An interesting and completely arbitrary stat regarding Purdue is how close they play their competition on the road...until the fourth quarter. At Marshall, they were actually winning 28-27 after three-quarters before being outscored 14-3 in the fourth and losing 41-31. At Wisconsin, they were down 17-7 before giving up a touchdown midway through the fourth to lose 24-7. At Northwestern, it was 14-14 before Justin Jackson punched in a late touchdown to seal the victory for the Wildcats. The only outlier is Michigan State, where Purdue was actually down 21-7 going into the fourth and managed to score a couple of touchdowns, ultimately losing 24-21.
The storyline is: for a team that is universally considered awful, they play good teams pretty tough on the road....then again, Iowa walloped Northwestern and beat Wisconsin. But hey, Purdue is 2-8 and we need something to talk about, okay?
On Defense: Defensive Ends vs. Offensive Tackles
Keeping with tradition, Purdue runs a spread offense and quarterback David Blough is responsible for the majority of the Boilermaker offense. Against Nebraska's "Blackshirts" he accumulated for 356 total yards, five total touchdowns, and zero turnovers. However, against better competition in Illinois and Northwestern, he threw two touchdowns to three interceptions and was sacked five times.
The Boilers use a lot of pre-snap motion, run a lot of PA and roll Blough out of the pocket. This means that Iowa's ends will have their favorite dual role of rushing and containing the passer. Across from Iowa's ends are left tackle David Hedelin and right tackle Cameron Cermin. Hedelin, a 6'4, 300lb Swede (no really he's Swedish) is a senior who has spent his entire career at left tackle. He's been banged up this season and oh by the way:
#Purdue left tackle David Hedelin (concussion) could miss Saturday’s game at Iowa. He was out Wednesday and will be evaluated Thursday.— GoldandBlack.com (@GoldandBlackcom) November 18, 2015
He might not even play. If Hedelin can't go, the 6'5, 300lb Cermin will switch sides and take over at left tackle. Cermin has started a number of games at left tackle so this won't be too much of a transition for him. However, his projected replacement at right tackle, 6'3, 345lb Martesse Patterson is a redshirt freshman who has only started one game: against Michigan State. In that game Blough was sacked three times, fumbled, threw an interception and was hurried ten (10!) times.
Regardless of who starts, Meier and Hesse want, no...need to have good games. Mitch Leider was under little to no pressure last week and our defensive ends were nearly invisible (in fairness, the entire line was). If Purdue fields Hedelin and Cermin, how about a couple sacks and hurries? If Purdue fields Cermin and Paterson, how about Meier and Hesse turn it into a donkey show? (If you don't know what that is...do not look it up at work)
On Offense: Tight End vs. Linebacker
If this looks familiar...it's because it's the same thing I said last week. Against Minnesota, the Iowa tight ends combined for an impressive 8 receptions for 105 yards. That's a robust 13 yards per reception. Purdue isn't very good anywhere on defense. They're ranked 100th in total, 106th in scoring, 111th in rushing and 81st in passing. Suboptimal would be an appropriate word.
At the start of the season, the Boilers were undoubtedly optimistic about returning three starting linebackers in Danny Ezechukwu, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Jimmy Herman Jr. And then Bentley tore his ACL and Jimmy Herman injured his hamstring and Herman's backup ALSO tore his ACL. Aside from Ezechukwu, linebacker has been fluid all season and the depth chart against Iowa is far different from the one seen against Marshall.
Herman, who originally was on the outside, moved to mike linebacker until he suffered the hamstring injury. He returned against Illinois but left early due to a suspected ankle injury. He's listed as a co-starter but who knows whether he's 100%. If he can't go, sophomore Garrett Hudson will play in his stead. The biggest concern for Purdue is at weakside linebacker, where junior Andy Garcia was thrust into the starting position following Herman's injury. He'd never started a game prior to week three.
It isn't necessarily that Purdue's linebackers are bad. It's just that they're banged up, inexperienced and lacking depth. There's concern about health and experience in the middle and Garcia, who will primarily line up against the tight end, is arguably only starting due to necessity. Iowa should look to exploit this weakness and open up the pass with some play action. If the Hawkeyes can establish the run, Beathard should once again look to Kittle, HKC and OMG IS JAKE DUZEY EVEN ALIVE for big gains and scoring opportunities against a vulnerable Purdue linebacker core.