Previously: Fee Fi Foe Film: Notre Dame vs. Purdue
Purdue didn't exactly help the Big Ten's reputation by allowing Marshall to hang around in an eventual 51-41 victory last weekend. This was an odd contest, as depending on how you look at it, the game was either closer than score indicated—Marshall outgained Purdue 534-443—or not as close as the score indicated—the Boilermakers had a 42-14 halftime lead and their yardage was held down due to two Purdue pick-sixes.
After going over the film, I came away impressed with the way the Boilermakers utilize their playmakers on offense, and wholly unimpressed with their defense outside of their two best players, NT Kawann Short and CB Josh Johnson. Let's go to the breakdown—apologies for the lack of video, as no torrent of the game was available.
Photo credit: Purdue Exponent
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Very much a spread. Purdue goes to the I-form as a changeup—utilizing it much like Michigan, hoping to break big plays on play-action—but otherwise operate entirely out of the shotgun.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? The Boilermakers mixed a fair amount of zone running—including the zone read—with gap blocking principles, and didn't heavily rely on one or the other.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Purdue has a slightly higher-than-average pace, though they looked downright slow compared to Marshall's Oregon-like hurry-up.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Starter Caleb TerBush is the least mobile of Purdue's three quarterbacks—Rob Henry being the fastest above the injured Robert Marve—but he's still a marginally effective scrambler. Purdue will run some zone read and inverted veer, and TerBush often keeps, especially on the latter. He won't make defenders miss on the second level; he can eat up chunks of yardage and break the pocket under pressure. I'll give him a 5.
Dangerman: Purdue's offense centers around getting the ball in space to a bunch of undersized but quick receivers, and their go-to is Antavian Edison, who leads the team with 285 yards and five touchdowns on 24 receptions; he's also carried the ball eight times this year, though managing only 17 yards. He's a quick slot-type and the recipient of a variety of screens and end-arounds.
It's tough to key on Edison, however, because Purdue uses fellow receivers Gary Bush and O.J. Ross in exactly the same way. Bush and Ross combined for 16 catches, 152 yards, and three TDs (all by Bush) against Marshall, most of those coming on screens.
Zook Factor: Nothing particularly Zook-like from Danny Hope in this game. Bummer.
HenneChart: Another new feature this week—Brian's HenneChart will now appear in these posts. Here's TerBush's performance against Marshall, with only throws downfield charted (forgot to chart screens until it was too late to keep track, though those are taken out of the Downfield Success Rate anyway):
TerBush didn't have a great game when asked to throw downfield; most of his reads were simple, largely off play-action, and he still missed several receivers. While he only had one bad read (didn't see a waiting safety on a deep out for a near-pick), he had pretty significant accuracy issues, turfing a couple throws and badly overthrowing his tight end on a crossing route for an interception. He had a couple pinpoint throws on the run; for the most part, however, he isn't asked to do much beyond throw screens, and there's a reason for that.
There are reports that Robert Marve may give it a go this weekend despite another ACL injury. He's a more dynamic playmaker than TerBush and has a better arm; he's also prone to forcing the ball into coverage. He was splitting reps with TerBush before the injury and wouldn't be a significant upgrade or downgrade.
[Continue on to the rest of the breakdown after THE JUMP.]
Greg Mattison pretty much nailed it in this week's presser:
What are the things they do offensively that concern you the most?
“Well they throw a lot of screens. They throw a lot of screens, a lot of bubble screens, a lot of X screens, and that’s their way of getting the ball outside, so what they’re going to do is show you a running play and either hand it off in the run, or if they don’t feel like you’re covered down well enough, then they’re going to throw it out there, and they’ve been very successful on it.”
Purdue's first touchdown drive against Marshall featured an end-around to Edison, a zone read keeper, some inside zones, and was capped off by a bubble screen to Ross followed by a tunnel screen to Bush for a TD. The drive covered 85 yards on 12 plays with exactly zero downfield throws. That is Purdue in a nutshell.
As Mattison said, Purdue likes to show a lot of run and then hit the edge with quick screens, and they'll throw just about every screen in the book: bubbles, tunnels, or a simple quick throw out to the wideout. There's a lot of pressure on the defensive backs to play sound on the edge, and the outside linebackers must play a very disciplined game as well. J.T. Floyd, Raymon Taylor, and Courtney Avery will need to tackle well in this game to limit the Boilermaker attack. That's been an issue in the past couple years for the Wolverine corners.
Purdue will mix in some I-form, and much like Michigan they largely run play-action out of it even if they haven't established the run. They ran two play-action throwback screens to the running back, the first netting a large gain and the second a would-be touchdown if not for a Marshall defender tipping the pass behind the line. Michigan should be familiar with this look; again, it's all about maintaining the right assignment and not getting fooled by play-action and misdirection.
The Boilermaker line didn't look very solid when asked to run-block; there were several missed assignments that led to a couple ugly TFLs, and despite facing an awful Herd defense they didn't get much of a push up front. The right side of the line also gave up a fair amount of pressure on the few occasions Purdue dropped back and didn't throw a quick screen, so Michigan should be able to put together a decent pass rush without having to go kamikaze on the blitzes.
While running back Akeem Shavers didn't find much room to run, I like what I've seen from him when he finds space; he's decent between the tackles and has big-play ability. Michigan shouldn't allow Purdue's line to get enough push to spring Shavers into the second level; if they do, it could be trouble.
The key will be on the edge, however, and that should be a concern given the cornerbacks' tackling deficiencies this year. Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon may be relied upon to clean up on those screens, but if they are it will be 8-10 yards downfield, which is exactly what Purdue wants. The good news is that Michigan should really be able to key on those quick throws, since I don't see the Boilermakers having a ton of success with the run and Purdue doesn't have much of a downfield passing game at all.
Photo Credit: Columbus (IN) Republic
Base Set? Multiple. Purdue was a 4-3 team last year but are transitioning to a 3-4 under new DC Tim Tibesar. They'll show both looks on both standard and passing downs, though they're mostly in a 4-3 on early downs and move to the 3-4 when it's a passing situation.
Man or zone coverage? The Boilermakers mostly played man-up with two deep safeties, though they also mixed in some Cover 2 zone. They were more effective in man, allowing a lot of quick slants over the middle when in zone.
Pressure: GERG or Greg? Purdue sat back in coverage for the most part, even going to the dreaded three-man rush on a couple third downs; they did bring up to six on the rush on passing downs, but this isn't a blitz-heavy outfit.
Dangerman: Is obvious.
That's from the Notre Dame game. Marshall attempted to single-block Short twice last Saturday; both times he came through with thunderous TFLs and picked up his fourth sack of the year after splitting a double-team. PROTIP: Do not single-block Kawann Short.
Short also impacted on special teams, blocking a field goal; it was his third(!) blocked kick of the season and seventh(!!!) of his career. He deserves every bit of his All-American hype, and Michigan's interior line with have their hands full with him and fellow DT Bruce Gaston, who's solidly above-average.
Purdue currently sits at 39th in scoring, 23rd in rushing, and 32nd in pass efficiency defense. Despite those decent numbers, there are several areas that are ripe for exploitation. Yes, it does help your numbers if you play Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Michigan in non-conference play; while Purdue did play Notre Dame, the Irish offense hasn't exactly fired on all cylinders this year.
While the Boilermakers are very stout up the middle with Short and Gaston, they often lose the edge against the run. They rotate four defensive ends with close to equal playing time; none stood out as particularly good, and I noticed each one lose contain at least once, with the biggest culprit being sophomore Jalani Phillips. Fitz Toussaint and Denard Robinson should find space to get to the outside, and Michigan should be able to generate some big plays with the run.
There's also big-play potential with the passing game, and again it has to do with issues of contain; Marshall had a mobile quarterback, though one that didn't look to run much, and he was able to get outside the pocket and buy a lot of extra time to pick apart the secondary. I thought Purdue's defensive backs had a very solid day in coverage; they were still torched for 439 yards (albeit on 68 attempts) due to the lack of a pass rush—they can only stick in coverage for so long before something opens up. While Brian hasn't been a big fan of Michigan's play-action rollout passes—especially from I-form—Purdue entirely forgot to contain the quarterback on a couple of similar plays by Marshall; there could be room for long gains through the air or on a Denard scramble if there isn't improvement on the edge by Purdue.
The linebackers didn't have a great day, especially in coverage; Purdue had to mostly abandon playing Cover 2 in the second half as Marshall repeatedly found holes over the middle. Weakside linebacker Will Lucas had a couple nice plays pursuing to the edge against the run; otherwise, the LBs were nothing special, easily sucked in by play-action and misdirection.
Purdue does boast a very opportunistic and aggressive secondary; starting corners Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen each had pick-sixes when jumping slant routes (Purdue's other INT came off a drop by Marshall—you are awarded no points, etc.). Allen shifts down to the nickel spot against three-wide, with redshirt freshman Frankie Williams taking his place on the outside; both are decent in coverage but susceptible to double-moves—Williams gave up a critical second-half TD on one such route. Johnson is an outstanding corner who really should get more hype, and I think he's a far better player than Allen. Johnson's break on the ball for his interception was beautiful, he came up and layed a couple huge hits on quick screens, and he only got beat once that I can remember. All of Purdue's corners are solid tacklers and they do a good job of limiting YAC.
With Short patrolling the interior, I expect Michigan will attempt to attack the edge until Purdue shows they can keep contain. If they can establish the run, the play-action game should net some big plays, and Devin Funchess could have a big day finding room up the seam. Outside of Short and Johnson (and, to a lesser extent, Gaston) the Boilermaker defense is ripe for the picking.