Penn State looks to bounce back from Saturday's loss to Ohio State, and the odds look good as they face a reeling Purdue squad that's embued a great deal of unrest in its fanbase. As always, we reached out to the foremost authority on the Lions' opposition, and our friends at Hammer and Rails are just that. Thanks to T-Mill for lending a helping hand in enlightening us about the fightin' Danny Hope's moustaches.
Thanks a ton, and remember to check out H&R all season long to stay up to date on Purdue, and be sure to check out what I had to say when they put me on the hot seat.
Black Shoe Diaries: It seems like the cries for Danny Hope's head are getting louder and louder with each passing week. What is he doing wrong, and what do you see as the ceiling for Purdue football? And do you really want to fire someone with such a glorious moustache?
Hammer and Rails: With better coaching I don’t see any reason Purdue could not be contending for the Division title and a Rose Bowl berth, so that is the ceiling. I saw it happen under Tiller multiple times. He only won one conference title, but his 1997-2005 teams were all good enough to be there with the conference elite and at least threaten to go to Pasadena.
I think more of the blame lies on Gary Nord, the offensive coordinator that has insisted on the ridiculous two-quarterback system. That system cost us the Notre Dame game and his incredibly conservative playcalling (combined with egregious special teams errors) cost us the Ohio State game. If you have those two games alone back Purdue is 5-3 with wins over two of the current six undefeated teams and still somewhat alive to go to Indianapolis.
Yes, the ‘stache is glorious, but those two losses combined with virtual no-shows in the other three losses (two of which we led after our first possession, only to fall completely apart) have been incredibly frustrating. This was touted by Hope as his most talented team, but it is getting worse as the season progresses. The defensive line, which was an enormous strength against ND and OSU, has been pedestrian the rest of the time.
BSD: So, Robert Marve. Two questions: How did it take so long for him to become the starter, and how worried should Penn State be now that he is?
H&R: It took this long because our coaching staff is stupid. I am sorry, but that is the harsh truth. Even with an injured knee he has consistently moved the offense better than Caleb TerBush. It is infuriating to see TerBush lead three and out after three and out, then see Marve come in cold, bad knee and all, and immediately lead a scoring drive. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a scoring drive. If he even gets a first down it is frustrating because TerBush has had incredible stretches of ineffectiveness.
Scoring on the opening drive has not been a problem. We’ve done that three games in a row. It’s sustaining that success that matters, and I think Marve can do that. We’ve scored on our first possession for three straight games, but other than Akeem Hunt’s kickoff return TD at Ohio State we’ve barely managed to get a first down for the rest of the first half in these games.
BSD: Purdue led Ohio State, in Columbus, for 59 minutes, and then went and got blown out by Minnesota. What went right in that Ohio State game, and what went so terribly wrong last week?
H&R: The defensive line was really the key. They got into the backfield and pressured the heck out of Braxton Miller. That allowed the secondary to get a few turnovers and we kept the pressure on them throughout. The key in the OSU game was Kenny Guiton stepping out of a sure sack by Ryan Russell to complete a 30+ yard pass on the first play of their final drive. Even then, we got pressure and if Russell gets the sack, that’s the game. Against Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan the defensive line was virtually non-existent, exposing our suspect linebackers and leaving our secondary on an island.
BSD: How does this one shake out? Can Danny Hope make one last stand?
H&R: I think he is already in severe trouble barring a four-game winning streak to end the season. Even then, if it is led by Marve and an improved offense it’s going to come back on him for not starting Marve earlier. Our defensive line can play extremely well. I have seen it happen. The same is true with Marve. Only a truly bizarre situation where we win out and Wisconsin loses three of its final four, sending us to Indianapolis, might be enough to save Hope.
Thanks again, T-Mill, and remember to read Hammer and Rails!