October 8, 2012

Coordinators Corner

Every Sunday, Purdue's coordinators talk about the game the day before, in this case a 44-13 Boilermaker loss to Michigan.

Read what Tim Tibesar and Gary Nord had to say a day after the win right here.

Offensive coordinator Gary Nord

Q: What's been the issue with the rush offense the last two weeks?
: "Well, I think we could do a better job in our alignments and our splits. It's a pretty difficult situation when you get in there and run six plays and are down 14-0, and then we came back and ran four more plays and were down 21-0. So it makes it easier for them to stop the run when they can play a lot different base front. The big key is to not get behind and start off faster and execute a couple of those third-and-1s, in the first drive we have to get that so we keep them off the field. The next drive we had a blitz that we didn't get picked up that made it second-and-21. We almost overcame that, but those two were huge for us, then obviously we threw the pick six."

Q: But the last two weeks, you've averaged less than three yards a carry. Why?
: "Yeah, the Marshall game was entirely different because it was just the opposite. We were up about 42-14. You're running game goes good when everything is even. Our running game is based off our four base runs, which come off our play-action pass and when you're ahead by a lot or behind by a lot, they're not going to bite on play-action pass. They're going to sit there and play different coverages in that. So the running game, you have to be in the ballgame and it has to be on the line, to make it work really, I think."

Gold and Black: Are you having trouble with your offensive front, and is that affecting your run game?
: "No, I think the offensive line played the best game they've played this year, I really do. They probably protected better than they've ever protected. I think Michigan's defensive line was probably as good as any that we've played. They were very good. They held Notre Dame to about the same number of yards we had and they had five turnovers on them. They played two of the better teams in the country in Alabama and Notre Dame, those two, so their stats were screwed up a little bit going in, but watching them man-for-man and for the four-down guys and two linebackers, they're as good as there is in the country."

Gold and Black: On the first drive, you had a third-and-short that Akeem Shavers didn't pick up. Are those the types of distances you have to convert? You weren't very good on third down in general.
: "No, we weren't. We've been excellent at it, and even as bad as we were on Saturday, we were still first in the conference in third-down conversions, so we've done a good job. We probably had more individual breakdowns (vs. Michigan) than we've ever had before. We had a blocking assignment mistake on that, and it should have been a clean first down. But we had a guy who blew an assignment on that.

"We had several third downs were we got too far behind on the chains. You've got to keep those manageable. We had some things where we weren't ahead of the chains. You get third-and-five or better, and we've been very good at it."

Gold and Black: I know there are more factors than just the quarterback, but what's the difference between Caleb TerBush in the Marshall game, when he looks so comfortable early on, and vs. Michigan, when he did not?
: "Well, I don't agree with that at all, about him not feeling comfortable. The first two drives had nothing to do with the quarterback and not converting. At the end of the half, he was 13 for 18 and had a couple drops, so he was 15 for 18 and that's pretty good. I don't agree with that assessment at all. I think maybe if you'd watch the film again and see him, he was throwing the ball very accurately. We had a few drops and a few running breakdowns by assignments up front, but I thought Caleb started off as fast as he did against Marshall."

Gold and Black: What happened on the interception returned for touchdown?
: "The interception was a bit high. I gave them both a minus. I gave O.J (Ross, the intended receiver) and Caleb both a minus. The protection was clean and the ball hit O.J.; he had both hands on it - it was a little high - he had to jump for it. And it bounced straight up in the air and the (Michigan) guy caught in on a dead run. So I gave them both minus. It was just a pitch-and-catch, a hitch, and we had it protected up, had plenty of room, and just overthrew it a little bit and batted the ball up."

Gold and Black: How is Rob Henry progressing?
: "Rob is 100 percent. I think he's probably 100 percent physically. It's hard to get three quarterbacks ready. Then, he became our No. 2 quarterback, so you couldn't put him out there at another position because he was too valuable, then with Robert Marve's ACL like that, it's kind of been the same as the last three years, a nightmare managing them with what to do with them. Because you'd love to play Rob Henry out there at another spot because he's so explosive. But all the sudden Robert was down for two weeks, so (Rob) became the No. 2 and you can't put your No. 2 quarterback out there and let them beat on him. So it's been a little bit difficult to get Rob in the mix because of the other situation with Robert."

Gold and Black: How do you think Marve performed? It seemed pretty impressive, considering his circumstance.
: "Unbelievable with three ACLs on the same leg and he's running around, scrambling like there's nothing wrong with him. He's a very gritty young man and my hat's off to him. I think the world of him. To go out there and put the football team before his health, it's like he'll do anything to help this university and this football team win. I was real proud of him with how he went out there and played with his heart."

Gold and Black: Was it difficult to decide when to go to him? Do you think about making the switch sooner?
: "No, I'll be honest, I wasn't planning on playing him, but Caleb hit his thumb on a helmet and I was concerned about him being able to grip the football and we still had a chance to win. I thought the best chance to win was going to be with throwing the football so then we called on Robert after Caleb hurt his thumb."

Defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar

Gold and Black: How do you assess how the defense played vs. Michigan?
: "Not good enough certainly. We let a great player get out (in Denard Robinson) and make three huge run plays against us when we're trying to keep minimizing his gains. So that was disappointing to see."

Gold and Black: One of the main goals was to contain Robinson. Did Michigan do anything different, or was it simply a matter of not stopping him?
: "The number of times he ran and held onto the ball was certainly different. They obviously came out and had decided after the Notre Dame game that he was going to carry the ball. I think he had 24 or 25 carries, and he had been having about 10 to 12, so they at least doubled that. And they had a lot more quarterback-designed runs, where he was going to keep the ball no matter what. When you give that good of a player and that good of an athlete the ball that many times, and eventually he does pop loose, and then when he does, it's a big play."

Gold and Black: It seemed to me that Michigan's offense was simplified, Vanilla almost. It wasn't the same offense the Wolverines had run before, right?
: "I think, yeah, they simplified it. In a lot of ways, they took the ball out of (Robinson's) hands from a throwing standpoint and said we're going to put it in your hands and you're going to win it with your feet. Early in the year against Alabama and Notre Dame, he threw the ball a lot more. And maybe it was because they got an early lead (against us) and said there were just going to run the ball and do those things. But it certainly seemed like that was their plan, to say we're going to simplify it for him and to say you're going to win it with your feet and not your arm."

Gold and Black: After the game, Danny Hope blamed missed tackles. Agree?
: "Two out of the three big runs we missed tackles on. We had chances to tackle him and we don't. Actually, on all three of his runs with had guys within five yards of the line of scrimmage who had a chance to tackle him, and didn't make the tackle, and he gets out. You play in such a way that guys have an opportunity to make a tackle on him and if you make it you look good and hold them then. If the tackles are made on him, then at the end of the day, he's got 25 carries for 110 yards and not 200 yards. Because he had 143 yards on those three runs. And we had guys in position, basically, to make the tackle within five yards of the line of scrimmage. And some in the backfield and we didn't make it and then he's gone.

"So unfortunately missed tackles are part of football, but you don't want to miss them against him, and yet at the same time he's a very hard guy to tackle. There's a reason he's a Heisman Trophy candidate and has been setting records in the Big Ten. He's a great player and has been for a long time in this league. We just wish we would have made some of those tackles on him."

Gold and Black: When Robinson did throw, it seems you didn't get good pressure on him.
: "It's a double-edged sword from a pressure standpoint. You pressure him and then he pulls it down and takes off. Our game plan for our guys was to collapse and squeeze the pocket down and it be more of a bull-rush type pass rush, which means you're not going to get a lot of clean guys because we're not working edges. We're trying to squeeze the pocket and not give him escape lanes. For the most part, we feel he's more dangerous when he's running the ball than sitting back there throwing because he hadn't made a lot of great decisions. But he had made a lot of those poor decisions whether he had pressure or not. It wasn't the pressure that forced him into making poor throws, he made some of those on his own.

"That was by design. You can look back and say some of it worked, because he still only completed 50-percent of his passes and we would have liked to play a little tighter coverage than we did on some of their receivers and we think we're capable of playing better coverage on some of their receivers than we did."

Gold and Black: Stopping Michigan on third down was an issue. And it had a 17-play drive on its first possession.
: "One of the things about a 17-play drive that went 78 yards is they certainly didn't get a lot of big chunks. The biggest play they had was a facemask on Kawann Short that gave them 15 yards. Other than that, they had to earn everything.

"The difficulty was with how they played that game, with so many quarterback runs and decision plays, where they can run it or hand it off, on average they're going to get three or four yards on those and it's very hard to get tackles for loss. The first unblocked guy there is going to be wrong because the quarterback is going to give it or pull it or that type of thing and they are going to get yards on it.

"We just needed to get a stop on third down and we didn't. Then especially the disappointing thing is the third-and-sevens, third-and-nine, third-and-11, that we didn't get the stops. Third-and-two or three with a running quarterback like that is going to be hard to stop. It just in reality it is. You couldn't put anymore people in the box than we did, we didn't have any body left to put up there."

Gold and Black: On TV, the announcers said that opponents were converting 74-percent of their third-and-four attempts and shorter this season. That's an issue, the third-and-shorts?
: "I don't know what the stats are. I'm sure if they had that, it might be correct. I've felt all year that we've not achieved our third-down goals as much as we would like to."

Gold and Black: It seemed to hurt you not to have Bruce Gaston at full strength.
: "No player plays well without a full week of practice. I don't care who you are. You play your best games when you get as many practice reps as you possibly can and you know the looks your going to see and you know your run fits and you know all the plays. Anybody who missed two or three days of practice, it's harder for them to play at a really high level. And that happened a little bit. But Bruce gave it a valiant effort and played until he re-aggravated his injury and had to come out for us and wasn't able to continue.

"But it's one of those things, injuries are part of football and you've got to have depth and other guys ready to go."

Q: You used some 3-4. Why, and do you feel it was affective?
: "We felt that gave us the best alignment to set the edges of the defense, force the ball back inside, then we still had two linebackers to run and go. If you're in a 4-3 alignment and you've out your outside linebackers wide you've only got one linebacker in the middle who can read and react to the multiple pullers they were using and all those types of things. We just felt it was the alignment that gave us the best chance to stop what they were doing."

Q: Robert Maci has been impressive, right?
: "He's a hybrid player for us and I thought he played a great game. He caused as much havoc as anyone up in the front. He played very fast and aggressive and was sure of his run fits. We're glad we got him, and he does give us some versatility because he can stand up. When he's out in space like that, he's tough for running backs and receivers to block, and at the same time, he's got enough agility to drop into those short zones and cover in space."

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