Hey, we’ll always have that beat-down this group put on Rutgers, right?? And the offense was ON FIRE in that 4th quarter against the Boilers.
That’s all the optimism I’ve got. Let’s just get through this, and move on to the offseason.
- This game entered garbage time in the 3rd quarter so the possession number is lower than normal.
- Not much O-line shuffling against Rutgers – just Delroy Baker subbing for Mackenzie Nworah at right guard.
- Ian Thomas started and looked healthy in this one…until he took a hard shot to the leg early in the 2nd half and left the game.
- At running back, the freshmen duo of Morgan Ellison and Cole Gest split the standard down duties, while Ricky Brookins handled most passing downs. Devonte Williams saw a little red zone action and promptly dropped a perfectly thrown Lagow pass that would have been a TD.
- Whop Philyor’s usage was actually a little less than I expected, but he made the most of his limited playing time. The freshman had three 3rd down conversion catches that picked up 12, 36 and 19 yards.
- From a personnel grouping standpoint, IU remained in its preferred one back, one tight end personnel for every offensive snap.
- This game actually went into and out of the technical definition of garbage time in the second half, but to simplify, we treated the entire game as non-garbage time.
- The right side of IU’s line remained something of a revolving door. Baker started the game at right tackle with Nworah at right guard. Brandon Knight came in at RT for IU’s first possession of the 2nd quarter – which suggested to me that maybe there was some disciplinary issue for Knight, since he’d been the established starter for most of the season, and his absence was almost exactly one quarter. But then Baker returned to right tackle for a few possessions in the 2nd half, so there goes that theory. In all, Baker played about half the game at RG and a little under half the game at RT.
- Ellison and Gest again split standard-down duties until Ellison left with an injury early in the 3rd quarter. Brookins saw his role expand as IU was forced to play catch-up in the 2nd half.
- IU was in 4-WR for most of the 4th quarter, which, as shown in the chart below, meant they were passing. That also meant more action for Whop Philyor, who manned the 2nd slot spot created by that personnel group. Whop’s fellow true frosh wideout Ty Fryfogle briefly saw the field, his first action since the Michigan State game back in mid-October.
IU didn’t really need the deep ball against the Scarlet Knights because the passing game on all other levels was so effective. Lagow only had 3 incompletions on 16 attempts 10-yards and in. Short and intermediate passes with significant run-after-the-catch were the key to IU’s passing attack.
It helped that Richard operated almost entirely without pressure. Chris Ash’s defense opted not to blitz Lagow, which is generally a good strategy (as Purdue and others showed this season), but Ash needed his defensive line to generate pressure on more than 8% of dropbacks. IU’s offensive line allowed just one pressure.
Drops were a bit of an issue, including a dropped TD by Simmie Cobbs that cost IU 4 points.
Lagow’s passing chart is more than a little misleading. In the 1st half, IU’s senior QB completed just 1 pass beyond 10 yards – a 4th and 1 jump ball to Simmie Cobbs. His 10 other completions on passes traveling more than 10 yards downfield all came in the 2nd half, and most of them came in the 4th quarter, when Purdue’s coverage softened.
In the 1st half, Lagow simply could not find holes in Purdue’s coverage – which was primarily zone – and when an IU receiver did find a little daylight, Richard’s passes were often off-target. Purdue’s game-plan against the pass was simple: rush 3 or 4 most of the time, play physical on IU’s outside receivers, and let zone coverage in the middle confuse Lagow. This strategy turned into an INT on Lagow’s first pass and continued to stymie IU’s passing game until about midway through the 3rd quarter.
At that point, Lagow finally found a little rhythm. It helped that Purdue’s back seven was playing softer and trying to keep things in front of them. It also helped that IU’s receivers started to win some 1-on-1 matchups. In the end, IU’s late success served to make the game appear closer than it was and to make you wonder where that rhythm was in the 1st half.
On a positive note, IU’s pass protection was actually pretty solid. Coach DeBord would take 15% pressure every game. Left tackle Coy Cronk had an especially strong game, allowing just one pressure on 65 dropbacks (1.5%). Of course, there was one little pass-pro incident that had a fairly major impact on the game: on what would have been a 39-yard TD pass to Cobbs, Cole Gest and Mackenzie Nworah combined on a chop-block, presumably caused by a miscommunication on pass-protection responsibilities. Instead of a 4-point game early in the 3rd quarter and a YUGE momentum swing, it was 2nd and 24 at IU’s 46. Just brutal. Predictably, IU would punt two plays later.
Runs by Ellison of 39 and 45 yards accounted for 84 of the 142 yards the Hoosiers gained running to the right. Running left was nowhere near as productive – just 28 yards on 10 carries – but before you blame the left side of the line, have a look at the pulling linemen chart. IU backs picked up an average of 10 yards on left guard Wes Martin’s five pulls, all of which were runs to the right.
While Ellison broke the long runs, Cole Gest continued his late-season surge with several strong runs and three missed-tackles.
Excluding Ricky Brookins’ 64-yard run on a draw play late in the 1st half, IU picked up just 63 yards on 24 carries, or 2.6 YPC. There was no greater mismatch in this game than Purdue’s interior D-line against IU’s interior O-line. Again, excluding the Brookins’ draw, IU’s 16 other inside runs gained 20 yards. I usually try not to single out a single guy, but man, was Hunter Littlejohn overmatched. When he wasn’t quickly discarded, he was shoved into IU’s backfield. Make no mistake, Purdue was incredibly good against the run all season, and without run-stuffing MLB Ja’Whaun Bentley, the defensive line took it upon themselves to make IU entirely one-dimensional.
Here’s the thing though: that IU’s offensive line would struggle to create push against Purdue’s front seven shouldn’t have come as a surprise. That’s why I was surprised that IU didn’t focus its run game to the outside. As it was, IU attempted 8 runs outside the tackles for 43 yards – nothing crazy, but 5.4 YPC was about 4 YARDS A CARRY better than they were getting inside. Why not run a few jet sweeps or a reverse to Whop or a few more outside zone runs to Gest? It may not have won the game, but especially in the 1st half, it might have kept IU a little more on schedule and helped move the chains.
One final note: Brookins broke two tackles on his long run, and Taysir Mack broke two tackles on one nice run-after-catch late in the game. On IU’s other 88 offensive snaps, Hoosier ballcarriers broke a paltry two tackles. That’s a combination of incredible tackling by Purdue and a complete lack of elusiveness and/or power by IU. If you’ll recall from last week, Purdue broke 16 tackles. I have no way of proving this, but I have to imagine that the winning percentage of teams when they break 10 more tackles than their opponent has to be 90% or better.