Raise your hand if weekend day drinking has become a damn habit yet.
Saturdays have corks being bitten off bottles before lunch as 11am kickoffs become the norm in Covid-ball 2020. Hair of the Dog is the order of the Day on the Sabbath to dull the pain of the most recent nut-kick disappointment while trying not to be too surly and take it out on the innocent Burger King troll who meant well but forgot your goddamned onion rings and HOW MUCH SHIT DOES A HUSKER FAN HAVE TO ENDURE??? (*chug..snarl*)
Where was I? Oh yes, it’s Q&A time again and this week Travis Miller of SBNation’s Purdue site Hammer and Rails was kind of enough to answer a few of our sometimes bitter questions about the upcoming tilt. He explained the QB situation in West Lafayette, eased my stress over Rondale Moore and David Bell not one tiny bit and gets more sympathy from me than any other living creature this week for having to endure Bob Diaco as a defensive coordinator. (*chug..sniffle*)
We may be enemy fans this weekend but no human deserves that flaming bag of dog poo in their life. On with the Q&A:
1. OK, let’s pretend I’m lazy and didn’t really check beyond Purdue’s ESPN page to find out what’s going on at QB. (The injury stuff from last season was still pretty high up on the list, so I took a shot of rum and gave up at that point) Aidan O’Connell had a pretty good start, then Jack Plummer came in and seemed to excel in the two losses. What’s going on there - something as simple as O’Connell got hurt?
O’Connell was mostly fine through the first three games, but it has come out that he had a foot injury that affected him against Northwestern. As a result, Plummer got the start at Minnesota and did quite well. In the leadup to last week Plummer was named the starter early and it was said that O’Connell’s injury would require surgery at some point. Does that mean he is done for good? I have no idea. Brohm has always played it coy with injuries. For all we know O’Connell could have a completely missing foot by now.
Plummer has done pretty well though and is far more mobile than O’Connell. He had a really good game at Minnesota and I don’t put the game clinching pick on him because really, it shouldn’t have happened since the winning TD was wiped off the board the previous play. He had a bad pick against Rutgers, but was generally pretty good. His ability to scramble opens things up a bit more. He has not been the issue.
2. Where’s Rondale Moore at this point? 22 catches in his first two games back is nothing to sneeze at but we haven’t seen that 78 yard TD reception on the stat line yet. Is he looking like he’s at full speed and have I just jinxed the piss out of the Huskers by asking?
Rondale was mostly quiet against Rutgers because we didn’t get him the ball a lot. That is frustrating considering what he did the last time he saw Greg Schiano. He did pretty well at Minnesota and has done a lot of his work on sweeps and such. We haven’t seen him really go full Rondale yet. He had a TD called back just before halftime at Minnesota because he had a slight bobble going out of bounds and Purdue had a field goal blocked on the next play, so it ended up being a big play.
We have seen some glimpses though. He has made some guys miss and shown the skills are still there. It would be nice if we could get the full Rondale experience again because he is fun to watch. I want to see that same “He can score any time he touches the ball from anywhere” character we have seen before.
3. Every game has been within a touchdown for Purdue so far. That means both 5-0 and 0-5 were in play - which are the Boilermakers closer to?
In reality? I think 0-5. Iowa was driving to put the game away when they fumbled inside the Purdue 30. Purdue then drove down and got the winning score with a little under 2 minutes left. Against Illinois Purdue was up 21 in the fourth quarter, but gave up two TDs and needed a red zone stop to preserve the win.
Of course, we had our chances in the other three. Purdue had the ball twice in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie and did nothing. We beat Minnesota, plain and simple, because that was a terrible call. Last week was the most disappointing because Purdue had the ball for three plays on offense in the last 20 minutes or so. It went three and out with a chance to tie and could not stop Rutgers from running it at will. I can live with the Northwestern loss, but the Minnesota one was a robbery by the Big Ten officials and against Rutgers we really folded once they got the kickoff return for a touchdown.
4. The state has gone Twilight this year (okay, it started last year) by breaking into two camps whose numbers change weekly - Team Adrian and and Team Luke. Let’s ask for the opponent’s perspective - Martinez or McCaffrey. Who would you rather see under center Saturday if you’re the Boilermakers’ defensive coordinator?
Can I choose a different defensive coordinator? It really doesn’t matter in my eyes. Illinois and Rutgers were quite productive against us with their third string guys. Basically if you can have a guy that can do the read option on first and second downs and can stand in a comfortable pocket on third down you will have no issues scoring at least 35 points. Since George Karlaftis is out with a positive COVID test we do not have anything remotely resembling a pass rush. So as long as you don’t consistently get 6-7 yards running the read option on the first two downs whoever is playing QB with have a geological epoch to throw on third down. Bob Diaco does not believe that a blitz is a legal football play. Minnesota had great success throwing jump balls on third down and against Rutgers the Diaco defense only gave up one big play, but was fine with an 18 play clock killing field goal drive that erased most of the fourth quarter.
Please rid us of him.
(Andy: From all of us here at CN - we feel yo’ pain. Seriously.)
5. Nebraska’s defense has been Jekyll and Hyde, at times being shredded but showing up to get the game-changing turnovers which proved the difference in the Penn St game and putting up a solid effort against Iowa after the Illinois debacle. But... you guys are completing 67% of your passes and Rondale Moore and David Bell appear set to spend the entire day in flame-trail mode. Will any individual or team records be broken Saturday?
It is strange, but the offense has been out of sync, really. It doesn’t have a lot of trouble getting over 30 points, but it really feels like it should be getting to 45. It leaves points on the field a lot. It feels like if one slight thing goes wrong it stalls a drive. Zander Horvath has been good at running the ball, but we haven’t relied on him like we did to win the Iowa game. In short, Jeff needs to let his brother Brian just call the game. Bell has been an All-American, Rondale is Rondale, and Horvath is a bruising back. The pieces are there if we can get out of our own way.
6. Prediction time - we are a combined 0-5 in our last 5 games but someone’s losing streak has to fall. Call it:
Nebraska is winning. I have zero faith in Bob Diaco at this point. He could at least stop the run against Northwestern, but he still struggled with no pass rush on third downs. The last two weeks he has been awful and if not for the individual fourth quarter heroics of Lorenzo Neal in each of the last three weeks making a big play we wouldn’t have even had a chance in the fourth quarter. Purdue has gotten far too conservative on offense too. It’s like swashbuckling Jeff Brohm from 2017 has been abducted.
You’re scoring at least 35 points. As long as you can hold us to 34 you’re fine.