December 1, 2013

Report Card: Purdue-Indiana

The following is our Report Card for Purdue's game Saturday at Indiana, a 56-36 loss.

Purdue-Indiana Post-Game Report Card
Passing Offense:
If there was one thing that Purdue could try to hang on to headed into the offseason it was the emergence of the passing game in the final game of the season.

Now, it came against Indiana, with a defense that doesn't really stop anyone. But, we'll say it again: You play who you play. And on this particular day, the Boilermakers, behind a career day from Danny Etling, were the superior outfit through the air.

Etling threw for 485 yards, nearly triple his average coming in, with four touchdowns and no turnovers. Etling completed 33-of-49 passes, a rate of 67 percent, his second straight week above a 60-percent clip. That's a good sign.

Etling does still miss passes, doing so on a deep post up the right hash, tossing the ball over the head of Danny Anthrop in the first half. I've never been a big subscriber to the idea that Etling is inaccurate; however, he does get himself in a bit of trouble with his footwork, appearing to not quite get set at times and throw only with upper-body.

But the mechanical issue is fixable, and will be critical to the offseason.

But the negatives were few. The game was a blowout, but don't lose track of the fact that Etling had good numbers in the first half, with 15-of-20 for 142 yards and a touchdown. Both of the sacks came then, the second when Etling stepped up into the pocket - he hadn't always down that in the past - before being flattened by the second wave. Etling, on that sack, could have used a chip from Brandon Cottom to give him another moment or two.

Etling's 80-yard bomb to Danny Anthrop was a beauty. On play-action, the quarter rolled slightly right, settling his feet and hitting Anthrop, who had a couple steps on a hitch-and-go, in stride. Purdue's struggled so badly in recent years to hit the deep ball, the play was pleasant to see.

But as great as that TD was, his 10-yarder to DeAngelo Yancey for a third-quarter touchdown might have been even better. Etling dropped the ball right into the arms of Yancey, putting it where only the receiver could make the catch, just a step before the back of the end zone.

Etling's shown flashes of solid play this season, more so lately, and Saturday put together his most consistent 60 minutes. And he had lots of help: Anthrop had 151 yards; Yancey had 125 on 11 catches; tight end Justin Sinz was a bigger downfield threat, with 87 yards on nine receptions.

If you wanted some sort of hope headed into 2014, here it is.

Grade: A

Rushing Offense:
The Boilermakers, like most of the season, did next to nothing in the rushing game.

And against the Hoosiers, you can't even really blame sack yardage, because Etling lost only 13 yards on his two takedowns. And he had three other scrambles for a positive 15, netting two.

It didn't help Purdue a bit that Indiana started quickly, going up 14-0, 21-6, and ya know, 49-9.

But Purdue's first drive consisted of a Raheem Mostert sweep that got little blocking on the short side of the field; he might have been able to cut it up field, and get a couple yards, but instead looked for something bigger and got dropped. That first drive ended in a sack, then a punt.

By the time the Boilermakers got the ball back, they were down 14-0. And Purdue's second drive started with two Akeem Hunt rushes, then an incomplete pass, for a three-and-out.

Point being: Purdue never established anything early.

Brandon Cottom ran hard, but had only four carries, going for 19 yards. His one-yard touchdown was blocked well, with Jason King pulling from left guard to seal off a Hoosier and providing a hole.

Hunt had only 15 yards on six carries.

Grade: F

Offense Overall:
Purdue hit a few season-highs, with 516 yards and 36 points.

And it didn't turn the ball over, going two straight games now with only one giveaway.

However, the Boilermakers were only 4-of-12 on third down, a stat that contributed to them falling behind by 40; it didn't help to keep the Hoosier offense off the field.

But overall, this was a good enough effort to win.

Grade: B

Rushing Defense:
Well, Purdue gave up 401 yards rushing.


And Indiana averaged 7.4 yards per carry.

IU QB Tre Roberson kept running the same play, or a variation of the same play, that had him running through a giant-sized A gap for significant yardage. Occasionally, it was the zone-read, which he often kept to pick up chunks in the middle of the field.

Stephen Houston had 120 yards rushing and two touchdowns; D'Angelo Roberts had 113. For the math impaired, that's three rushers of more than 100 yards. And, of course, Indiana was without its top back.

Ryan Russell made a great play in the third quarter, when he shed a block and hit Houston for a seven-yard loss. But that was close to it for the Boilermakers.

Grade: F

Passing Defense:
Roberson had a very efficient day, throwing for six touchdowns and 273 yards.

Even when Purdue had close coverage, IU was able to convert. The Hoosiers did so on Roberson's 30-yard toss to Kofi Hughes near the right pylon on the goal line. Antoine Lewis was there, but couldn't wrestle the ball away from Hughes. IU scored two plays later.

And let's talk about that score. It was the first of two in the game in which Purdue put its entire defense stacked on the line of scrimmage, seemingly in man, press coverage on the perimeter.

Yet, knowing that they didn't have help behind, Purdue defenders released receivers, allowing them into the back of the end zone unmolested. This happened twice, and of course, IU scored on both. It really was perplexing.

Ricardo Allen showed why he is a star, coming up with two more interceptions, the second one in the end zone (a play later, Etling hit Anthrop with the 80-yard bomb).

Purdue didn't have any sacks.

Grade: D

Defense Overall:
When the numbers are bad, the numbers are bad. You can't manipulate them to make them look prettier.

So, Purdue gave up nearly 700 yards of offense - it was 692, to be exact - including more than 400 on the ground. Indiana ran 94 plays and averaged 7.4 yards per.

And this is the craziest one: The Hoosiers 16-of-18 third downs. It didn't matter the distance, with one of them being a third-and-17.

The two turnovers really aren't even enough to fix this.

Grade: F

Special Teams:
Purdue missed an extra point. At first glance, it appears that Paul Griggs hit the attempt low, but blocking in the middle might not have been the best either.

He did come back and hit a 36-yard field goal, his first in a month.

Cody Webster had a solid day, averaging 44 yards on his five punts and putting two inside the 20-yard line. He'll be missed. Rob Henry made a coverage error, when he hit the return man after the Hoosier had called for a fair catch.

It's a bad deal when you've got to do the fake on-sides kick thing in an effort to hide your kickoff specialist's inability to get the ball into the end zone for a touchback. Thomas Meadows, though, doesn't have the leg strength to get the ball into the end zone regularly, and Purdue's had to adjust.

It didn't work well against the Hoosiers, who frequently had good field position following scores.

Grade: C-

It's hard to overcome the defensive shortcomings, especially when the goal is to win.

But if you're looking for positive, the passing offense was certainly one. Purdue racked up nearly 500 yards through the air without turning the ball over, and that's impressive.

But it's a team game and a team grade.

Grade: C-

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