The Nain Rouge is a vile little elf that has been taunting and terrorizing the denizens of Detroit for over three hundred years. His mere presence has generally been regarded as the harbinger of doom. He was last seen in his scraggly red fur coat lurking over the Ford Field roof just as Purdue was lining up to kick what would prove to be a last second winning field goal in the 2007 Motor City Bowl. The kick negated an improbable miracle Chippewa comeback led by Central Michigan's version of Mickey Mantle, Dan LeFevour. The Nain's wicked laugh that night was said to have incited local dogs to howl and bay for hours.
Purdue comes into Saturday's contest with a curse of its own having been gashed by Western Michigan's Jarvion Franklin for 163 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns in a Boilermaker 43-34 victory in West Lafayette, Indiana last Saturday. The Chippewas will be counting on Purdue's weakness on run defense as they will be sending senior transfer Thomas Rawls into the fight against against the Boilers. Rawls ran for an impressive 123 yards and a touchdown on 25 attempts against FCS foe Chattanooga in a 20-16 victory for CMU last Thursday night. The Chips will also have to count on a strong performance from last year's rushing leader, junior Saylor Lavallii to boost their chances for success against Purdue. Lavallii had a quiet game against Chattanooga while teammate Rawls was carrying the load.
There is a new and unusual topic to be considered as part of the preview for Saturday's CMU v Purdue game: The Central Michigan defense. For years, the sole purpose of the Chippewa defense has been to take up time until the offense could get rested and return to the field. It was part of a track meet strategy based the CMU offense getting up and down the field and scoring more points than its opponents. Things began to change during CMU's game against Ohio last year when newcomer defensive linemen Joe Ostman and Blake Serpa began to turn heads with their hard nosed play.
Defensive back Tony Annese came into the mix a few weeks later as a freshman. Annese got his shot as a result of an injury depleted CMU secondary and has made the absolute most of it. During CMU's last four regular season games, Tony has been MVC (Most Valuable Chip). During that stretch, Annese has four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Tony's play was crucial in CMU's victory over arch rival Western Michigan last year and last week's victory over Chattanooga. For that, he has received two MAC West Defensive Player of the Week Awards.
No mention of the emerging CMU defense would be complete without including its anchor, senior Leterrius Walton. Walton was instrumental in the Chippewas' amazing second half shut down of the Chattanooga Mocs. The CMU defense held the high flying Mocs to just 29 yards and no points in the second half last week.
The Boilers have a proficient ground game of their own. The Purdue backfield rushed for 226 yards and three touchdowns on 39 attempts against the Western Michigan Broncos. Purdue's leading Bronco killer was Raheem Mostert, who rushed for 146 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown.
Last week was Purdue quarterback Danny Etling's first career victory as a starter. Look for Ettling to improve on his performance this week. Against Western Michigan, he completed 19 of 38 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Etling's favorite target was senior tight end Justin Sinz, who finished with seven catches for 65 yards against Bronco defenders.
In the odd event that the Nain Rouge is reading this post, we hear that West Lafayette is beautiful this time of year. Boiler Up!
Prediction: In a transparent and shameless attempt to ingratiate ourselves on our D'centric readers:
Better Made Potato Chips: 29
West Lafayette Coney Island (with everything): 28