The Bowling Green Falcons take their high flying offense on the road this week to face another Big Ten opponent, the struggling Purdue Boilermakers. We asked Travis Miller (@JustTMill) at our fellow SB Nation site, Hammer & Rails to answer a few questions about the match-up.
Hustle Belt: Most Bowling Green fans remember Darrell Hazell from his two years at Kent State. He had a great year with the Golden Flashes in 2012 and parlayed that into the head job with the Boilermakers. So are the natives getting restless with Hazell for not seeing much progress at Purdue thus far?
Hammer & Rails: I think the first serious signs of restlessness are showing themselves this week. Purdue was leading Virginia Tech 14-10 at home after a 90-yard fumble return for a touchdown and was even tied 17-17 just before halftime with the Hokies facing 3rd and 11. It was all downhill after that as Purdue completely unraveled in every aspect of the game.
I said before the game that Purdue would be lucky to win another game if it couldn't beat Virginia Tech because all of its remaining opponents were on par with the Hokies. Sure, it wasn't a bad loss, but Purdue got blown out and gave up 51 points to a team with a limited, conservative offense and a backup quarterback making his first ever road start. Hazell and the entire coaching staff never made any in-game adjustments and got destroyed for it. What is an excellent offense in Bowling Green going to do? If Virginia Tech can score 51 Bowling Green could score 70 easily.
Purdue has had a rich tradition of excellence at the quarterback position over the years. But, they've struggled the last few years at that position. What can you tell us about Austin Appleby?
I like Ausitn. I think he is a good leader, but this season he has been a turnover machine. He has thrown six interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns at Marshall, and he had a costly fumble that was returned for a score against Virginia Tech. When he took over for Danny Etling midway through last season he played pretty well, but it seems as if he has regressed a bit. The VaTech game was just awful and, like Etling, his confidence may be a shot. Most fans are starting to question if he is the answer or if another midseason quarterback change for the fourth year in a row is in order.
That has probably been the biggest problem. Purdue has not had a consistent starter at quarterback since 2009. In 2010 there were injuries to the point we were down to a 4th string freshman starting at one point. In 2011 and 2012 Danny Hope inexplicably played two quarterbacks per game, sometimes three. In 2013 Rob Henry was pulled in favor of Danny Etling, and in 2014 Etling was pulled in favor of Appleby. If Appleby continues to struggle, it will be redshirt freshman David Blough taking over.
Bowling Green has a very young defense and it has really been exposed the last three weeks. Do you see the Boilermakers attacking the Falcons more through the air like Memphis did last week or will they pound it out on the ground like Tennessee did in the opener?
Who knows with John Shoop. The guy is an idiot. During the game on Saturday I said that if he were in charge of the pregame flyover the jets would have crashed into the scoreboard. Purdue has two solid backs in Markell Jones and D.J. Knox that were contained VaTech, mostly because Shoop kept running them straight into the teeth of a great defensive line. Jones still had 90 yards rushing because he had a late 60 yard run. It makes the most sense to run and keep the clock moving because the less time Bowling Green has the football, the better. That, and Appleby has been far from accurate and handing teams points. Knowing Shoop he will go air raid, because with the lead and a chance to build on it at Marshall he was still going away from Purdue's strengths.
You've probably heard that Bowling Green's offense has been pretty efficient so far this season. They are putting up 40 points a game and the quarterback is averaging a ridiculous 456 yards passing a game. How have the Boilermakers fared on defense so far this year and do you think they have a shot at slowing this up-tempo Falcon offense down in this one?
As I said, we gave up 51 points to a limited offense run by a backup quarterback. Yes, 14 came from a fumble-six and a blocked punt for six, but Virginia Tech still had no problem at all moving the football. You can rest assured that the longer the distance on third down the more open your top receiver will be. Purdue's soft zone coverage cost them the game at Marshall and it made things easy for Virginia tech to move the ball. Purdue isn't too bad against the run. But man, it was awful on third down against the Hokies. That included the backbreaker third and 11 given up with about 2 minutes before the half in Virginia Tech territory and the game tied. That play sort of opened the floodgates.
If Purdue plays as bad as it did on defense against Virginia Tech Bowling Green can easily break the record for visiting team points given up at 56, which was established by Ohio State two years ago. Oh, and Greg Hudson/Darrell Hazell defenses also gave up 55 to Northern Illinois in 2013.
Most Bowling Green fans remember the last time the Falcons played at Ross-Ade Stadium in 2003. Bowling Green won 27-26, thanks to a last second touchdown pass. Have the Boilers struggled lately with non-conference foes, especially non-Power 5 teams?
You're in luck! Purdue lost 55-24 to Northern Illinois in 2013 in a game that wasn't even that close. Last year Central Michigan came to Purdue and won by 21 in an awful offensive game. Purdue hasn't struggled with non-power 5 conference teams. Purdue has struggled with everybody. Hazell is 5-22 in two plus years and 2-22 if you take away FCS victories. At least in 2003 (I was there) that was an excellent Bowling Green team that beat a very, very good Purdue team (in my opinion it was the best of Tiller's teams). This Bowling Green win would be beating up one of the worst Power 5 teams in the country.
Finally, do you have a prediction in this one?
I am very jaded by Saturday's game. At this rate I think Purdue will be lucky to hold the Falcons under 70. Johnson won't turn the ball over and it seems unlikely we can say the same thing about Appleby. The only thing that keeps Purdue in it is if the secondary is night and day better and if Knox and Jones are allowed to pound the rock to keep the Falcon offense safely on the sideline. At this point I fully expect the Falcons to win in a blowout.