Friday, September 26, 2008

Under the Big Top | by Jay

While fondly reflecting this morning on the electric brilliance of Quizz Rodgers, here are seven Purdue notes to ponder.

1. Purdue's record to date:

  • W 42-10 Northern Colorado
  • L 26-32 (16) Oregon (OT)
  • W 32-25 Central Michigan
Everyone knows that Purdue nearly lost to Central Michigan last week. But not everyone remembers that they also nearly beat Oregon. They jumped out to a 20-6 lead at the half, but let Oregon back in the game. Then they missed a game-winning field goal with :04 left on the clock, and lost the game in overtime.

2. Kory Sheet's rushing numbers are a little inflated. He's a good player, but his stat line has also benefited from two long plays.
  • Northern Colorado - 16 rushes-81 yards
  • Oregon - 29-180 *
  • CMU - 17-91 **
* Sheets went 80 yards in one play. Check out the video. At most, it should have been a 20-yard pick-up. The Oregon tacklers did an awful job. The extra 60 yards he picked up helped to make his day look better than it really was (under 4 ypc otherwise).

** With 1:00 minute left in the game against the Chippewas, Sheets had run 16 times for 45 yards. Then he busted a 46-yard TD to win the game. If CMU had not committed a face mask penalty on the ensuing kickoff, I'm not sure that Tiller could have, or would have, run the ball in that situation. Without that penalty that set up that run, his numbers look much more pedestrian.

Michael sez: "I'm not sure we have to have Harrison Smith in the game to stop the run; one of Sergio Brown's best strengths is his tackling. Another reason why I'd rather have Brown is, despite some struggles in coverage, he's still more adept at it than Harrison -- and especially Crum. Purdue's scheme really knows how to find match-ups to exploit. Now, they don't have Keller anymore, which will make things easier on us, and so long as we tackle well I think we can prevent Sheets from having a big game.

"I would like to see us play Ian Williams a tad more, even though he's technically just a second stringer in our personnel against spread offenses. It's not like we're sacrificing that much in the pass rush, which has been somewhat quiet anyway."

3. Until a minute left in the game, Central Michigan had out-gained Purdue 440 to 298. How did they do it? With a spread offense and a crazylegs, scrambling quarterback named Dan LeFevour. He threw it 44 times for 291 yards, but more impressively, he was also the leading rusher on the day, running 24 times for 148 yards.

Purdue's front four actually hurried him quite a bit on Saturday, but LeFevour has that one intangible that Jimmy Clausen will hopefully develop someday: escapability. Check out the game highlights: he turned a lot of near-sacks into positive yardage. We don't have that luxury: we don't run a spread, and we don't have a quarterback who can scramble like LeFevour. Let's hope our protection is up to snuff.

4. Coach T on the Irish pressure package:
Q. Notre Dame tends to blitz quite a bit, give you some different looks. Talk about the challenge of that, what they bring defensively in terms of pressure.

COACH TILLER: Yeah, they bring a lot of pressure. About the only thing I can say is having played the teams that we've gone against to date, it's helped us prepare for a team like Notre Dame, although we've seen pressure in all three games, a multiplicity of different looks. We'll probably see all three gamed wrapped into one in this game in terms of different looks.

It's not uncommon for Notre Dame to run a particular blitz maybe twice in the game. You don't see that blitz, but you continue to see pressure. I think they're a football team that wants to bring five-man pressure all the time. That means they're bringing somebody other than a front guy. Could be a linebacker or could be a secondary defender. You're never quite sure who that extra rusher is going to be.

It's truly a pressure defense. Like I said, you're going to see five guys coming all the time. They might have a lineman dropping into a zone pressure look and bring in two extra defenders, maybe a secondary guy and a linebacker. But is it going to come up your left side, right side, up the middle, where is it going to come. They like to confuse you with their style of play in terms of numbers of looks that you're going to see. Like I said, we'll probably see as many in this game as we've seen in the first three games combined.
It's good to see the respek coming from the Boilers' coach, but the Irish blitzing has yet to produce a slew of fact, we've gotten only one (1!) in three games, if you can believe that. Like Corwin said in his presser yesterday (a good one, if you can find it on the website), "When you go to a restaurant you want to eat steak. Hamburger is good, but you want to eat steak. And we've been eating a lot of hamburger."

5. Looking at the official Purdue depth chart for the ND game, there's been some moving around since the season began. Three-year starter Sean Sester still limited by back injury and not in the starting lineup at right tackle. Pre-season starting left tackle Zach Jones now starting at right tackle. Fifth-year senior career backup Garrett Miller now starting at left tackle. Multi-year starter at DT Alex Magee is now at DE. That's right, a 295-pound defensive end. Will he be squaring off against Kyle Rudolph?

Fifth-year senior Frank Doung, a former walk-on from Mishawaka's Penn High School, is now the starting SS. He's 5-8, 178. Here's a story about him.

Redshirt freshman Joe Holland was moved from safety to linebacker a month ago. Now he's starting at WLB while regular Jason Werner is recovering from back surgery. A 211-pound linebacker? Maybe it's better to send Rudolph into a lot of patterns, and let Holland and Anthony Heygood -- one of their best defenders -- chase him around the field.

6. Speaking of offensive strategy for the Irish, with Yeatman out, I expect us to ditch the two-TE sets and go with three wideouts most of the time. Stick to a short passing game like what we saw in the second half against MSU, and use the pass to set up those draws and delayed handoffs. Flex Rudolph out more; don't ask him to block guys like Magee; let him block DBs and LBs in space and run routes. Have four receivers out on every play (not counting the back). Have Clausen throw look passes when they load the middle, and hit the backs out of the backfield after our receivers clear out the underneath with vertical routes. Then pump-fake a look pass and hit a wide-open Golden Tate down the sideline. Ladies and gentlemen of the Notre Dame fan base, that's what I'd do. But what do I know? I'm just a caveman.

7. The Resistible Force versus the Movable Object: PU Defense rank: 103rd. ND Offense rank...