hole any deeper.
Shrader 3-yard rush 7-0
Shrader 35-yard rush 14-0
Burks 2-yard pass from Card 14-7
Allen 2-yard rush 21-7
Card 5-yard rush 21-14
Shrader 1-yard rush 28-14
Tracy Jr 1-yard rush 28-20
Shrader 28-yard rush 35-20
Purdue will take on Wisconsin at home Friday night and try to end their 16-game losing streak to the Badgers.