Saturday, September 29, 2012

Herd Overcome By Boilers' Bush

If you read our predicto post yesterday, you saw that we had somewhat divergent opinions on how things would go down in Ross-Ade today. Well, if it was possible for us both to be right, this was the game, as the Boilers won a shootout with Marshall, 51-41.

It was, once again for the Boilers, a tale of wildly different halves. This has been something that has been an issue during the Danny Hope era and it continued today. The Boilers really could not have looked better in the first half, putting together sustained, creatively called drives and, in the second quarter, some stellar defensive play.

Marshall's hotshot soph QB Rakeem Cato looked decidedly like an underclassman, as he threw three picks, including back-to-back pick-6s to Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson. Allen's made him the Purdue record-holder with four pick-6s. Johnson's looked as though he'd been in the Marshall huddle, as he appeared to break on the ball before Cato even released it, catching it in stride and sprinting 76 yards the other way. As halftime arrived, it was 42-14 Boilermakers. My co-editor looked wise.

And then the Boilermakers had their customary, celebratory raviolis in the locker room, followed by turkey legs and mashed potatoes. Or at least that's what I assume they did, as they came out for the third quarter flatter than my 8th-grade girlfriend. The Herd had a TD drive and then blocked a punt and returned it for a TD. Suddenly, it was 42-28 and was a ballgame. The Boilers managed a FG at the end of the quarter and then, thankfully, some old friends came to the rescue.

After Coaches Keady and Tiller led the crowd in B-dowd's favorite tradition, Shout, the Boilers began to show signs of life again. Despite being outscored 27-9 in the second half, the Boilers did salt the game away late. Which brings me to this... let's look at the positives:

The Boilers built a huge lead by playing solid, creative offense, executing extremely well as opportunistic, hard-nosed defense. TWO interception returns for TDs coupled with a blocked FG by Kawaan Short and an additional INT and fumble recovery says that this defense actually did come to play. Don't be overly concerned with the yardage Marshall put up -- for starters, they're one of the most prolific offenses in the country. For another, they were down four touchdowns in the second quarter, so they needed to be on the open attack for the majority of the game.

Also on the positive side was that the Boilers put a game away in a manner and at a time when good teams do just that. They'd allowed their opponent to chip away and get back into the game, as the score was 45-35 with 12 minutes to go in the fourth. Still a two-score game, but everyone was clearly getting nervous among Boilermaker supporters. Caleb TerBush came out and calmly led the Boilers on a six-minute, 13 play, 78 yard touchdown drive. That made it 51-35 with just 6:38 to go. And as B-dowd texted to me, they just did what good teams do .That is, close the door.

Another positive for me today was the play of Caleb TerBush. Robert Marve warmed up but wound up not dressing for the game. Maybe that played into it -- hard to know -- as Caleb played with a confidence and, dare I say, swagger that I've never seen from him. He looked sure of himself, he looked like a leader and he hit his targets. After a sizzling first half, he cooled off a bit, but still wound up going 27/37 for 294 yards and four TD passes, three of them to Gary Bush. For the record, those are career bests for Caleb in completions, attempts, yards (he'd only ever been over 200 yards once before, with 220 in the opener last year vs. Middle Tennessee St.) and touchdown passes (doubling his previous best of two, done three times). Understand, folks, this was a career game for Caleb TerBush and might well have been his coming out party, as they say.

Yes, we should temper excitement about the offensive output by reminding ourselves that Marshall's defense is positively atrocious. However, that said, you still have to make the plays, you still have to make the throws, and you still have to hold onto the football. The Boilers did that today and did it well.

I know a lot of people want to get Gibboney's head on the pike whenever something happens on special teams that's bad, but I don't put the punt block no the coaching. It looked to me like Marshall just sold out to bring the house and block it. I think that could happen more often than it does, but teams don't always do it because it leaves their returner unprotected if the punt is made. If you want to argue that Gibboney and company should have anticipated Marshall coming after it like that since they were losing, well, that's a legitimate point. I just think it's worth pointing out that Cody Webster has been a marksman on punts this year, dropping punt after punt deep in opposing territory, and nobody has given Gibboney credit for that.

Other guys had terrific games besides TerBush, too. Obviously, Gary Bush was a touchdown machine, hauling in three of them among his seven receptions for 83 yards. OJ Ross had a career-high nine catches, for 69 yards and Antavian Edison continued his strong play with six receptions for 99 yards and another TD. Edison now has a catch in 25 straight games and TDs in every game this season.

So what do we take from this game? The Boilers cleared 50 points for the second straight week, something they only did once last year and zero times against FBS level foes. Heck, they only put up over 40 twice all last year -- they've done it three times already this year. The Boilers also already have more 40+ yard plays this season than they had all of 2011. These are good signs and suggest that the offense is truly rounding into form.

I could sit here and try to tell you that you shouldn't get too excited since those offensive outbursts have come against inferior, non-conference foes. But hey, that's what the non-conference is for, right? And previous Danny Hope teams didn't pound non-conference opponents they way we wanted them to. So given what's been put in front of them, the Boilers have done exactly what we've all asked of them. That's a very good thing, not to mention refreshing.

The Boilers have done what we've all asked of them so far and have taken care of the team's they're supposed to take care of. Now they move into conference play against a suddenly vulnerable-looking Michigan team, followed by Wisconsin, both at Ross-Ade. Could this be the most critical start of a Big Ten football season for Purdue in more than a decade? I think so. A lot rides on these next couple of games. If the Boilers can get through their first three conference games 2-1, you are hereby allowed to begin expecting to win the division. If they fall on their faces, you're entitled to refer to them as the "same old Purdue."

First things first, though. Next up are the Wolverines at home next Saturday, with a gametime of 4 PM. So you've got plenty of time to tailgate, enjoy yourself, soak up the college football atmosphere, and then move inside Ross-Ade for a game that matters a whole lot. There will be lights, there will be a buzz and let's hope there will be a lot of Purdue fans.

The train is a-comin'. Choo-choo, muthas.


BoilerRick said...

While I agree with all the positives and I am upbeat, the 9 penalties will kill us in the conference. Maybe we lost focus with the big lead but time to focus for an entire game

zlionsfan said...

I agree about the punt block: not the best thing, but of course Marshall is going to sell out on that. It'd be worse if it were a first-quarter block, I think. The problem I have with Gibboney right now is four missed extra points in four games. They're not sure things like they are in the NFL, but you can't be skipping them like Friday-afternoon classes, either.

What Purdue has done, to this point, is beat bad teams. It would not be a big deal if they hadn't had problems with it in previous seasons, and if the Big Ten weren't full of bad and mediocre teams. Purdue's in first place in the East right now, and they host two of the other three teams. That isn't exactly having your destiny in your hands - PSU and OSU can't win the title, but they can lose to Wisconsin - but it's a lot better than trying to catch Wisconsin and playing those three on the road.

Beating Michigan isn't imperative, especially with Wisconsin's loss to Nebraska (they play NU and MSU; we play Iowa and Michigan; both play Minnesota), but it'll be easier to win the division if Purdue doesn't need help from the rest of the conference, and if they can't beat the better teams in the conference at home, that doesn't say much for their chances in Indianapolis or a better bowl game.

J Money said...

Are extra points on Gibboney? Or on inexperienced kickers? That one seems tough to blame on a coach.

U-P Boiler said...

Call me a nitpicker, but TerBush didn't so much as have a career game as our receivers saved his Dutch ass. I counted 8 receptions in the first half that receivers had to either wait on or come back to. Twice they would have been TD's but the throw didn't lead the receiver, giving the defense time to set up and stop the score.

Big Ten defenses won't be nearly so helpful.

zlionsfan said...

J, that's a fair point. I guess the way I see it is that if there are field goal issues, that's more on the kicker, because there's going to be a lot of variation, especially with the wide hashmarks (as opposed to pro kicks), and there's only so much you can do there. (And eventually that would be partly on Hope and Nord; once you've established you have a weak kicker - not that we know yet, with just two attempts - then you need to stop assuming you can hit FGs.)

With XPs, presumably they are from the exact same spot every time. (I suppose you could ask to have the ball spotted differently? but not sure it would help.) The kicking team still bears some degree of blame, whether these are from kicks that are too low, a line that can't hold, or what ... but it seems like there is some sort of recurring issue, and that I would put on Gibboney.

Granted, it's probably not as bad as poor kick coverage or returns, but it's a direct loss of a point rather than a hit to field position that indirectly costs points. And it's not that common, although at this point in the season it's more a reflection of Purdue's high-scoring offense (what did I just say? 13th in scoring? woo!), otherwise maybe they'd have missed only one or two. Still, there are problems everywhere, so maybe this one's not on Gibboney, and I'm just piling on.

Mark said...

U-P Boiler, I TOTALLY agree. I thought CTB played terribly. Numbers are for losers, as Marshall found out.

CTB had great numbers, but his passes were off all day. His timing and reading of the defense was not satisfactory. And Edison was open for 5 seconds by himself on nearly every play. Only 1/3 of which CTB actually threw it to him...or behind him is more accurate.

Big Ten teams will eat our offense alive unless we figure out this mess with the QB. CTB seems so much like Curtis Painter. Coach loves him, but no one knows why.

J Money said...

Nobody suggested CTB is an elite QB or an all-american. The point I was trying to make is simply that he had a career day and looked more confident than I have seen him.

I hope nobody is expecting his talent level to suddenly spike because of a good week of practice or something. He is what he is, which is one of the reasons we always advocated for Marve -- Marve's upside was unlimited, while TerBush's is decided limited.

That said, if he's the guy, a 4-TD game is acceptable to me.

CaryNW87 said...

I was very happy with the first half. Purdue seems to have built a winning combo of a strong defense and a serviceable QB. At least it wins SuperBowls in the NFL (Ravens, Buccaneers). I think the 42-14 first half showed just how good this setup can be when it's clicking.

Say what you want about the level of competition, but Tibesar is looking like a good get. Which leads me to my only gripe.

After watching the past three home games from Section 113, I feel that the "third quarter swoons" the Boilers experience are the result of Nord's penchant for trying to maintain a second half lead by running out the clock.

Last Saturday, the 2nd quarter ended with the Boilers dropping 28 unanswered on the Herd. Their vocal fan section was silenced, the Ross Ade Brigade was rocking, and even the golf-clapping alums were showing signs of life. And the Boilers were going to start the Third Quarter with the ball.

Nord effectively took his own crowd out of the game with what looked like three straight dive plays and a punt – and the comeback was on. At Notre Dame, he followed up a late score by a Marve-led offense by letting an ice-cold CTB start the Third Quarter - and Notre Dame took over. I want an OC who understands the importance of momentum.

I think if Hope has the stones to replace Nord, his tenure at Purdue could be very good. And at that point, I'll owe him an apology.

Mark said...


Your recollection is wrong. It was not three straight dive plays.

We passed to start the half for another CTB special of 2 yards. We ran the ball for 7 yards. That's 3rd and 1.

What Big Ten team DOESN'T run the ball up the middle against a lesser team!?!

Furthermore, we're trying to hang our hat on our running game.

Furthermore, their run defense was in the 110's.

Furthermore, we're in the top-10 in 3rd down conversions!

I thought Nord called that first drive very well. It was executed very poorly by the players.

CaryNW87 said...


Furthermore, Purdue NETTED 149 rushing yards for the game.

Furthermore, all but one of Purdue's offensive TDs was a pass.

My point is, I like first half Nord better than Second Half Nord. And Second Half Nord has cost us many winnable games. I want an OC that understands momentum and sticking with what works.

Mark said...

In addition :P

I don't think Nord will look good as long as CTB is QB.