Back to basics this week
Purdue did not practice in full gear Tuesday or Wednesday, as Coach Danny Hope has stretched basics this week.
Offensive coordinator Gary Nord said Wednesday the emphasis on the past two days has been on fundamentals.
"That's what's going to win ballgames for us," Nord said. "We're not going to take anything for granted. We're going to start with our stances, our alignments, our depths and widths and throwing motions.
"At this time of the year, you start teaching assignments and you get away from fundamentals. We want to make sure we stress fundamentals this week."
It doesn't hurt, either, that the less physically demanding practices come on the heels of a highly physical game against Notre Dame.
Nord noted that Purdue doesn't have a bye week this season and talked about how the Boilermakers generally "practice a lot harder than a lot of other people do" in general. He said some schools in the South don't practice in full gear at all because of how taxing the games actually are.
"I think it's a smart thing to do," Nord said. "We don't question (players') courage. They're going to play hard for us. We know that."
Of particular emphasis for the offense this week has been third- and fourth-and-short situations, Nord said.
"We haven't done a good job - I haven't done a good job - on our third-and-shorts and fourth-and-shorts," Nord said, "of getting us in there, getting a good play called, taking advantage of things and keeping drives going. We've been really stressing that and making sure we're really sound with our third-and-shorts and fourth-down situations."
Defensive coordinator Donn Landholm said it's important for the defense this week to be particularly sound with its alignments, because of the tempo of the Northwestern's offense.
"We have to make sure we're aligned properly and know our assignments," Landholm said, "because Toledo was a big empty (backfield) team and I'm sure these guys will look at that video and we're going to want to make sure we're playing better against that than we did against Toledo."
You can't double what you can't find
Nord knows defenses will start targeting Keith Smith now that the Boilermakers' leading receiver is coming off a particularly big day against Notre Dame.
"The way we move him around, it makes it pretty difficult to double-team him," Nord said. "It's not like basketball, where you can box-and-chase or something like that. If you put him on the outside, then you have to devote two people to him and you have nine against 10 everywhere else. If we put him on the inside, we have some mismatches on the inside coverage people.
"I don't know what they can do, really, to take him out of a game."
Smith is routinely put in motion and has lined up all over the field, whether it be from his usual slot position, from an outside position or even in the backfield.
Valentin could use a break
Being an every-down sort of player at player at wide receiver as well as Purdue's No. 1 return man on punts and kickoffs, Aaron Valentin, understandably was a little worn down after Saturday's Notre Dame game.
"I get tired," Valentin said Tuesday, "but not overly tired or anything like that. I think I'm in good condition, the best condition I've been in."
Be that as it may, you can expect to see more of junior backup Cortez Smith, Nord said.
"We're going to try to limit (Valentin) a little bit," Nord said, "and get Cortez in more. We're going to have a package for him. I like him. And Antavian Edison, we're going to have a little deal for him. We have some other guys we want to do develop and get a little more involved in the offense."
Coordinators on Northwestern
Nord on the Wildcat defense: "They play hard and they're real simple lining up. They don't try to confuse you. They stay within their system and they know all their adjustments. You can't get any kind of leverage on them or fall into any kind of disadvantage by formation. They're going to be sound. Every time they break the huddle, they're going to know how to line up."
Landholm on the Wildcat offense: "The thing that Northwestern does is they give you a lot of formations, they execute very well and their guys play very hard. Those are probably the top three things. And because they play hard and execute well, they don't make many mistakes, which means you can't make mistakes."
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