Sunday, September 2, 2012

Purdue Easily Tops Eastern Kentucky - I Learn Very Little

Get ready for a post-game recap unlike any other!  Erik already explained our plans for our football previews, but our game recaps may vary a lot this year depending on if one of us actually got to attend in person. 

Yours truly was lucky enough to "brave the weather" and head to West Lafayette for the first game of the season, with my three-year-old daughter in tow.  In that spirit, my recap will involve not only my thoughts about the game, but also my daughter's opinion of what she saw.  I think her analysis may actually be better than mine, so I'm working to get her some press credentials and an internship at the Indy Star.  They may actually have enough in their coffers to pay a toddler to be a beat reporter for the team up north that they so often overlook.

Looking back at our preview, it's clear that I was the only one thinking the weather would make this game a miserable, sloppy affair, but it turned out to just be a muggy overcast day, allowing for some actual offensive production.  The ponchos stayed in the bag, and my prediction of a relatively (for an FCS opponent) low-scoring result for the Boilermakers was very, very inaccurate.  Erik's prediction was also way off (seriously, you thought we'd win by only 1 point?), so we both owe our bookie a little money, I mean expensive New York beer.

Celebrating gold medalist David Boudia on the Jumbotron
Overall, the Boilers performed better than we thought, on both sides of the ball.  That's the good news.  The bad news - I really didn't learn as much about the team as I hoped, due partly to the inferior level of the opponent.  No knock on Eastern Kentucky (and thanks for reading Colonels!), but we know they can play better, and without their starting quarterback and center, they weren't the FCS titan we stressed about.

Let's break down our analysis and cover some subject areas we hope to make a weekly theme:

With a 48-6 win, usually I'd be pretty excited, and it was certainly a fun game to watch at times.  With a halftime score of 34-6, the second half seemed a little dull, but that can happen when it's hot and muggy, you're hungry, and you have to ask your daughter every 10 minutes if she needs to use the bathroom.

My daughter's thoughts: "Can I have some goldfish?"

The Offense:
Since projected starting quarterback Caleb Terbush was suspended (which was only announced immediately prior to the game, much to my surprise), we got to see a lot of Robert Marve.  And what we saw was pretty good.  Marve started the game with a drive into Eastern Kentucky territory before throwing a pretty horrible interception across the middle.  The groans from my section of the stadium were quite loud, but Marve redeemed himself by leading the team to four first half touchdowns.  Overall, he was 30 for 38, with 295 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Marve did have a bone-headed, "whoops, the ball slipped out of my butterfingers" fumble in the second half, but with a huge lead, I laughed as much as I cried.  It seemed like a freak occurrence more than a systemic problem.  Overall, not too shabby at all for the super-super-senior, considering he split some time with Rob Henry. 

While it was great to see Henry back on the playing field (and I don't think I could like and respect a member of the football team more than him), his results were mixed.  He also threw a terrible interception, lost a fumble (that was due more to a helmet-on-ball hit during a run, hard to fault him), but he went 7 for 9 for 77 yards, a touchdown, and gained 19 yards rushing.  Henry's first few possessions were wildcat/read-option plays, which actually worked very well, but I was glad to see him get the opportunity to pass later on in the second half (after the second quarter interception he threw). Twelve different players caught passes, so it was nice to see the blowout win used to check out some of our depth.

The passing plays were pretty conservative for both quarterbacks, with lots of screens and short routes.  The longest completion (not including yards after the catch) couldn't have been more than 12 or 15 yards. It allowed the Boilers to use their advantages in speed and size to create nice lanes to run after the reception.  The same applied to the running game.

Eight different Purdue players, not including quarterbacks, got carries, and the team rushed for 175 total yards.  Akeem Shavers got the most carries (11) including a 34-yard scamper, and he and Mostert both looked good.  Hopefully their performance wasn't just due to the quality of the opponent.  Either way, there's some nice speed and athleticism coming out of the backfield this year for Purdue.

The team nearly set a record with 33 first downs in the game, partly due to all the short yardage passes, but could have easily been more if they hadn't turned the ball over five times. An interception and a fumble by each quarterback were the bulk, along with a punt return fumble that you can read about down the page.

My daughter's thoughts: "1-2-3-4, first down, yay!"

The Defense:
I thought the defense was stout on Saturday, but the FCS caveat definitely should be recognized, especially since Eastern Kentucky was playing its second-string quarterback.  That made their pass game pretty limited, and they only made one long pass I can remember.  The Boilers forced two sacks, despite not having to add much pressure. 

I was more impressed with how the defense stopped the Colonels' running attack, since they featured Matt Denham, one of the best rushers in the FCS, who averaged 130 yards per game.  He was held to 47 yards on 12 carries, and only broke away for one long (30 yard) gain.  Let's hope the D can be that effective next week against Notre Dame.

Really, other than one bad series that gave up the lone EKU touchdown, the defense was solidly in control, even making up for the momentum shifts coming from Purdue's five turnovers.

My daughter's thoughts: "Those guys are bigger than you, daddy."

Special Teams:
Two kickoffs out of bounds, one blocked extra point, one blocked punt, one fumbled punt return.  If Purdue does this against Notre Dame, we probably lose by 30 points.  Hopefully the guys got this out of their system with first game jitters.  I don't have a lot of faith in that though, since this seems to be a constant problem.

Kudos to Kawann Short though, who blocked a field goal and extra point!  Guy's a beast!

My daughter's thoughts: "He kicked it sooo hard!"

Best coaching decision: The biggest thing I can applaud Coach Hope for is benching Terbush for whatever team policy he broke.  That's not always the easiest decision to make, but I hope it sets a great tone for the team this year that you do things the right way.  Benching your starting quarterback and team captain is gutsy, especially when he "really outperformed both the other quarterbacks, hands down, throughout the course of camp."  Of course, it helps when you have three quarterbacks with significant experience.  Here's hoping that Marve gets the start against Notre Dame. He deserves it, and Terbush should have to work his way back up the depth chart for being a bonehead.

Worst coaching decision: Some people are ranting about Marve playing into the fourth quarter, which doesn't bother me since he needed the practice and Henry's still getting back to full speed.  Others lament the directional kick-offs that didn't go very well with a freshman kicker, but now was the time to practice in a low-risk environment.  Because the game was so lopsided, Hope wasn't put into a situation where he needed to make a risky decision that didn't pan out (like two onside kicks in the first half, the last time we saw the team in action).

My daughter's thoughts: "Can we go meet the cheerleaders now?"

Worst Call by a Zebra:
You know it's a good game when you leave having not once thought about the officiating.  Other than kicking it out-of-bounds, the Boilers didn't have a single penalty called against them until the fourth quarter.  This is a huge improvement and hopefully a result of Hope bringing in real referees to practice.

My daughter's thoughts: "I like zebras!"

Biggest Missed Opportunity:
I'm going off the field for this one.  The biggest missed opportunity was all the empty seats at Ross-Ade.  I know it's the first game of the season, against an FCS team, and the weather was forecasting to be pretty ugly, but the game was played without a drop of rain to a stadium that was at half capacity.  I'm not trying to be self-righteous, since I don't make it to the majority of home games, but I really expected more people to show up since tickets were FREE for a lot of people.  Season ticket holders had the chance to get two free seats to the game (which I happily took advantage of), which should have filled the North end zone. Even though that promotion hurts revenue for the athletics department, at least free tickets could put butts in seats.  I wonder what it would have looked like without the freebies.

My daughter's thoughts: "He dropped the ball."

Most Important Play:
After Marve's interception on the first series, on our next possession, the veteran led us down the field for a touchdown.  That was a much needed redemption series, and fortunately it was mostly all uphill from there.  While that series was the most important in getting the tone of the game back on a positive note, the most important play immediately followed.  On the second play of EKU's possession, Landon Feichter grabbed a pick six.  With a 13 point lead, it really secured the remaining 53 minutes.

My daughter's thoughts: "Tuckdown!"

The "My sister could have executed that play better" Award:
In the second half, redshirt freshman Frankie Williams was back to return a punt.  The kick was short, and as he lunged forward to try to get to it before it bounced, he touched the ball, never gained possession, and a Colonel jumped on it for the fumble recovery in Purdue territory. I feel for the kid, who was hoping to make a play in his first chance, but he didn't make the smart decision.  Fortunately the defense stepped up in a big way and forced a fumble to keep EKU from scoring.

And my sister could have easily executed that play better - because she would have run away from the football, screaming and flailing her arms, and therefore not have fumbled the catch.  So, I'd still rather have Williams back there, most of the time - for the upside.  My sister can be the fourth option on the depth chart though.

My daughter's thoughts: "Why is everyone mad?"

In Conclusion:
Even with our flaws, a win is a win, and a huge win should always be reason for celebration. I definitely think we have a chance to upset Notre Dame next week, although only a slight chance given the whooping they put on Navy.  While the game still leaves me with a lot of the same preseason unanswered questions (How will the quarterback situation work? Can we hold onto the ball? (OK, that's a "no" right now) Will we be able to stop good opponents?), I was impressed with the majority of what I saw, and I'm excited to see what happens this year.

My daughter's thoughts: "My favorite part was the cheerleaders, daddy." Agreed.

On a more serious note, we highlighted the Colonels Kevin Hamlin in our game preview, both recognizing his skills as a formidable defender and crazy long hair.  Thanks to a commenter, we learned the hair growth is for Locks of Love to honor his mother, a breast cancer survivor.  That is awesome.  We salute you, Mr. Hamlin, and we hope you keep growing your hair out until it's long enough to jump rope.


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