November 10, 2013

Report Card: Purdue-Iowa

The following is our Report Card for Purdue's game Saturday vs. Iowa, a 38-14 loss.

Purdue-Iowa Post-Game Report Card
Passing Offense:
Purdue's pass protection was markedly improved against Iowa.

The Boilermakers' line allowed only two sacks, and one could argue - maybe easily - that each was a result of the Hawkeyes' coverage and/or receivers' inability to get open.

It allowed Purdue's quarterback a very statistically efficient day, finishing 20-of-34 for 213 yards with two scores and no turnovers; it's probably the Boilers' best quarterbacking effort since Rob Henry's performance against Notre Dame in Week 3.

And the quarterbacks', particularly Etling's, could have had better numbers had it not been for a couple of drops by receiver Danny Anthrop.

Etling's long of 26-yards came on a screen to Akeem Hunt, with a couple offensive linemen - again, the line was better than it had been previously - out in front to escort. The catch-and-run set up Purdue with its best scoring opportunity in weeks, and it capitalized.

The third-down touchdown was a nice pump-and-throw by Etling while he hung in under heavy pressure. The pump brought a charging Iowa defender to his feet, and bought him a little extra time; Etling used it to find fullback Kurt Freytag in the flat just as the QB was being hit.

Aside from passing, Etling wisely chose to run a couple times, scrambling a couple times for a total of 12 gained yards. Perhaps it's a sign of a bit of growth in decisiveness, although he has leaps still to make there, it seems.

The scrambling brought his overall rushing numbers - the sack yardage include - to a net positive. That sacks didn't result in significant loses is an important, and with how things are going, Purdue will take gains in any sizes.

Austin Appleby made his debut, checking in for Purdue's final drive. Speaking of decisiveness, he showed it, picking out his receivers and throwing the ball. He throws darts too, but his arm has never been a question.

Appleby's performance - 5-of-6 for 68 yards and a touchdown - has to be tempered, of course, due to circumstance. He was facing Iowa backups at the end of a blowout. But he faced who he faced, something we've said around here before, and deserves credit.

Hunt is a weapon out of the backfield, catching seven balls for 63 yards. And Anthrop, sans the drops, had his best day as a Boilermaker, with four receptions for 82.

Still, the Boilermakers need to find a way to get the ball to the perimeter, outside the hashes, or the field becomes awfully small for the defense to defend. Purdue's bigger, more physical outside receivers - we'll go ahead and count B.J.Knauf here - accounted for only 38 yards of offense.

But look: The numbers are efficient right? Final score aside, you'd take this type of day from the passing offense.

Grade: C-

Rushing Offense:
Purdue's just not physical enough at the point of attack.

It's a problem that simply can not be solved midseason. It take the offseason, maybe more than one, and recruiting, to get this right. An extra session on a Tuesday or Wednesday in practice just isn't enough.

The Boilermakers' rushing game is pretty abysmal. Purdue can throw bodies in the backfield - Hunt, Brandon Cottom, Raheem Mostert, maybe Dalyn Dawkins - but the results on a week-to-week basis are exactly the same.

This isn't scheme.

It's brute-force physicality, a meanness, in the front, and Purdue lacks it.

Saturday, the Boilermakers had 53 yards on 28 carries, only 1.9 per attempt. Cottom led the way, with 28 yards. But his first carry was his best, going for 11 yards; his second carry was his second best, going for four. His next 10? A total of 13 yards.

Hunt, who is a better counter back, has nothing to counter. He had nine yards on seven carries.

Many have thought Mostert could be an answer, or at least an option. His one carry looked good at the start, as he rumbled eight yards between the tackles.

But then he fumbled, destroying the Boilermakers' best drive - they had gone from their own 27 to Iowa's 37 - and killing momentum at the worst possible time. Purdue can't overcome those mistakes, and a seven-point deficit was soon 14.

Grade: F

Offense Overall:
Here's how dysfunctional Purdue's offense is: It had only one turnover and only two penalties (and both those came in the fourth quarter), yet could score only seven meaningful points and those came on a short field.


Purdue finished with only 266 yards, averaging 4.3 per play, and just 12 first downs.

But the positives, and there were some, can not be completely swept under the rug. The Boilermakers' were better in the pass pro, allowing the QBs to have their most efficient day in weeks. And it wasn't penalized much and only one turnover, albeit a game-changer.

Grade: D

Rushing Defense:
Like on the offensive line, Purdue's defensive front seven doesn't have the physicality to compete against the best in the trenches in the Big Ten.

Iowa knows this. The Hawkeyes attempted 52 rushes, many, many to the left side of their line, knowing their own strength there or scouting out a Purdue weakness. Iowa finished with 318 yards on the ground, averaging 6.1 on those 52 totes.

The old sports cliché is that you coulda driven a Mack truck through there; well, Iowa coulda. The Hawkeye line busted open holes large enough that a five-yard gain seemed like a Boilermaker victory.

Purdue couldn't gain any traction in stopping the run, even knowing that's exactly what Iowa was going to do, over and over.

Grade: F

Passing Defense:
Jake Rudock wasn't asked to do much, but what he was, he did well.

The Iowa quarterback finished with 191 yards and a couple of touchdowns on 12-of-20 attempts. It's not flashy, but who cares?

It took the efficient throws and had a couple nice ones too, none more so than his strike to Kevonte Martin-Manley in the back of the end zone in the second quarter to give Iowa the lead.

Martin-Manley had a Boilermaker draped on his backside, and Ricardo Allen darting a half-second too late to try to knock it down.

The Boilermakers did get a couple sacks, their first two since the Nebraska game on Oct. 12. Ra'Zahn Howard, who has looked impressive but still needs to make great gains in the know-how and conditioning, simply shed his blocker to engulf Rudock.

Collin Link had Purdue's other QB takedown.

Grade: C

Defense Overall:
Giving up 509 yards, including 318 on the ground, is a recipe for a loss.

And against a Hawkeye offense that has sputtered a bit in the last month.

The rushing stuff is just bully football, man vs. man in the trenches. Who wins the most battles?

The Boilermakers lost way too often.

Grade: D-

Special Teams:
When you're getting beaten soundly, special teams sort of turns into a wash, unless something dramatic happens.

It didn't Saturday.

Cody Webster had a good day, once again, with six punts for 259 yards, an average of 43.2 per boot. That's a good number, especially considering the wind was steady at 20 mph out of the south and gusting to more. Webster did have to sky punt once, pinning the ball inside the Iowa 20. He had a second inside the 20 and also a touchback, his first of the season.

Rob Henry had a punt too, a 36-yarder that settled perfectly at the Iowa 5.

Again, you'd like to see Purdue's return game, which has been a strength, have more consistent success.

Grade: B-

Purdue got almost doubled up in yardage, with Iowa getting 509 total to the Boilermakers' 266.

But most importantly, Purdue was hammered where it counts: On the line of scrimmage. The Boilers simply couldn't compete there, and it's been a recurring problem.

Was Purdue better this week? Or was its opponent more average?

Grade: D

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