11/16/20 Boilermaker Water Cooler Chat: Wildcat Edition

General Musings Following Purdue’s 27-20 Loss to the Northwestern Wildcats.

Undefeated Purdue vs. Undefeated Northwestern. The winner controls their own destiny, and sits in the drivers seat of the Big Ten West.

A banged up Purdue team came off of an impromptu bye week, which gave Rondale Moore and George Karlaftis another week to heal from their sustained injuries. Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans.

30+ mph wins, temperatures in the 40s, and off/on precipitation is a recipe for disaster for this (and any, for that matter) Purdue team. Yep, it was a mess. A wet, sloppy mess.

By wet, of course, I’m not talking about mother nature and the rain she brought on Saturday. Not at all. I mean the collective Purdue team piddling themselves at the site of super intimidating NorthWestern Wildcats. Like a cuddly puppy would.

Yeah, nature called, alright…

The Game:

I want to be very clear and concise for this statement. It will be considered an overarching theme for this article. Think of this statement as the image “filter” which will cover the entire article, as if my teenage daughter would filter an image on SnapChat…

I was not at the game. I was not in that driving wind or rain. I, like the vast majority of Purdue fans, and some media, were not admitted to the stadium. All I know is what I saw on the TV. It was my only source of info. I do not know what it was like to play in this weather.

Regardless, being a Boiler fan for the past 3.5 decades, you know things within the first few moments of a game. There is no determined criteria to it, but you know whether or not Purdue has a shot at a game by how the first few plays go. Y’all laugh, but its true.

Anyways, Northwestern marched down the field and crammed it down Purdue’s throat. They took the opening drive for 7 points, and Purdue folded. Purdue did not respond, but kind of played even from that point forward. That is just how the game went.

You see, Purdue didn’t play as poorly as they did against Illinois ’19, or Minnesota in ’18. They just, on the whole, played uninspired, passionless football. From Brohm down to the walk-on waterboy.

The score was never really awful. Northwestern didn’t run away with the game and hide. It was pretty much that one score game that felt like 3 scores. That game where you had no confidence in the team to get a score, to get a stop, to use their timeouts properly, or to dial up that little spark to take the game over. Milquetoast.

In fact, Northwestern flexed on Purdue. They talked trash to the home team. They laughed in the Boilermaker faces. They quite literally talked trash after committing pass interference. They danced in Purdue’s vicinity, AND IT WAS ONLY A ONE SCORE GAME. ONE SCORE GAME … I’m sorry for yelling. The Boilers did nothing to stop them.

There is nothing more disrespectful than a team mocking you when they’re only up by one score. They were acting as if a 7 point lead was insurmountable, and they were right. What did Purdue do to make you think that they could make that comeback? Spoiler alert. Not much.

Opportunity lost, I guess. Purdue decided to lay an egg, in a game that could have led to historic success for the program. Purdue could have moved into the ‘cat’bird seat, and been in control of the B1G West. This, against a team, that isn’t any better than Purdue.

What Went Well:

  • Well if he ain’t gunna run it, then… he might as well catch it: Zander “Horvath Warpath” Horvath broke the century mark receiving this game on 9 receptions for 100 yards, even.
  • Ring-A-Ding Ding: David Bell had multiple Wildcats hanging on him all game, but he still ended the game with 9 catches for 78 yards. Disappointing that he didn’t break the 100 yard mark for the 6th straight game, but the loosely called pass interference penalties didn’t help. Bell could’ve easily had another handful of catches if it wasn’t for non-penalized pass interfering.
  • Fourteen?!: Derrick Barnes brought the thunder on Saturday, tallying fourteen tackles, including 8 solo. His solo tackle total would still lead the team in tackles.
  • That’s one tough dude…: Purdue LB DaMarcus Mitchell battled injuries throughout the entire game, having to be helped off the field multiple times, and still tallied 7 tackles and a forced fumble. Playing through injuries is a difficult situation, so you have to admire the toughness of this young man.

Opportunities for Improvement:

  • Tony Danza Ain’t the Boss: Jeff Brohm is. If he can’t motivate his team to get up for this big of a game, then that is a problem. Mother nature aside, if he is going to produce vanilla play calling then Purdue will never be able to come from behind. Purdue didn’t hire vanilla, they hired the most innovative coach in college football. Show us why you’re one of the top paid coaches in all of the NCAA.
    • That also means utilizing your timeouts in a manner which leaves you three to stop a program who is trying to milk the clock. Luckily Northwestern threw an incompletion as Lorenzo Neal swatted the ball away which pulled Brohm off the hook, but needing to impulsively burn a timeout due to a confused, panic-ing quarterback leading into a 4th down is not stoic management of a team. Brohm as a coach needs to be prepared.
    • Speaking of a panic-y quarterback, I will yield to Brohm’s expertise on this topic. He knows his quarterbacks better than we do. I haven’t seen the competition. I did hear that Jack Plummer and Aidan O’Connell were “neck and neck” with UCLA transfer Austin Burton right in their “back pocket”… and a 4 star QB freshman in Mike Alaimo nipping at his heals. With all that wealth at QB, you’d think that there might be potential to manage the situation…
  • The Situation: Aidan O’Connell was firmly on the struggle bus this weekend, and it was painful to watch. Oh sure, he had a statistically decent game, with 263 yards and 2 touchdowns under “wet” conditions. Also, it was rainy. Unfortunately this was on 28/51 attempts (54.9%) and was missing on a huge number of passes. Missing high and behind is a recipe for disaster, and Purdue was lucky that some of these passes didn’t get picked. There was often no other read than to double-covered David Bell that O’Connell was willing to make. Getting the ball to your best offensive player is a good idea. Forcing the ball to your best offensive player out of the framework of the game flow is a bad idea. It wasn’t until O’Connell started opening up his options that the offense looked competent. Worst yet, O’Connell looked like was was panicking as the game went on. He continued to eat awful sacks in the pocket, struggled to hit his receivers, and had probably the worst fumble of his career.
    • I am absolutely not advocating for the removal of O’Connell as starter. I believe the best man for the job should play, and I believe that Brohm -SHOULD BE- aware of who the best man for the job is. Everyone has bad days, and it is up to the coach and the team to lift that player up. If Saturday’s performance is any indication as to what the “best man” for the job is supposed to do… then this could end up being a long season for the Boilers. Major opportunity for improvement.
  • Could use a little bit Moore…: You know what could’ve helped an anemic, vanilla offense, with a struggling QB? A Heisman caliber, All-American receiver, probably could have helped. To absolutely nobody’s surprise Rondale Moore did not play this weekend. Not a soul outside of the Purdue football program knows the exact circumstances, but we are now at the midway point of the 2020 season and have yet to see the All-American step on to the field. I presume that Rondale Moore is still struggling from a lingering hamstring issue stemming from last season, or rumored off season workouts. It’s only that, a presumption, because Purdue media and fans alike have been left in the dark on this. I am hoping for the best young man. I wish nothing more to pair a healthy Rondale Moore with a healthy David Bell, but as of right now that doesn’t seem likely. I know that Purdue fan’s weekly disappointment that Moore isn’t playing is starting to sting less every week. The weekly disappointment is becoming expected, and I presume the NFL scouts believe the same. This weekly ‘will-he won’t-he’ for Purdue fans is frustrating, and they’re starting to default to the “No” position.
    • Likewise, and in all truthfulness, my opinion on this doesn’t matter one iota. Rondale Moore can do whatever he wants with his career, and has earned the right to take whatever precautions he needs. If he’s hurt, then he’s hurt. I can not argue anything about that. I just want what is best for the young man, and hope that we get a chance to see him play again in the Old Gold and Black. I just wish that he could get back out there.
  • Three is NOT the magic number: While Bob Diaco’s defense was not the problem in the loss this weekend, there was a glaring problem with the pass rush. The three man rush yielded no results, particularly without George Karlaftis. This defense needs to figure out how to get to the ball, because opponent quarterbacks sitting in the pocket for 10-20 seconds is not going to work.
Photo Credit: Purdue Sports

A Look Ahead:

Purdue looks to get back on the winning ends of things, as they take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis, under the FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS!

Purdue is the slight favorite starting the week, as the Fighting PJ Flecks are 1-3 and haven’t looked particularly good doing so.

Hopefully the Boilermakers can work on the mistakes seen against Northwestern, and can improve quickly. It’s a short week – Time to Boiler Up!

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About Benjamin Kolodzinski 55 Articles
Blending the passion of a sports fan with years of media experience, Ben Kolodzinski is a unique personality for ISC Purdue. Since the 2017-18 NCAA seasons, Ben has written weekly columns for ISC, with a style that can only be described as snarky, irreverent, and often times irrelevant. A 2008 graduate from Purdue West Lafayette, Kolodzinski has worked for several local and regional media outlets. Best known for his television and radio work at Lakeshore Public Media (Lakeshore Public Television, and 89.1 The Lakeshore), Kolodzinski helped grow Northwest Indiana's only nightly news show Lakeshore News Tonight, along with The Region's only local sports shows Prep Sports Report, and Prep Football Report. As of 2022, Kolodzinski hosts Lakeshore Gamenight, a prep football radio show and cohosts Lakeshore PBS Scoreboard, a prep football TV highlight show. Kolodzinski is known, locally, for having a fun loving and gregarious personality, and for attempting to inject humor into his reporting... sometimes successfully.

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