The Purdue Q And A With Travis Miller Of Hammer And Rails

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

To get the opposite perspective about Saturday's Nebraska/Purdue game, we talked to our friends over at the Purdue SBNation site Hammer and Rails.

We here at CN want to give you, the reader, the most information possible before games. Well, asking questions and getting answers from the opposing SBNation community is part of that information.

Of course, we have to acknowledge the great folks we work with across the network. Today, that happens to be Travis Miller, Head Everything at the Purdue SBNation site Hammer and Rails.

He published the Q/A we had done with him yesterday, so it's only fair he return the favor for us. Thank you for your contribution Travis, we all at CN appreciate it.

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1. From the outside looking in, it seems that Darrell Hazell has honestly not been the best hire for this team. Last year’s bunch at least made the Heart of Dallas Bowl, while this year’s gang has not really fulfilled much outside of scaring Notre Dame. Is there cause for optimism in West Lafayette, or is this simply a filler till the Basketball teams get busy?

I think there is cause for optimism because Purdue’s non-conference schedule is much tougher this season compared to last year. Notre Dame is the same, but Northern Illinois, Cincinnati (at least until they lost to USF) and Indiana State is much tougher than Marshall, Eastern Michigan, and Eastern Kentucky. Cincinnati won the Big East last year, Indiana State is the only school in the country in the last year that has beaten North Dakota State, and Notre Dame, Northern Illinois, and Wisconsin all played in a BCS bowl last season.

The biggest problem has been the upperclassmen underperforming. Of our seniors, only Ricardo Allen and punter Cody Webster are performing at what you would call a Big Ten level. Coach Hazell has changed systems on both sides of the ball and enforced more discipline than Hope’s did. Hazell also recognizes something isn’t working and is attempting to change it up, which is also an improvement compared to Hope, who, at one point last season, said, "I don’t know what’s wrong. They looked good in practice."

Hazell is trying to change the entire culture of the program, and that takes time. We have seen some flashes of it. The offense finally got moving vs. NIU, but five turnovers were backbreakers. The defense also has continued to have trouble stopping the run. We simply need better players there, especially at linebacker. They are coming in recruits Gelen Robinson and Drue Tranquill, but it will take time.

2. Danny Etling finally has the keys to the offense, and quite honestly looked pretty good against Northern Illinois. What does he bring that gives you hope against Nebraska?

Etling is a much better passer than Henry, whose talents were more suited to run a read-option style of offense like your own Taylor Martinez. Henry was not a pocket passer at all and he felt like a square peg in a round hole for most of the year. He’s a good kid and we all like him because he is willing to do whatever it takes for the sake of the team (for example, he moved to safety for this game), but he just didn’t fit.

Etling was slinging the ball all over the place and if he cuts down on freshman mistakes I think the offense might finally start moving.

3. Akeem Hunt is your leading rusher and receiver. How much is he going to have to do to take the pressure off of Danny?

It is not so much Hunt, but the offensive line, which has been awful for most of the season. Hunt may be the leading rusher, but he doesn’t even have 200 yards because the line has not opened holes in the running game against anyone except NIU, and even then we have to abandon the run game because we fell behind so much. Where Hunt excels is the underneath passing game. He is very dangerous when he gets the ball in a little space with room to move.

4. The defense seems much maligned, and could be in for a long day. What gives you hope that they can get Tommy Armstrong Jr, Kenny Bell, and Ameer Abdullah off track?

Not a lot. We were flat out awful against the run up at Wisconsin and against NIU there was a second half drive where Purdue desperately needed a stop to have any hope of getting back in it, but the defense gave up a ton of yards on simple draws up the middle. Honestly, the defense is going to have to find a way to look like it did for three quarters against Notre Dame. Other than the Indiana State game, that is the only time they have looked good.

5. Y’all do realize that you’re not going to have as much success as you did in 1958 this weekend, right?

What do you mean? Nebraska has never even scored against us. That is a lot of history to overcome. Yeah, you may have only played Purdue once, but you are the only Big Ten team to have a losing record to Indiana! I think you have your own worries about playing in this state.

6. Give me a list of folks we should keep an eye on as Big Red gets ready to invade Ross-Ade for Saturday morning’s tilt.

Dalyn Dawkins – I really like this freshman running back, who is shifty and played for the mythical National High School Champion Louisville Trinity. Unfortunately, he is suffering from the same problems that Hunt has. The line is not doing him any favors.

DeAngelo Yancey – This is another true freshman and he is coming off of a 100-yard receiving day vs. NIU. He had a good rapport with Etling in that game and is a decent deep threat.

Dan Monteroso – This is a third true freshman who is expected to play for the first time after suffering a broken collarbone in fall camp. Before that, he was emerging as a definite contributor.

Ricardo Allen – Allen is probably Purdue’s best defensive player, but has been left on an island for a good portion of the year. He has two interceptions this year and holds the Big Ten record with four career pick-sixes. One more ties the FBS all-time career record.

7. Alright, time for a prediction. Tell us how you see the game going, and what’s your choice for a winner and a final score?

I think Nebraska wins, probably by two or three touchdowns. After seeing what Melvin Gordon did against us I have no confidence we can slow down Ameer Abdullah. Purdue’s only hope is to take advantage of a porous pass defense, hope Armstrong plays more like a freshman than Etling, and somehow finds a way to slow down the running game. If Nebraska runs at will it should not have any problems.

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