The Danny Hope era at Purdue is officially kicked-off. There was a lot of mystery regarding this team coming into this first season. The mystery stems from all of the transition that has been experienced since the first of January.
Along with a new head coach, the offense is being led by a new Quarterback. Joey Elliot is by nature a relatively lively person. This translated to a bit of jitteriness at the beginning of the game. Relatively quickly, Joey got settled down, thanks in part to a phenomenal running game. Joey finished with a QB rating of 140.6. This is driven by the 60% completion percentage and 3 touchdowns he threw. He threw for 220 yards during the game which is low for Purdue standards. However, that being said, Joey didn’t need to throw for 500 yards Saturday as he was supported by 315 yards rushing.
There were three interceptions thrown, two of which contacted our receiver first. The last interception will make Joey cringe when he reviews film. On a roll-out play he floated a softy across the grain and a linebacker meandered over and grabbed it out of the air. Being relatively harmless, this gives Joey a great teachable moment for going forward.
I normally would go over the running game now but I want to focus on why the running game was so solid. The offensive line Saturday played with a sense of urgency and purpose. Football games are won and lost in the trenches and this game was no exception. There was only one sack on the day and Ralph Bolden and Jaycen Taylor had coliseum sized holes for running lanes. The receivers did an acceptable job of blocking downfield. I want to tip my hat to the O-line for winning this one for us. With new receivers and a new QB this is a picture perfect way of making their initiation into a season easier.
I have watched Jaycen Taylor since he transferred from Cali. I always thought he could be a special player for the boilers. When I heard that Ralph Bolden got the start over Jaycen, it meant one of two things. His injury was still impacting his performance or we got something special in Ralph. Jaycen looked like he was back to 100% Saturday and we have confirmed that Ralph Bolden can be an electrifying player for Purdue. Ralph received the “co-Big Ten Offensive Player-of-the-Week” award for his 234 yard, 2 touchdown performance against the Rockets. He demonstrated home run speed which will only make our passing offense that more effective this season with the threat of a vaunted running game.
Keith Smith had 8 receptions for 117 yards and 1 touchdown. I don’t know if we can say we have any major threats but we can definitely move the ball downfield. I was pleased with Keith’s performance even though he did take his eyes off of one pass during the game which could have been a significant gain. The major concern is if Joey can throw to anyone other than Keith. With 17 receptions total, almost half went to Keith. Defensive coordinators will be able to take that away quickly, so either Keith Carlos or Aaron Valentin will have to make some noise in the next game to prevent that from happening. I am not going to dwell on this much; Joey was taking what the defense was giving him.
The defense was sold on having to carry the offense this year. Not only do I want my money back on buying that, but it could be the offense carrying the defense.
I don’t want Purdue to be in a position that they have to score over 36 points a game to win. That is too much pressure on an offensive unit.
Speaking of pressure, for as much as we heard about Mike Neal and Ryan Kerrigan, there wasn’t very much pressure on the Rocket QB. Also there were a TON of missed tackles in the first 2 quarters from over-pursuing of the ball carrier. That can be corrected; I remember watching games and not seeing anybody pursuing the ball carrier, so no complaints.
We have a senior laden secondary. However, they are all alone on an island out there. If we cannot reduce the amount of time a QB can wait to throw the rock, then we are going to continuously be lit up by opposing passing games. To be fair, the rockets gave up on their running game quickly be falling behind 14 – 0. We held them to 70 yards rushing for the game which Ralph surpassed on the first drive of the game. Some props have to be given there, we typically are not known for shutting down running games. It shows you what getting out to a good start can do to a game.
We gave up 423 yards passing against the Toledo Rockets. I repeat the Toledo rockets. This is a combination of 2 things, being down big and early the Rockets stopped running the ball as much. Secondly, Aaron Opelt had a lot of time to sit back and wait for Stephen Williams and Eric
Page to get open, and they did, repeatedly. Both receivers ended with over 100 yards receiving. Stephen Williams, who is a difficult match up, had almost 200 yards receiving. That guy is a stud.
Let’s wrap up with special teams, Carson Wiggs is my hero. 7 extra points and a field goal that was teed up in downtown Lafayette makes for a solid game. It’s now Monday and his kick still hasn’t landed yet. This is a tremendous weapon if he can nail his consistency. So far so good.
We travel to Eugene this weekend to take on the Ducks of Oregon. They just got bitch slapped by the Broncos of Boise State. Then their starting running back, LeGarrette Blount, proceeded to return the favor and he’s done for the season. Hopefully, this hampers their running game to the point that Purdue can pull out a close one at Oregon. Unfortunately, if we go to Eugene and win, then Purdue will not sneak up on any other team this season. Talk to you next week.