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47 Random Thoughts on Purdue

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Random musings on the weekend that was in West Lafayette

NCAA Football: Penn State at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

One week later, the skies were clear and campus was still abuzz. But the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Purdue Boilermakers engaged in a contest of American football on Saturday not under the lights of electric Beaver Stadium, but peering at the metal bleachers of Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana. Penn State emerged victorious, 62-24. I have some thoughts, which are randomly set forth below.

  1. Welcome to the top 25, Penn State. It’s been a long time coming.
  2. Those of you who started at Penn State after 2011 probably do not fully comprehend what it means for Penn State football to be relevant on a national level. The only group that bears any resemblance to you are the students from 2000 - 2004, who struggled through four losing seasons with one hopeful (and underachieving) 9-4 team. Enjoy it.
  3. With national relevance comes responsibility, students. I’ve defended you forever in this space and denigrated an operations crew that apparently can’t figure out how to get all of you into the stadium in a reasonable amount of time. But there is no defense for those of you who left at halftime or shortly thereafter last weekend when Penn State was down by, at worst, two scores. You don’t need to drink at a tailgate during the game. You have plenty of opportunities to do whatever it is you want to do throughout your college career. You get (maybe) 8 home games per year, and only a few as meaningful as Ohio State 2016. Enjoy them. You want to be the Best Student Section in the Nation (tm)? Stop acting like Purdue.
  4. Oh, Purdue. The Cradle of Quarterbacks is troubled. There was a time in my college career when we feared Purdue.
  5. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. Purdue made us somewhat nervous, because Joe Tiller played basketball on grass and we played bend-but-don’t-break football like it was going out of style. But Purdue was competent.
  6. Danny Hope and Darrell Hazell really must have sucked the life out Purdue. That place was dead on Saturday afternoon. Like Indiana Hoosiers under Gerry DiNardo dead. The 33,000 and change figure I saw was charitable. It’s plausible there were less than 5,000 people there in the fourth quarter. It must be incredibly tough to play there in that home environment, knowing that you’re not going to get much of a lift from the crowd.
  7. Everyone was concerned with the way Penn State would come out of the blocks on Saturday after last week’s emotional win over the Buckeyes. Admittedly, I was pleasantly surprised to see the offense locked in early.
  8. Miles Sanders is going to take one to the house someday soon. He almost did so on the opening kickoff, which was, of course, called back for holding.
  9. No one on the Penn State offense seemed to much care about that. 8 plays, 85 yards and a touchdown for (guess who?) Saquon Barkley.
  10. Getting Barkley involved in the passing game is useful. Heck of a catch and run in Purdue territory on that first drive.
  11. Generally speaking, it seemed to me that James Franklin and Joe Moorhead wanted to limit Trace McSorley’s carries this weekend if it was manageable. One week after carrying the ball 19 times, he took off 5 times. Less than that if you count sacks and hurries. The designed run was essentially absent from the playbook this week.
  12. Keeping McSorley healthy is obviously a priority for this offensive staff, and it should be. It was a smart move.
  13. Getting Barkley involved by sending him on routes is a good way to loosen up a defense that was keying in on him. Previously, we had seen several variations of this offense in an attempt to shake Barkley loose - McSorley throwing deep with regularity and McSorley keeping the ball more on the RPO. This third version keeps him upright.
  14. The first drive was almost too easy, and it wasn’t crazy to wonder whether we were going to see Tommy Stevens start the 2nd half with Miles Sanders lined up next to him.
  15. Credit to Purdue for laying it all out there. This was a team that was severely out-manned. I mean, it’s not really close. Still, they put up a heck of a fight early.
  16. The offense came out swinging, but the defense really didn’t. After a week in which they shut down a quality quarterback and a head coach renowned for his offensive scheme, the defense allowed an opening 10-play touchdown drive.
  17. Just a note that the drive included two third down conversions, which made me unhappy.
  18. Lots of talk about poor officiating this weekend. I get it, but on the other hand, a large portion of the penalties called against Penn State in the first half occurred on the opening kickoff and the first defensive drive. Of those on the first defensive series, two were offside calls on 1st and goal, and one was a face mask that was called on the two yard line.
  19. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they were likely getting 7 points out of that drive anyway. If we want to point a finger, we should point it at the defense for giving up a 23-yard run on 3rd and 3 at midfield.
  20. The second drive was when I started to get worried. Three-and-out, and we lost 10 yards. Ugly ugly ugly.
  21. Of course, even when you think you can flip field position because of your punter, Purdue returns it for 22 yards and puts them squarely at midfield.
  22. Giving Purdue a short field isn’t a great strategy if you’re playing bend-but-don’t-break, which we clearly were. We appeared to sit in soft zone for much of the day, which led to three third down conversions and a fourth down conversion on that second drive. 55 yards in 13 plays isn’t anything to write home about, but they had 7 points at the end of it.
  23. The offense looked impressive in response. Chris Godwin basically waltzed into the endzone. He probably could have done it backwards. Nice block from Saeed Blacknall to make it look even easier.
  24. Let’s single out Blacknall for a minute. Heck of an effort on the first deep ball with one arm, nice blocking all day, and pulled down a big pass later. Great day for him.
  25. Raise your hand if you would have been generally satisfied with the manner in which the offense performed in the first half at any point last year.
  26. If you had told me last year that we would score 17 points by halftime and look competent doing it against any opponent, I would have leaped for joy. Now it’s just expected. That’s a nice change.
  27. Really, the defense needed to get it’s act together. I think scoring 34 points (17 per half) would have been a perfectly acceptable day at the office for this Penn State team.
  28. I don’t want to harp on it any more than I did earlier, but Purdue showed a lot of fire in that first half. They put in 6 quality quarters of work against Nebraska and the first half on Saturday. Solid effort.
  29. What the heck was that trick play, though? Impressed that we were able to contain it, especially on the edge.
  30. The biggest difference in the second half was turnovers. The offense just continued to make big play after big play, but this time they had many short fields to do it on. We’re talking touchdown drives of 24 yards, 24 yards, 58 yards, and 28 yards.
  31. Those numbers don’t include a one play, 81-yard touchdown drive.
  32. He’s The Truth. Kid’s got game for days. One cut, rounded the corner, turned on the jets, and he was gone.
  33. If he’s going to turn on the jets, can he also do it for the Jets in a few years?
  34. If Joe Moorhead really called that, that’s a nice omen for the future.
  35. Thank goodness for Jason Cabinda’s busted helmet, eh? Nice work, Brandon Smith. Continue to get yourself noticed.
  36. I was very pleased with Beth Mowins, and pleasantly surprised by Anthony Becht. He was much better than I remembered from the last time around.
  37. It’s not totally clear who the next man up at running back is at this point. I think we can firmly place Mark Allen deep on the depth chart, which I find unfortunate. I think he's capable of contributing as a 3rd down back regularly.
  38. That said, you can’t blame anyone for sticking with Saquon the Don.
  39. Andre Robinson looked good in limited work yesterday. So did Miles Sanders. Maybe a platoon if not for Barkley?
  40. Nice to see Tommy Stevens get some time in his home state. He looked good out there again. Tough runner who could run this offense effectively if need be.
  41. This is what depth means. Having players who can step in and minimize the damage. We’'ve seen it in running backs, linebackers, and quarterbacks here.
  42. While I appreciate that knowledge, I don't need any more of it. Let's stay healthy the rest of the way.
  43. At the end of the day, this is what good teams do. They go out and put their foot on the gas against teams they are supposed to beat.
  44. That illustrates substantial growth, not just year to year, but month to month.
  45. Undefeated Octobers are nice. An undefeated November will be even nicer.
  46. On to Iowa.
  47. We are . . .