Monday Morning Quarterback: Indiana State at Purdue

 
They say you never learn anything good about your team playing an FCS opponent: you either see a good performance that means nothing, or a bad performance which spells trouble. Even the normally starry-eyed writers at Hammer and Rails had little positive to take from this game. I’ll admit that during the last few minutes of the game, I started to think 0-12 was a real possibility for this team. Fortunately, Ricardo Allen  played the best pass coverage of the game on ISU’s final possession and kept this one in the win column for Purdue.Once again, the highlight of the game was on special teams. This time, it was an opening kickoff return for a touchdown. “Good”, I thought to myself, “establish dominance early and spend the next 59:46 building confidence.”Instead, the offense struggled not only to move the chains, but to even get the play started. Two early timeouts due to poor play communication contributed to the failed attempt to bring the field goal unit on in the last 14 seconds of the first half. They didn’t get the play off, by the way. The offensive woes look worse when you remember that Indiana hung 73 points on the trees last week.

In pregame interviews, Coach Hazell talked about simplifying the playbook and using more armbands to combat the communication problems that plagued the team in week 1. Clearly, more simplification is needed. Might I suggest removing any play that calls for a pass of greater than 10 yards? I like Rob Henry’s work ethic, I like his attitude, I like him as a running threat, I like that he had a discussion with me on Twitter about gravy (he doesn’t eat it, but I forgive him). I don’t like the way he has played quarterback the past two weeks. To his credit, neither does he. When boos rained down at the end of the first half, Henry didn’t complain about a lack of fan support. He said it was understandable, and called the inability of the offense to do anything in the red zone “unacceptable”. I like that. I’d rather see points, though. Rob Henry has had two full games under center,  with little to show for it. If he’s really playing the best of any Purdue quarterback, what does that say about Austin Appleby and Danny Etling?

On a more upbeat note, the Boilermaker run defense was generally stout, apart from a third quarter fade. This has to be either poor conditioning or the inability to focus for a complete game, as Purdue had a nearly 10-minute advantage in time of possession. The run defense, despite its good showing, gets an incomplete grade due to ISU’s star running back Shakir Bell being unable to play. With a healthy Bell, ISU probably gets its first win against the Big Ten. With a few more passes, they may have done it anyway. Once again, the Purdue pass defense opted to give maximum cushion to opposing receivers. This is a continuing issue from the Hope era, and you start to wonder if only personnel changes will fix it.

The worst news for the defense is the loss of safety Landon Feichter. I had privately expressed concerns about playing him (in what should have been an easy game) with two broken hands. I worried he’d injure his hands further and be unavailable for later games when he was more needed. Instead, he broke a leg. With the injury, Feichter is one limb injury away from winning the Tom Smykowski Award. Perhaps he can use this time to invent a Jump Off the Bandwagon mat. You can expect to see a lot of that in the coming weeks.

Tom Smykowski had four injured limbs in "Office Space". In the first two weeks, Landon Feichter has broken bones in three of his limbs.

Tom Smykowski had four injured limbs in “Office Space”. In the first two weeks, Landon Feichter has broken bones in three of his limbs.

The announced attendance was the highest since October 1, 2011 when Notre Dame completely shellacked the Boilers under the (temporary) lights. Assuming a similar-or-larger crowd for next weekend’s matchup against the Fig Thing Irish, 2013 will be the first year since 2010 to record multiple games with attendance greater than 50,000. The fans have clearly voiced confidence in Hazell’s team, but what will attendance figures be like as the season progresses? Winning fixes man problems, but it may be a tough task this season.