Football: Schematic changes don’t work as Purdue loses again
By Michael Osipoff 713-2485 or firstname.lastname@example.org October 12, 2013 7:08PM
Nebraska v Purdue
Updated: November 14, 2013 6:54AM
WEST LAFAYETTE — Freshly minted starting quarterback Danny Etling opened the game in the shotgun, with five wide receivers, including fellow freshman Dan Monteroso, making his debut after having suffered a broken collarbone in the preseason. Redshirt freshman Jordan Roos started at right guard.
Purdue, going no-huddle, went three-and-out.
The Boilermakers opened the game defensively with three down linemen (usual tackle Bruce Gaston at end, Greg Latta at the other end, and Michigan City’s Ryan Isaac at nose guard); usual end Ryan Russell standing up as the “Jack” linebacker; two traditional linebackers; and five defensive backs (including freshman Leroy Clark starting at cornerback and Ricardo Allen playing the nickel).
Nebraska drove down the field and scored.
After a bye week, Purdue attempted to implement a variety of personnel and schematic changes on Saturday against the Cornhuskers. But the outcome remained the same for the Boilermakers, who lost 44-7 at a Ross-Ade Stadium largely overtaken by Nebraska red.
“We have to play better at every position,” Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said. “Our execution needs to be a whole lot better than what it is right now. I thought we would perform a little bit better than what we did today.”
It took until the game’s final minute for the Boilermakers (1-5, 0-2 Big Ten) to avoid getting shut out — they have not gotten blanked since a 49-0 loss at No. 11 Ohio State on Oct. 23, 2010, and not at home since a 12-0 loss to Penn State on Oct. 28, 2006 — as Etling connected with classmate DeAngelo Yancey for a 55-yard TD with 39 seconds left.
Etling, who took over from Rob Henry late in the first half against Northern Illinois, went 14-of-35 for 184 yards and an interception in his first full game. He was sacked five times — including a safety by former Purdue commit Randy Gregory on a play that began at the 17-yard line — as he faced consistent pressure from the Cornhuskers (5-1, 2-0); future opponents figure to try a similar course of action until he and the Boilermakers prove they can handle it.
“It’s not good enough — yet,” Etling said. “Obviously, I have to play better, and I think I’m going to play better. I’m going to learn more from a game like this than I would from success. … I’m going to get better.”
Purdue mustered just 216 total yards, including a mere 32 rushing (losing 50 on the sacks) on 25 attempts, against a Nebraska defense that had entered the game allowing 445.4 yards (10th in the Big Ten, 98th nationally). The Boilers went 3-of-14 on third down, and the Cornhuskers — who had 435 yards — went 11-of-21.
“Third down was critical for us today,” Hazell said. “They made some huge third downs against us which obviously kept the momentum for them and hurt the momentum for us. We have to be able to get off the field on third down defensively, and we have to be able to convert third downs offensively. That’s crushing us right now. Other than the turnovers, that’s probably our biggest Achilles’ heel right now.”
A Purdue fumble, too, helped all but seal a Nebraska win in a game that was all but decided anyway (the Cornhuskers had the same amount of points in the first quarter — 14 — as the Boilermakers had yards).
Cornhuskers cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste was ejected on a targeting penalty with 7:36 left in the second quarter, giving the Boilermakers the ball at the Nebraska 47. But on the next play, Dalyn Dawkins dropped a pitch from Etling, and Gregory recovered, with a personal foul call on Purdue moving the ball to the Boilermakers 28. And on the next play, Ameer Abdullah (126 yards on 20 carries) scored to give the Cornhuskers a 21-0 lead with 7:12 left in the half.
“That fumble that we had was huge,” Hazell said. “I thought we had some momentum right then, our guys had a lot of energy at that particular time, then we drop a ball that’s a pitch. Those things you can’t explain as a player or as a coach. … All of a sudden, the momentum shifts.”
After three losses by an average of 33.0 points, the Boilermakers next play at Michigan State, which entered this weekend leading the conference in scoring defense (13.4 points) and total defense (203.8 yards).
“We’ll round the troops and circle the wagons,” Hazell said.
“We’re not in a great spot right now, that’s the reality of it. We don’t feel good about it, nor should we. But there’s only two ways you can go, and I know our football team will work to get out of this hole. They’ll do everything they have to do to keep clawing and scratching and fighting to work to get better.”