With Notre Dame set to take on Purdue this weekend in the 2014 Shamrock Series, we reached out to our favorite Purdue blogger Travis Miller of Hammer and Rails for this week’s Behind Enemy Lines. Travis was kind enough to answer a set of questions on the Boilermakers to give our readers some more insight into Purdue and the state of it’s program.
Note: I answered some questions for Hammer and Rails on Notre Dame that you can read over there.
1. How has Purdue been able to keep each of the last two contests close even though they’ve struggled before/after playing the Irish? What can the Boilermakers do this year to do the same?
Last year I would have to say that they played on an excited crowd and had, by far, their best game of the season. We certainly didn’t look like that at any other time, save defensively at Michigan State. Two years ago in South Bend We had a strong performance by our defensive line and Robert Marve got the offense moving when Caleb TerBush could not. In fact, if not for the ridiculously dumb move of pulling Marve in the third quarter, Purdue probably wins that game.
It’s really hard to say though how Purdue was able to compete both times. We don’t have nearly the talent of Notre Dame, but it has strangely been a good matchup. Maybe the players get up for it more or see something they don’t see against everyone else, kind of like how Danny Hope had a bizarre hex on Ohio State. Whatever it is, we’re going to need a lot of it on Saturday.
2. Notre Dame is preparing for both Purdue quarterbacks this week. How do you foresee Purdue handling their quarterback situation?
There is not a ton of difference between either one. Appleby is more of your traditional pocket passer, while Etling has shown some decent prowess moving the ball with his legs (57 yards and 2 TDs so far). He is not a true dual threat, but has been smart with his scrambling, mostly as a byproduct of running for his life last year.
That is a factor that is still troubling Purdue. Etling has had better protection so far, but has been rushing throws and has been wildly inaccurate. Central Michigan was just an awful game for him and Western Michigan, while he had no picks or sacks, wasn’t a lot better. We honestly haven’t seen much of Appleby to know what to expect in a start. His entire career spans two fourth quarters in blowout losses. Last week was the first time he even got more than a single series. He seems to be more of a leader than Etling, however.
3. As Darrel Hazell enters year two as head coach, what is the general consensus among Purdue fans and do you think he can turn the program around?
It is hard to say. Some already want him gone, especially after a second blowout home loss to a MAC team. I tend to think he is doing a lot of good thing behind the scenes and is saying the right things, but on the field we’re just completely overmatched at every position. Against Central Michigan Purdue had about 10 critical mistakes ranging from a pick six, to penalties negating big gains, to missed assignments. There has been improvement from last season, but we’re still just very, very bad in a lot of respects.
I feel like if Hazell were given 5-6 years he could slowly build something, but people want to see results. He went 1-11 with a team that at least beat six bad teams a year before. I thought before this season we could get a 3-1 non-conference start (losing only to ND) before taking 2-3 conference games and maybe squeezing into a lower bowl. The Central game was brutal, however. Now I am hoping we beat Southern Illinois (not a gimme with how we played) and maybe get one of the lower Big Ten teams like Northwestern). That would probablybe considered improvement.
4. With this rivalry ending, at least for now, what are your thoughts on Purdue’s rivalry with Notre Dame and what is your favorite moment in the series?
I am going to miss it. I think it is ridiculous that it couldn’t continue, especially on our end. I am more than aware Purdue doesn’t have a national profile on a good day, but in playing the Irish we had one guaranteed game per season where everyone was paying attention and we know it is a nationally televised game. Now we’re going to fill that spot with Virginia Tech, Missouri, and Nevada, which is far from the same.
I also know both schools had their hands forced. ND has its ACC commitments, while the Big Ten is going to a nine-game conference schedule. That rotation meant that Purdue was going to go two ND when it already had five Big Ten road games, and that costs us a home game per season. Even though it would mean eight home games in years that the Irish came to Ross-Ade, it’s hard to have just six home dates in this day and age if you’re a major conference team.
As for a favorite moment, it would have to be either 1997 or 2004. In 1997 Purdue was about as relevant as it is now, but came out of nowhere to stun the Irish and go on to a 9-3 season. I was at that game as a high school senior and no one expected it. In 2004 we finally won in South Bend, something that has now only happened once in the last 40 years. The three games before that (1998, 2000, and 2002) were incredibly frustrating because they were “Luck of the Irish” types of games where Purdue blew it (seriously? George Godsey throwing more than Drew Brees in 2000?). Those were three truly painful losses, so 2004 felt like we were finally able to vent.
5. What has impressed you the most about Notre Dame two games into the season?
Just the way that they have meshed with Golson after he sat out last year. It’s very impressive that he came back and has hardly missed a beat. I also like some of the younger players, but it stings that Drue Tranquill, who originally committed to Purdue before flipping, is already making a difference. There is no doubt he would be starting and thriving right now in our secondary.
I will go with ND 38-10. I am not optimistic. In fact, I live 4miles from Lucas Oil and I am likely not going because I don’t want to drop $360 on three tickets, one of them for a 16-month old, to watch us get crushed. The already purchased beer in my fridge is cheaper than anything at Lucas Oil, and I don’t think they can even sell it for college events there.