Monday, September 8, 2008

September 20th, 2008: Hosting the Central Michigan Chippewas

The primary source of my preview is

The Central Michigan Chippewas will meet Purdue again in what is budding into a very entertaining relationship between these two teams. I am getting the impression that CMU will be very happy when Curtis Painter moves on to Sunday football.

CMU is looking to become the first MAC program to win their conference championship 3 years in a row. This, on any level, is an impressive feat. A total of 44 lettermen including 16 starters return from 2007, but just 12 seniors appear on the preseason roster.

Eight starters return to an offense that ranked among the best in the nation last season. MAC Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Dan LeFevour returns seven of his top nine targets from 2007 and four starters are back on the offensive line.

This is an offense that proved last year can put points on the board and move the ball all over the field. Fortunately for Purdue, we were able to win the footrace through Curtis Painters 500+ yard performance for the record books.

Junior Dan LeFevour has developed into one of the top signal-callers in the country. He accounted for 47 touchdowns a year ago (27 passing, 19 rushing, one receiving) while becoming just the second player in Bowl Subdivision history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

The two-time All-Mid-American Conference first team selection already holds CMU career records for passing yards, completions, touchdown passes and total offense. Among Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks who return in 2008, LeFevour ranked second in total offense (341.0 ypg) and scoring (8.7 ppg), fourth in rushing (80.1 ypg) and 13th in passing yards (260.1 ypg) in 2007.

Running Back
The most competitive position on either side of the ball is running back. Seniors Ontario Sneed and Justin Hoskins, junior Marcel Archer and sophomore Carl Volny comprise a foursome that combined to rush for 1,364 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2007. The group also combined to catch 56 passes a year ago.

Hoskins, a starter in nine games last season, ran for 664 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first season in the Chippewas’ backfield. Sneed started five times and accounted for 514 yards and six touchdowns after leading CMU in rushing in 2005 and 2006.

Wide Receiver
Dan LeFevour’s top two targets—All-MAC second team receivers junior Bryan Anderson and sophomore Antonio Brown—return after record-setting campaigns in 2007. In all, seven players who caught at least 10 passes a year ago are back.
Anderson (90 receptions, 1,132 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Brown (102 receptions, 1,003 yards, six touchdowns) were the most prolific pass-catching combination in school history in 2007, totaling 192 receptions for 2,135 yards and 16 touchdowns. Anderson set a single-season school record for touchdown receptions, while Brown set a new standard for receptions.

Offensive Line
The Chippewas must replace three-year starter Eric Tunney, but four other starters return to the offensive front.

Left tackle Andrew Hartline is the leader of the group, having started all 39 games over the past three seasons. He started all 14 games at left tackle last season after spending the 2005 and 2006 seasons at right tackle.

Tight End
Redshirt freshman Rocky Weaver is the favorite to take over the starting role at tight end. He caught a 39-yard touchdown pass in the Chippewas’ spring game, a play that saw him make a catch in the middle of the field, absorb a hit and out-run the secondary to the end zone. Weaver will be challenged by classmate Brandin Friske and senior Andre Moore.


Defensive Line

Four players with starting experience return to fill three spots on the Chippewas’ defensive line. CMU must replace All-MAC third team pick Steven Friend at tackle, but senior nose guard Casey Droscha and junior ends Frank Zombo, Sam Williams and Larry Knight all return.

Zombo tied for third in the MAC with 7.5 sacks last season and led the Chippewas’ defensive linemen with 62 total tackles. Droscha was in on 52 stops, including a team-high tying 11 tackles for loss. A former walk-on, Droscha is one of just three seniors in the defensive two-deep entering the season and will be looked upon to fill a leadership role.

The biggest holes CMU needs to fill are at linebacker. Sophomore Nick Bellore returns after starting all 14 games and registering a CMU freshman-record 102 tackles last season, but All-MAC first team selections Red Keith and Ike Brown are both gone.

A number of candidates will vie to replace Keith and Brown, including sophomore Matt Berning, junior Tim Brazzel, seniors Jonathan Lapsley and David Lawrence and redshirt freshman Mike Petrucci. Junior Calvin Hissong also will compete for playing time after moving from the secondary during spring practice.

Nine different players started at least one game in a secondary that was decimated by injuries last season. Junior cornerback Josh Gordy, who missed four games due to injuries in 2007, is CMU’s top returner in the secondary. He intercepted four passes last season, including a school-record tying three in a win over Army.

Juniors Tommy Mama and Kirkston Edwards and sophomore Vince Agnew all are candidates to fill the corner position opposite Gordy.

Summary and Prediction

This looks to be another high-flying, run and gun shootout. I am looking for an all-around improved defense to better limit the Chippewa offensive capabilities. There will be more points than the Northern Colorado game, but I still think that Purdue should take care of business this time.

Keep in mind, CMU is very familiar with our mode of operations. The will be scheming against Curtis Painter, however, I think Kory Sheets will be established very early in the game and this will lead to the passing game opening up.

Final Predictions: CMU 24, Purdue 35

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Purdue 42, UNC 10

Writing from the perspective of someone who cannot make it too the games enough, but still is passionate regarding Purdue Football, can be a bit of a setback. However, I still try and take the time to at least listen to the games on the radio.

So with the ice broken, let’s look at this week’s victory over the Northern Colorado Bears from the Football Championship Subdivision or as I like to say it, The Artist Formerly Known as Division 2.

On Offense: As T-Mill from Off the Tracks puts it, vanilla, is how the offensive game rolled out today. Curtis Painter could have been a lot more effective today. While his statistics really don’t tell this story, 286 yards and two scores with no interceptions, his completion percentage isn’t where it needs to be to be able to compete against the better competition which begins next week. Throughout the game he hovered around 50-55% completion range and the way our offense lives and dies with the pass with short to medium range passes, that has to be a higher percentage to be successful later this season. We utilize the pass to setup the runs and if we are not completing a higher percentage, then we hamstring other phases of our offense.

On third downs, we were right were we should be against a solid opponent, 6/11, but against a D2 team we should be completing a higher percentage than this.

Kory Sheets could have had a better day, if we handed the ball too him more. I think he took pretty good advantage of his opportunities when they presented themselves. 16 carries for 81 yards and two scores is a solid day at the office, oh, and I don’t recall him fumbling. Nice work! I wanted to see Ralph Bolden on the field and Justin Siller a little bit in preview of what the future holds for RB.

The receiving team turned in a pleasant surprise. The largely documented unknown commodity coming out of camp this year put up decent numbers today. However, there football did not get spread around like it usually does. Also, I had higher expectations for Greg Orton as our leader. He finally made his presence felt in the game, but not until the game was soundly put away. I expect him to have a larger influence on the outcome of games going forward. Desmond Tardy was impressive, showing some big play ability. And Keith Smith had his first career touchdown as a boiler. Congrats!

On Defense: We gave up 338 yards to a D2 opponent. I am not sure how I feel about that. One player had a fairly exceptional day against us, Ryan Chelsa, whose name was called on plays too many times. I.e. he was always open…

Anthony Heygood missed a couple tackles. Gerald Gooden made his presence felt. And Frank Duong showed he belongs.

For the most part, we held the Bears in check. The only touchdown coming in trash minutes of the game. I felt we were a little soft of coverage, which might be more of me not giving the QB from UNC enough credit, it sounded like he was operating the offense pretty competently.

Special teams made a significant impact on this game. Frank Halliburton’s two blocked punts isn’t something you see everyday. Also, you have to feel good about Mike Conway’s return for a TD. The return game was solid again, with Sheets and Tardy breaking off large returns. However, I am not sold that this performance really will transpose to better competition later on.

Final thoughts: The defense performed better than I predicted, but still left me concerned regarding next week. The offense was taking a lackadaisical approach to the game, which REALLY has me concerned. Maybe it was the injuries, maybe they were not concerned about winning, I don’t know, but it needs to change quickly. I am always looking for a sense of urgency with our offense, and this week we didn’t have it.

My initial predictions for this week were Purdue 42, UNC 27. It ended up Purdue 42, UNC 10. So I cannot say that the defense didn’t show up.

My predictions for next week: Oregon 35, Purdue 24: Hopefully the offense can get its sense of urgency back and play with a bit more athletic tension.