West Lafayette, IN – It has been a long off season after the Purdue Boilermakers went 2-10 and lost the bucket game for the 3rd year in a row to the Indiana Hoosiers. Now entering his fourth year, head coach Darrell Hazel is entering what is his most important season as he is considered to have one of the hottest seats in the country. Fast forward to today as the Boilers faced off against FCS Eastern Kentucky.
You couldn’t ask for much better of a start than the Boilers got Saturday afternoon. On the first three EKU offensive possessions the Boilers forced a turnover. That includes a 78 yard pick-six from Gelen Robinson off a halfback pass by the Colonels. The offensive side of the ball was able to duplicate the defenses success by scoring quickly and often. In the blink of an eye, Purdue was leading 21-0. It was looking like Purdue was finally starting to beat an FCS team like most power five conference schools should beat an FCS team, (I’m looking at you Tennessee).
Purdue’s offense had two key returning players in David Blough and Markell Jones. The real star of the day was Jones whom excelled in all facets of the game for a running back. He finished 145 yards on 24 carries, one touchdown on the ground and a handful of catches for 24 yards. The stat the doesn’t go in the stat sheet at the end of the day though is Jones’ pass protection. Blough was able to have a clean pocket for most of the afternoon and it allowed him to go through all of his progressions. Markell is the most important player for this Boilermaker squad and will be leaned on heavily throughout the season. His counterpart Blough actually out did him in terms of rushing touchdowns as Blough had two touchdowns on the ground. Although they were only for a combined two yards. In terms of passing Blough struggled a little with his accuracy. The deep ball was erratic at best, even though Blough did connect on a long touchdown to Deangelo Yancey from 35 yards out. The medium to deep ball accuracy needs to be reigned in over the next few weeks for the offense to keep this momentum.
Defensively, as I spoke of earlier, the turnovers were the best start new defensive co-ordinator Ross Els could have asked for. After that though, EKU started to make a small comeback and get some substantial yardage in the second quarter. the Colonels actually out-gained the Boilers in the first half overall. That was thanks in large part to a secondary dealing with injuries to key players. It was only a 10 point game at the break and Purdue really struggled to get off the field on third down. EKU was 10-14 in the first half. The read option and quick passing game of the Colonels was giving the Boilers fits for the first 30 minutes. The second half was a different story as the Boilers shut the Colonels down until the backups game in late during mop-up time. Forcing punt after punt and actually making the halftime adjustments to help cover some of the deficiencies that we saw in the first.
You can’t ask for a much better start to year four of the Hazel era. While Purdue didn’t look stellar in the second quarter, the rest of the game they were the better team. That is something they haven’t been able to say for awhile. The offense looked solid and the defense, while they certainly have things to work on, they looked capable. The next challenge will be the Cincinnati Bearcats as the Boilers look for their first ever win streak in the Darrell Hazel era.
Nick Konkel is a part-time writer for Indiana Sports Report. You can follow him on twitter @nkonkelISR and be sure to follow everything ISR @IndySportsRep.