1. Purdue has certainly seen their struggles all season, starting with a quarterback controversy. Now that you've seen the whole season, was it the right move for Purdue to start with Rob Henry and switch to Danny Etling?
It is hard today. I did a comparison of stats after they had played an equal amount of time (4.5 games each) and the stats were almost dead even in every category. The only edge that Henry had was a pair of rushing touchdowns.
The biggest issue has not been quarterback play, but offensive line play. The line has not protected either guy and has not allowed anything to get going in the running game. They honestly could not have plays worse. Etling consistently faced pressure and was forced to either throw the ball away or throw an interception, while Henry was often running for his life the instant he got the football.
Out of curiosity I wanted to see a little bit more of Austin Appleby. He is a redshirt freshman that was originally the No. 2 guy behind Henry and he got a handful of snaps against Iowa. It wasn’t much, but he looked good and at least got the offense moving even against backups. Purdue hasn’t been able to do that against anyone. I think he makes it a two man race next season with hot Elite 11 prospect David Blough coming in as a likely redshirt.
2. Speaking of Rob Henry, how is the defensive experience going for him? I heard a rumor that he actually was the punter for one play a few weeks ago. Is that true? Does he also make the popcorn in the concession stands at half time?
The punting rumor is true. He has played a lot on special teams and in the punt formation. He became a situational punter and had a few nice pooch kicks where Webster shifted out as a wideout (he played there some in high school) and Henry took a direct snap. I’d imagine he has some leeway to run or pass if it is there and he even did have one fake that was pretty ugly against Nebraska.
Henry is a great kid that will play anywhere the coaches ask him. In his career he has not played quarterback, wide receiver, running back, safety, and punter. Popcorn vendor is likely not that far away.
3. We know all about the offensive struggles, but tell us, what's the defense look like? I mean I know they've been getting a lot of points put up on them, but that could be a result of a bad offense leaving them on the field. Is this D better than the numbers suggest?
I think it is a little better than numbers suggest because the defense has kept us in a handful of games. It played well against anyone not named Steve Hull for Illinois and was fantastic at Michigan State. The Cincinnati, Iowa, and Notre Dame games were competitive too until the defense just ran out of gas in the second half because the offense was doing nothing.
I think it is a unit that, if Indiana had it, would be perfect because the offense can go out and get it some points, thus allowing it to rest on occasion and play a little more opened up. Right now the defense has to be absolutely perfect for Purdue to even have a chance of winning. It almost worked at Michigan State too.
4. You're a young squad. In year one of a major rebuild, who is your Kofi Hughes and Cody Latimer? Who should we keep an eye out for that is going to be making some pre-season All-Conference watch lists in 2-3 years?
I really like freshman receivers B.J. Knauf, Cameron Posey, and DeAngelo Yancey. They have played very well and have been pleasant surprises. Knauf is a lot like old Vinny Sutherland on Tiller’s first teams, while Posey and Yancey have been actual downfield threats. Since all three are freshmen eligibility-wise they have some very good career ahead of them. It also helps that Etling, their quarterback, is also a freshman. If we can ever protect him and give him a running game the pieces are there for Etling to be solid.
5. Finally, I know you're feeling pretty down about Purdue's chances in this game. I'm not going to lie, it makes me sad. I was really hoping you would find something deep inside that refused to let you believe you'd lose to Indiana. It would make a victory much more enjoyable. Is this how you guys have felt about this game for the last few years? Can we not just once, be on the same level consistently?
I think since Tiller got here and crushed Indiana in those first two years we have felt that any loss to Indiana would be embarrassing. Then again, that is how much of the Big Ten feels. When you’ve won 13 of the last 16 games and most of them via blowout it tends to build confidence.
Even this year I feel like we have a small chance just because the Indiana defense is so bad. I felt better before I saw us do nothing for three quarters against Illinois after two promising opening drives. I felt like if the offense at least worked against the Illini we had a chance of getting into one of those fun shootouts where the offense that makes the fewest mistakes wins. Now I am not confident that our offense can get out of its own way enough to take advantage of the Indiana defense.
It’s a pretty bad place when I question if we can crack 20 points against one of the nation’s worst defenses, no offense.