Purdue Report Card
Yes, I realize that the offense only put up 17 points but as a whole, it looked pretty average. Take away the 3rd quarter and this grade drops down a lot. But here’s the thing: in the third quarter, the offense looked incredible. They ran with conviction to the outside and Hudson Card was consistently hitting his marks. Back-to-back long touchdown drives is what the fans are clamoring about and now we likely want it more since we know it’s possible. Of course, the other three quarters were pretty bad, but outside of a few plays, the offense actaully didn’t look that bad. Tyrone Tracy and Devin Mockobee can make a pretty nice 1-2 punch and we all know the strength of the receiving core on short passes. Hudson Card did make a mistake on his second interception (the first should have been DPI) and he missed Deion Burks with a defender in his face on 4th and 14. Those are the biggest swing plays that didn’t involve a penalty or double-fumble and at the time of both plays, Purdue was down less than possessions.
Where the offense was crippled was the aforementioned penalties and double-fumble. Those two things derailed 3 different drives and the latter all but sealed the game. I understand that the issues occurred by offensive players but I’m not going to sit here and say the was abysmal overall because of it.
The defense was blown over by a slight breeze in the first half, allowing 3 straight touchdown drives, albeit coming off of short offensive possessions. Wisconsin was 8-8 to start on 3rd down and the game seemed over at the half. When rushing four, there was 0 pressure on Tanner Mordecai, who could just wait until a receiver was open or tuck and run. The secondary was fighting for their lives and they can only hold out so long. The other trait of the defense that was severely lacking was the ability to tackle as the Wisconsin runners just kept churning for extra yards and setting up 3rd and manageable. Nothing about the first half was good defensively.
Here’s where I’m a little bit conflicted: the defense improved in the second half. Wisconsin still drove down the field on their first 3 drives, but each time the defense held the Badgers to a field goal. Pair that with sustained drives by the offense resulting in touchdowns and Purdue was suddenly only down 10. I think the biggest difference was the play calling. The defense finally began to bring more defenders on blitzes, and it affected Wisconsin, forcing some throw aways and off-target passes. Add in an interception from Botros Alisandro which appeared to breathe life back into the team and the defense was decent in the second half. I’m not saying that giving up 4 scoring drives in the half is the ultimate goal (one started on the Purdue 26 after a deflating turnover), but we’ve gotta look with perspective.
Special Teams: D
Julio Macias looked fine in making his three kicks, all within 35 yards. Jack Ansell played very poorly in my opinion. A 20-yard punt is unacceptable, whether it was due to pressure or just a shank. Speaking of unacceptable, you’ve got to catch a punt on the fly inside the 15. Purdue couldn’t afford to start on the 3 yard-line the final drive of the half and 17 extra yards could’ve gone a long way. Also, when fielding a kick, if the ball is going to go into the endzone, just let it go. Yards are a premium Purdue cannot afford to lose but credit where it’s due, the kickoff return team let every kick go after failing to get to the 20 twice. Lastly, the kickoff coverage was a mess, allowing Wisconsin to get past the 30 on multiple occasions plus a late hit out of bounds. Gotta clean it up.
I saw some positives and negatives in the coaching staff from this game. I thought Graham Harrell called a very nice game save a few plays: I wasn’t a fan of the Downing rush on 2nd and 10 that lost 4 yards and I thought some rushes were into a stacked box. That is just me knit picking though. I also really liked the decision to split the usage of Tracy and Mockobee. On defense, I think the major adjustments weren’t made until after halftime when Purdue started bringing pressure. That was clearly helping, and I cannot recall the coaching staff dialing up the pressure in the first half. So far, I think we’re slightly above average but what brings the grade back down is something that coaches will ultimately get charged with: on the field decision making. Coaches are there to teach these young men to make the correct decisions to complement their abilities and help the team win. Mental mistakes usually go on coaching, and I think Purdue had too many in this game as I mention the punt / kickoff returns above but also the decision not to spike the ball with 4 seconds left in the first half and the decision to stand still when after catching a wobbler when the whistle didn’t blow. Unfortunately, Purdue needs to be mistake free to beat Wisconsin and that was not the case Friday.
Ok, I will say it: I do not like Friday night games. I luckily worked from home Friday, but I still felt pressed for time getting to this game. Friday nights should be reserved for high school football, but I know the business overlords will not be happy unless every drop of media slots is squeezed out of college sports. So, I’ll just be in the corner grumbling to myself about scheduling if you need me. Please don’t schedule any West Coast teams to play on Friday East of the Mississippi and vice versa.
I somehow both feel better and worse after this game than last week. I think it’s because we have an idea of what this team is, and we should be able to at least levy our expectations moving forward. The problem is that there was an entire 15-minute stretch where Purdue looked like it was making a comeback. We Purdue fans often take a glimmer of hope and stretch it until it looks like taffy, only to be heartbroken again. Will we at Hammer and Rails learn from our mistakes? Maybe we’ll have to be graded on the next report card. For now, Purdue will look ahead to Homecoming against Illinois and try to keep the Cannon.