Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Football Recap: Michigan State 14 - Purdue 0 - Points, points, my kingdom for some points!

Yet another Boiler bye week gave me ample time to procrastinate this post.  I should have been more excited since Purdue didn't lose by 35 points, but getting shutout doesn't make me want to talk about the moral victories I saw last weekend.  Losing still stinks, especially when half the team looked prepared for a football game.

While Purdue's defense held Michigan State to only seven points, and those came with under nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Boiler offense was hapless and laughable, giving up infinitesimally more points than it scored.  So let's get to my notes from the game, since I'm sure your just dying to relive it.

Early on, it seemed like the Purdue offense had the perfect game plan to beat the Spartans.  The power running game behind Brandon Cottom was moving the ball nicely. Cottom had more carries (5) on the first series than he had been given all season prior (3)!  Danny Etling, in his second start, didn't look horrible on the first series, and the Boilers crossed midfield.  But as became the trend for the day, the offense could frequently get into MSU territory but could never convert that into points.  It also didn't help that Cottom got hurt on the first play of the second half.

And then there were Etling's rookie mistakes.  On the second series, the Boilers actually started in Spartan territory thanks to a great three-and-out by the defense and a horrible MSU punt.  On fourth-and-one, Coach Hazell went for it, and Etling gained the necessary yardage.  Yet on the very next play, Etling faded back to pass, I sensed trouble, and he horribly overthrew his receiver resulting in an interception in the endzone.  It wasn't even close, and it was incredibly deflating.  For the remainder of the game, Etling made some poor over- and underthrows, had a very costly fumbled snap on a critical third down, and the offensive looked awful in the fourth quarter with the game still winnable, but the bigger frustration was with the five guys in front of him.

Can we please get an offensive line worthy of a Big Ten team?  Etling was scrambling most of the day, got sacked five times, with the first being the main turning point in the game.  On Purdue's third offensive series, following the costly end zone interception, they had driven once again into MSU territory.  On third and six the Spartans decided to hang back and send in three initial rushers, with a fourth coming in a bit delayed.  The five Boilers on the offensive line couldn't contain the three rushers, letting Max Bullough come up behind Etling completely untouched.  The sack caused a fumble that bounced into the arms of another Spartan who ran 45 yards for the easy touchdown.

Five guys to block three rushers, and you let a guy in untouched on the quarterbacks blind side?!  Two guys blocking two Spartans, and three guys standing around, blowing assignments, and watching the grass grow.  I wish I hadn't deleted my recording of the game, so I could call those guys out by name for not just sucking at their job but also jeopardizing Etling's health in the process.

Two painful looks at the sack and fumble
Thinking about the offensive line is so frustrating, that I want to reflect on some good things now.  The defense was fantastic, relatively speaking.  We knew the MSU offense wasn't very good, but it was simply nice to see them hold their own, bend and not break, and only give up big drives in the fourth quarter (which made sense since the offense had already lost interest in the game).  Giving up 182 rushing yards isn't great, but it was better than the Wisconsin and Nebraska games by far, and Michigan State was fairly one dimensional pounding it on the ground.

Cody Webster was also a bright spot, having a great day punting (as I mentioned he'd need to do), averaging 45 yards per punt on six kicks, and pinning MSU behind their twenty yard line four times.  It's nice to see Webster bounce back after a rough week and reclaim his rightful MVP throne.  The other type of kicking was considerably less impressive.

With the deficit being only seven points most of the game, Purdue needed any points it could muster.  Paul Griggs missed both his field goal attempts, the most disappointing being a try from 41 yards to start the second half.  Purdue could have gained all the momentum for the second half if Griggs hit that one, but instead, it just seemed to continue the Boilers' futile run.  But his 51-yard miss, while it also could have given the team a ton of momentum heading into halftime, was on the coaching staff.

Purdue got the ball with 45 seconds to go in the half and all three timeouts, starting in MSU territory thanks to a huge 40-yard punt return by Frankie Williams.  Thanks to a couple stupid Spartan penalties, including a pass interference call when the Boilers went for it on fourth down, Purdue was able to get in field goal range, but Hazell used his timeouts thoughtlessly, leading to such a long field goal attempt.  Here's the progression:

  • A run on first down for only three yards.  Did Hazell stop the clock by using a timeout (he had three)?  No, even though his offensive coordinator called a running play to start the drive when so little time was left on the clock.  This wasted at least 17 seconds off the clock, when they had all three timeouts to use.  It made no sense and had me screaming at the television.
  • On second down, the Boilers smartly decided to throw...for a loss of six yards.  Great play calling Shoop!  It seemed as if the coaches were doing everything in their power to NOT score before halftime.  At least after this play Hazell called timeout to stop the clock.  Two timeouts remained.
  • Michigan State got called offsides, giving Purdue five yards they desperately needed back, but it brought up third and eight.  This was actually (I think) the first penalty of the game!
  • On third down Etling had to scramble and got sacked for a small loss.  The sack meant Purdue had to burn timeout number two with thirteen seconds left.
  • Going for it on fourth down was the right move, and though the pass was incomplete, the Boilers got bailed out by a pass interference call.  That should have stopped the clock long enough for the offense to line up and execute the next play, with nine seconds to go.  The pass that was interfered with was just past the first down marker, so you'd think Shoop would have the next play already in mind, since they were starting from the same are of the field, but instead Purdue burns it's last timeout.
  • After the timeout, Purdue doesn't even attempt another play and just tries the long field goal into the wind, which all Boiler fans knew would be missed.
There are nine full seconds to go, and you don't run another play?!  Now, I understand that decision to a point: with a horrible offensive line, you can't risk an Etling sack with no timeouts remaining, and miss the opportunity to at least try to put points on the board.  And the offense hadn't done anything "right" that entire drive yet, since all positive yardage had been gifted by MSU.

But if you hadn't inanely wasted your final timeout during a dead ball, you would have had time to run a play with nine seconds remaining, and if it did fall apart or Etling was sacked, you still would have had a timeout to save the day.  But instead Hazell wasted his final timeout to have a pow-wow with the team and decide, "Screw it, just go boot it."  Someone tell me how that wasn't moronic.  What made matters worse was that Griggs's kick was straight and just lacked a little distance.  Five more yards from running that last play and then calling timeout could have easily resulted in three points for the Boilers.

You scream at me?! No! That's how I scream at you!
I could rant about that decision-making all day, but it's stuff like that that makes me question Hazell's fit as coach when you couple it with the poor preparation and motivation this team has shown all season.  Nothing seems to be working under this current regime, and I don't know what to think of Shoop, but I wasn't a fan of the hire in the first place after suffering through his team as offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears.

But back to the players on the field: would the team have put up more points with Rob Henry under center (or more likely, a few yards behind center)?  That's certainly debatable, but I doubt it, and at this point it doesn't matter.  As a fan base, we have to take these growing pains while our rookie quarterback develops.

Seen all too often
Nothing good is likely to happen this year (no, we aren't going to beat Ohio State, get your head out of the clouds), so all I'd like to see is this team continue to play hard and show signs of improvement, how ever meager.  We definitely saw that last weekend, and let's hope it's not another three games of suck in between like it was after the Notre Dame game.

On a lighter note, as I warned you about in my preview, it was sure fun playing "Find the Fou" on every MSU offensive play.  He's kind of hard to miss.

Did you spot him?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Football Preview: Purdue at Michigan State - October 19 - Noon - BTN

After a week on the road for work, I'm getting this preview in just under the wire.  So let's make it short and sweet.  When I got home from New York, my wife said, "Why do you need to write a game preview anyway?  Can't you just say: 'The team sucks.  It's going to be the same as last week.  It's going to blow.'"

My wife has never spoken truer words.  What would lead any logical Purdue fan to think this game is going to be anything but yet another blowout?

Here's hoping MSU plays as badly as this Spartan looks
Why Purdue wins
Because Hell freezes over, pigs fly, and the Purdue offense becomes possessed by the spirits of the 2005 USC Trojans (I know, they aren't dead, just play along).  The Boilers love to make me look stupid, but I'm pretty sure I would relish them making me look like an idiot this afternoon, but it ain't happening.

Why Michigan State wins 
Because they are a vastly superior team, more disciplined, better coached, more talented.  Also, did  I mention that Purdue is horrible?

Player we're most concerned about since their stock photo may break our TV
My apathy with this Boilermaker team makes it hard to have any vitriol towards their opponents.  Other than the deformed Spartan pictured above, I couldn't find anything too shocking, but check out Taybor Pepper.

Does the team's math homework for them
While his name is also hilarious, have you ever seen such a scrawny looking player who wasn't a kicker?  Pepper is the long snapper, and apparently a pretty good one, but he looks like he's playing the wrong position or wrong sport.

On the other hand, I have to show major love to starting right tackle Fou Fonoti (not to be confused with Lou Malnati).  Don't you just want to have a beer and some cheesesticks with this guy?

The happiest guy on the team
Picks of the week
The Spartans are favored by 27.5.  It's hard to get excited for Purdue football, but Erik and I are both still big fans of our NFL teams.  This week, we'll be betting the number of wins in the last decade by our favorite team.

Erik's Bet (50)
Erik's Cleveland Browns have been even more disappointing than Purdue over the last decade, only winning 50 games.  Erik thinks the Boilers will get blown out but cover the spread by mustering more than twice as many points as last week.  Maybe he's counting on the defense scoring some of those points.

Michigan State 41 - Purdue 17
Kirk's Bet (84)
I finally picked correctly last week, but there's no joy in Mudville because all that meant was the Boilers really sucked against Nebraska.  I'll pick for an equal amount of suck this week and bet the 84 games that the Chicago Bears have won since the 2004 season.

Michigan State 38 - Purdue 10

Three Final Things
1.  As Erik mentioned, our MVP, Cody Webster, had a bad game last week.  I'll be looking to see a vastly improved performance, and I'm expecting to have the opportunity for a lot of kicks with the futile Purdue offense.  At least there's someone interesting to watch other than Etling.

2.  After destroying Purdue today, the Spartans will probably be ranked, so it's nice we can help them out with that.  We're such a giving team, shucks.

3. Boiler Up!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Football Recap: Nebraska 44 - Purdue 7 - The fifth 25+ point home loss in the last 375 days

Another home game.  Another blow out.  I mentioned in the preview that Nebraska was 83 points better than Purdue, but I failed to take into account any home/road bias.  If these two teams would have played in Lincoln, 83 points might not have been far off. 

This picture pretty much sums up the season so far

Not much to like in this one.  Here's what I didn't like:
  • The Boilers got blown out even though Nebraska lost two of their best players for most of the game.  Spencer Long, one of the best offensive linemen in the nation, got hurt on the Huskers' first drive and Nebraska's top player in the secondary, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, got kicked out of the game for a questionable targeting (technically it was targeting, but if it happened to a Purdue player, I'd be furious) in the 2nd quarter.  Nebraska actually scored a touchdown two plays after Jean-Baptiste was thrown out.  Fumble, long TD run, game over.
  • Excessive BTN camera zoom.  Do we have to zoom in 80x on the ball while it's in the air?  Why can't I see who the quarterback is throwing to until it actually gets to the receiver?  There's no excuse.  Zoom should not be touched until the ball is in someone's hands other than the quarterback's.  I suppose we should get used to it - we've been spoiled by 3 straight national tv games...I highly doubt anyone's clamoring to have us on national tv again.
  • Cody Webster's Ray Guy Award hopes took a HUGE hit as he averaged 38 yards and only put one punt inside the 20.  While watching the game, I jotted down that I needed to mention how horrible his punts were in the 1st quarter.  By the time the 3rd quarter was over, I crossed out "1st quarter" and just put "game".  Imagine what his average would have been if he didn't kick a meaningless 58-yarder in the 4th quarter?
  • Rob Henry's miserable fake-punt pass.  While he WAS getting pressured, the guy was wide open.  I mean, he could have thrown a Brandon Weeden signature pass and still would have completed it.  It was really tough to critique Etling after seeing that one.
  • The Boilers just gave up a touchdown to go down 28-0 .  The kickoff goes through the endzone.  The next play?  Delay of game.  ABSOLUTELY INEXCUSABLE.  How is the play not already called before the offense even gets onto the field?  That makes me think it was Etling's fault.  Regardless, I'm tired of this team doing really stupid things. 
  • The 17-yard sack for a safety.  While the refs blew this one since Etling's forward progress was stopped at the 3 even before the knee went down, I'm pretty sure they decided to teach young Danny a lesson by calling it a safety.  Did anyone else have the complacent feeling of "Well, that shouldn't have been a safety, but they sure deserved it?"  I did.
  • The next drive ended up at 4th and 31.  Cody Webster's 33-yard punt reached the first down by 2 yards.  It was at this point the fast-forward button became my best friend.
  • While fast-forwarding, I saw Danny Etling complete 1 of 12 passes prior to his touchdown pass.  Then I remembered that this is the 4th quarter in a blowout.  This had to be against second-teamers.  It's going to be a LONG last 6 weeks.
  • Speaking of BTN, they went to commercial after Nebraska's last touchdown.  There were 50 seconds left in the game and the score was 44-0.  It was already 3:20, so surely all their required commercials had been shown.  I sure hope they got paid about $2 for those ads, because there couldn't have been more than 100 people watching at that point.
None of the above items even came close to individually causing the blowout, but they sure added up to a miserable viewing experience.   Is it basketball season yet?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Football Preview: Nebraska vs. Purdue - October 12 - Noon - BTN

Nebraska comes to town on Saturday for their first ever conference game against a team in the state of Indiana.  While this is the third year the Cornhuskers have been members of the Big Ten, the football team has somehow avoided both juggernauts from the Hoosier state.  Weird Fact: The Cornhuskers will actually not play Indiana until 2016 due to conference stupid is this?  There should never be a 6 year layoff from playing a team in your own conference.  Anyway, back on topic.  Here's the preview of a game that Purdue fans would normally care less about  if it wasn't for one exciting wild card...
I hate husking corn...I can never get all those stupid strings out of it.

Why Purdue wins
Danny Etling.  That's right, Danny Etling will make his first career start now that Rob Henry has been moved to safety due to his ineffectiveness against one of the worst pass defenses in the country.  Etling had a so-so debut in the Northern Illinois game, but showed signs that he can move the offense if he can avoid the pesky turnovers.  Is he likely to lead the Boilermakers to a shocking win over the Huskers?  Not likely.  But with a bye week to prepare the new offense, a defense that may not have to face Taylor Martinez (turf toe injury), and facing a team playing their first road game, Etling has at least a chance to start his career as a Boilermaker legend.

Why Nebraska wins 
Even without Taylor Martinez, Nebraska's been putting up a ton of points.  Tommy Armstrong Jr. played the "game manager" role against Illinois and let Ameer Abdullah run all over them.  50 of their 70 offensive plays were rushes as Abdullah ended up with 225 yards on the ground en route to a 39-19 win.  This is the same Illinois team that beat Cincinnati 45-17.  That's the same Cincinnati team that destroyed Purdue 42-7.  If these scores hold true, Nebraska will beat the Boilermakers 90-7.  Even if the Huskers are off their game, it's not likely they'll be off their game by 83 points.

Player we're most concerned about since their stock photo may break our TV
We've got 3 this week!  First comes Derek Foster.  This category was made for this guy.  Is it the "just got out of bed" hair?  The "should I smile or be serious" half-smile?  The overall look of goofiness?

#30 CB Derek Foster

Is that a mullet peeking out from behind Jared Afalava?

#33 LB Jared Afalava

Kenny Bell is the anti-Derek Foster...look at how much time he must have spent on that hair!  Although goofy would be a good way to describe this one as well...
#80 WR Kenny Bell

Picks of the week
The Cornhuskers are favored by 14.5.  This week, we'll be betting 10% of the number of words in each of our last posts.  Kirk wrote a 518-word recap of the Northern Illinois game while I wrote a 673-word masterpiece to preview the same game. 

Erik's Bet -67
Well, baseball's over (for me), so I guess it's time to start paying attention to football.  WTF? The Browns are 3-2???  Didn't they just trade their franchise to the Colts?  Thank goodness they're keeping me off the ledge this fall...can't say the same for Purdue.

Nebraska 44Purdue 20

Kirk's Bet -52
Kirk is 0-5 against the spread this year, so maybe it'll be closer than we think!  I'm sick to my stomach that I made the same pick as him...

Nebraska 34Purdue 13

Three Final Things
1. Landon Feichter is looking to return November 2nd against Ohio State.  This may not be interesting to anyone except the fact that he broke his freaking leg against Indiana State on September 7th.  I've never been Feichter's biggest fan, but if I broke my leg, I'd be lucky to be walking in 8 weeks. He's planning on playing football against a National Championship contender.  That's pretty awesome.

2. Now it's time for the weekly bowl watch.  Purdue needs 5 wins - Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, and Iowa are winnable.  That means they need one of Nebraska, Ohio State, and Michigan State to even have a chance.  This is the most winnable of those three, considering Nebraska is going on the road for the first time.  Yes, I'm delusional.

3. Boiler Up!

Football Recap: Northern Illinois 55 - Purdue 24 - Owned by the MAC

I suppose I can't put this recap off any longer.  Erik is eager to post his Nebraska game preview, and I guess it has been twelve days since the Boilers were taken to the woodshed by the Huskies.

That's twelve days to sit in their own mess, thanks to the bye week.  I'd argue that the bye week was more important for Purdue fans than the actual players.  Sure, freshman quarterback Danny Etling is now (finally!) "the man" as Rob Henry converts to defense (what?!), and he could certainly use the extra reps in practice, but we fans needed a week off to forget how horrible this Boiler team really is.  Now we can delude ourselves into thinking the good guys may actually win against Nebraska (hah!).

What I look like watching Purdue this season
But in actuality, the product on the field is still going to be bad the rest of the season. We can root for Etling, admire his arm, and forgive his mistakes more easily than we forgave Henry, but the same weaknesses will still be there.  In the Northern Illinois game we saw so many that it was sickening:

  • 7 penalties for 58 yards (and more that were declined by the Huskies), including at least four during dead balls
  • 5 turnovers (4 INTs, 1 fumble)
  • Henry made some really bad decisions and poor throws, leading to Hazell finally pulling him. Etling's arm looked amazing in comparison, but the bad decisions were still there (but yeah, he's a freshman, so no surprise) 
  • The offensive line is still a sieve and also can't block worth a darn for the running game
  • Hunt's best contributions came on a couple screen passes (one for an early touchdown) and kick returns, and BJ Knauf had the most rushing yards (41) thanks to end-arounds (and he'll be suspended the next two games due to his theft from Kohl's - idiot)
  • NIU receivers were wide open all day, partly because Jordan Lynch seemed to have all day to find an open man with a lackluster Boiler pass rush
  • The defense was responsible for giving up 41 a MAC team
  • Special teams let the Huskies run a kick back 99 yards for a touchdown
  • Hazell was out-coached by Northern Illinois again, and this was even a new (inferior) Husky staff!
  • This was a 31-point loss to a MAC team.  I know NIU is good, but that's how badly the Boilers also lost to Wisconsin.

Much like Erik's stock game recap, it seems like these bullets of the team's problems could be repeated each week.  I'm getting tired of this, and I can't imagine what it must be like for fans making the trip to Ross-Ade.  Pulling Etling's redshirt at least gives us something to pay attention to now, because otherwise I don't know if I'd even remember the Boilers were playing on Saturday.

Want an update on the game betting between Erik and I this season?  Well, I picked incorrectly again, making me a perfect 0-5 for the season at -$235.  Erik's 4-1 at $125.  Screw you guys, I'm going home.