Rants, ravings, and somewhat sensical opinions following the wild, wacky, and wide-wide world of Purdue sports, following the Boilermakers’ 44-19 homecoming victory.
This week at work, my company had a Jenga tournament as a teamwork building exercise. I lost in the first round, which if you’ve met me, shouldn’t surprise you. You see, I have what people in the beauty industry call ‘Ham Hands’. Manipulating small blocks of wood has never been in my wheelhouse.
If you’re unfamiliar with the game, the rules are pretty simple. Two players take turns pulling blocks from the bottom of a tower and placing them on the top. If you make the move that causes the tower to fall, then you lose. The thing about Jenga is that it is a good metaphor for Purdue’s season currently.
Ryan Walters has to be delicate with which block he plays and when. Being a new coach, with new personnel, Coach has to test each block before knows which one to pull, which one to leave. While there has been a foundation of solid football, the blocks which were pulled throughout the first few games caused Purdue’s tower to fall 3 out of 4 times.
Saturday, Ryan Walters played Jenga with the best of ’em, and out maneuvered a much more seasoned coach, and his former boss Brett Bielema.
A tight first half turned into a game that really wasn’t as close as the score indicated, Purdue started slowly, but eventually flattened a chippy Illini team.
Hudson Card threw for only 217 yards, but did pass for 2 touchdowns in a solid performance. Deion Burks recovered from a cheap shot hit from an Illinois defender early in the game, and looked great. He had 5 receptions for 83 yards and a TD.
Purdue’s Air Raid offense did not live up to its name, as the Boilermakers ran 45 times as compared to only 26 passes. The Boilermakers’ rushing attack was more than able, going for 189 yards, led by Tyrone Tracy’s 112 yards. Tracy, Mockobee, and Downing each scored a touchdown, and averaged a combined 5.8 yards per carry. Three headed monster!
Defensively, Purdue looked incredible. Sanoussi Kane had 9 tackles and a sack. Yanni Karlaftis made a splash this week with 8 tackles and a sack. The Boilermakers’ first score was from a Markevious Brown strip sack, in which the ball was recovered by Malik Langham in the end zone for a TD. The Boilers had Illinois flustered all day, limiting the Illini to 2/13 on third downs, with both of those coming late in the 4th quarter.
Break It Down:
Purdue looked great today, and slammed the door shut in the second half of this game. Purdue was only winning by 3 at halftime, and ended up winning by 25.
Outscoring your opponent by 22 in the second half tells me one thing. It tells me that Ryan Walters adjustments at halftime stymied Bret Bielema. The 37 year old, first time head coach, outwitted the grizzled veteran who has coached many years at multiple power conference schools. The student has become the teacher.
Purdue has a young buck as a head coach, and we’re just now scratching the surface of his potential.
The word is that the coordinators looked on from the press box this week, instead of from on the sideline. Perhaps the vantage point difference changed the perspective, as this was the most productive offense and defense output season to date. Walters said during the post game presser that he called the defense himself, which could explain the improvement.
Whatever changes were made, lets keep it rolling. This team is figuring it out, and its a beautiful thing.
What Went Well:
- 5: Total number of sacks that the Boilermakers had against what the announcers continually reminded the viewers was an incredible running quarterback. This type of pressure creates havoc in the backfield and left Illinois helpless on offense.
- Yanni Karlaftis, Baby!: There has been heavy praise given to the younger Karlaftis when he was recruited and signed. An injury plagued first year in the system, opened up the door for an opportunity to be an impact player as a Sophomore. With 8 tackles and a sack, Yanni made the most of his opportunity this weekend.
- Big Boys Up Front: Purdue’s offensive line looked incredible against the supposedly vaunted Illinois defensive front. They opened up holes the size of Texas to run through, and it resulted in nearly 200 yards of rushing offense. This is also only giving up 2 sacks, against this, supposedly, fierce Illinois defensive front. Great job from this unit that appears to be finally gelling.
Opportunities for Improvement:
- Peacock Network: Was not great. My feed skipped frequently, and froze for a bit late in the 4th quarter. That isn’t what irritated me, though. What irked me about Peacock Network’s coverage of this game is that their announcers did the bare-minimum of preparation. Here were the talking points. 1) The so called “Lawfirm” of Newton and Randolph, Illinois supposedly great defensive tackles are juggernauts! Purdue cannot stop them! 2) Illinois quarterback is going to run all over Purdue! 3) Devin Mockobee is a Purdue player! When something happened outside of those three points, the announcers filled with vaguely football sounding cliché sayings which filled the air.
- Hold On To The Ball, Please: Devin Mockobee had another lost fumble this game. Coach Walters gave him some time to think about it on the sidelines, before giving Mockobee another chance. For the rest of the game, Devin protected the ball with two arms, when he was nearing contact. He’s learning from his mistakes.
- Blocked PAT: Purdue’s first PAT was blocked by one of the “Lawfirm” “Juggernaut” “Best Defensive Tackles Ever” following the Boilers’ first touchdown. Against better teams, a missed PAT will cost Purdue a game going forward. Luckily this didn’t matter in the end.
Big Man On Campus:
Tyrone Tracy Jr. was dynamic today! 21 carries, 112 yards and a touchdown. He kept the chains moving, kept the clock rolling, and kept Purdue in position to pour it on the Illini.
One Last Thing:
Big Ten officiating continues to be abhorrent. Sunrise. Sunset. Water is wet.
This officiating crew allowed the following:
- A “late hit” from an Illinois DB, which was a textbook targeting on Deion Burks, but wasn’t reviewed for targeting. I’ve seen hits 1/3 as violent as that, with far less head contact result in an ejection and suspension. It appeared from my vantage point that there was an attempt to injure Burks, but according to this officiating crew, Purdue players don’t need to be protected.
- Multiple Illinois tackles out of bounds which should have resulted in penalties.
- An defensive pass interference in the end zone which took a TD away from Purdue.
- An offensive pass interference in the end zone which gave Illinois a TD.
If the officials are going to allow these types of things to happen, then games will degrade into a literal slugfest.
I am not even going to get into the fact that Illinois defensive backs would celebrate getting away with a pass interference like they were winning the WWE championship, nor the fact that the Illini players were showboating and trash talking down 3 scores late in the 4th quarter.
The officials are lucky that more players didn’t get hurt. They’re lucky that this game didn’t end up as a brawl. Officials need to do their job.
Mark Elsner Illinois Game Photo Gallery: https://snapsbyme.smugmug.com/PurdueFootball/2023/Illinois/
A Look Ahead:
Purdue hits the road and travels to Iowa City in order to take on the Hawkeyes, in another Peacock stained afternoon kickoff.
Purdue is a 3.5 point underdog going into this game, even if Iowa hasn’t exactly been world beaters so far. Purdue will have a striker’s chance. For what its worth, ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Boilermakers a mere 32% chance of victory.
For more content like this follow @ISC_Purdue on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. For a deeper look into the mad mind of Ben Kolodzinski, follow him at @BRKolo on Twitter. WARNING: Viewer’s discretion is advised…