Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
What: Indiana Hoosiers (5-6, 1-6) at Purdue Boilermakers (2-9, 1-6)
When: Saturday, November 28 at Noon
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana
How to Watch: The game will be broadcast on the B1G Network. You can also listen to the game on the IU Radio Network.
What’s at Stake: Let’s not mince words. This is a monumental game for the Indiana Hoosiers. First and foremost, IU is attempting to win their sixth game of the season and reach bowl eligibility. Second, a win would give the Hoosiers possession of the Old Oaken Bucket for the third straight year. IU hasn’t won three straight in this rivalry since the 1940s. Third, the Hoosiers are trying to win their third road game of the season and their second straight road game, both would be firsts in the Kevin Wilson era. Fourth, there’s still the question of Kevin Wilson’s future as head coach. I hope the administration has already decided to extend him and keep him as the head of the program moving forward but a win would certainly “seal the deal”.
A Few Things to Look For
1. Enter Appleby
The Purdue Boilermakers have announced that David Blough is still suffering from concussion-like symptoms and redshirt junior Austin Appleby will start the game on Saturday. Appleby began the season as the starter and played quite well last week in relief of Blough at Iowa. On the season, Appleby is 83 of 150 (55.3%) with six touchdowns and six interceptions. Here are Appleby’s vital stats from earlier games:
-at Marshall: 31-48 for 270 yards with one touchdown but four interceptions
-vs. Indiana State: 20-34 for 289 yards with four touchdowns plus 50 rushing yards
-vs. Virginia Tech: 9-28 for 110 yards with two interceptions.
-at Iowa: 23-40 for 259 yards with one touchdown.
Appleby’s numbers really aren’t that bad. He had four interceptions at Marshall (including a pair of pick-sixes that proved fatal) and a disastrous game against Virginia Tech but he was very good against Indiana State and pretty good against Iowa. David Blough is more consistent and more accurate and I think he offers more of a running threat but Appleby is not a bad player. He’s certainly better than what IU saw last week against Maryland. I think a solid goal for the Indiana pass defense is to hold Appleby and the Boilers passing game under 300 yards and to keep Appleby’s completion percentage under 60 percent. The Hoosiers need to prevent big plays and force the mistake-prone Appleby to drive the Boilers down the field.
2. A Pair to Watch: Jones and Yancey
True freshman Markell Jones is a very good player. For those that aren’t familiar with him, Jones is from Columbus East High School in Columbus, Indiana. He was the state of Indiana’s “Mr. Football” in 2014 and he’s developing into a real force with the Boilers. Jones is a 5’9” running back that runs extremely hard and his performance has been a rare bright spot in the season for the Black and Gold. The Boilers aren’t a very good offense but IU needs to be very mindful of Markell Jones, both as a receiver and as a runner. He had 157 yards against Michigan State and nearly 150 total yards in the Boilers lone B1G victory (Nebraska). Last week, he gained 87 yards at Iowa. On the season, Jones leads the Boilers with 5.1 yards per carry and nine rushing touchdowns. He’s added 227 receiving yards. IU has been good against the run but they were roasted by Maryland’s Brandon Ross just last week. Stopping Jones and making Purdue one-dimensional should be a priority for IU’s defense. I should mention, D.J. Knox will see some work in the backfield as well. Knox is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry but he is capable of breaking some tackles and resembling a bowling ball if he gets moving.
The top receiver for the Boilers is DeAngelo Yancey. Yancey struggled with drops during his first couple of seasons but he’s turned into a good WR1 during his junior season. He’s a big target (6’2”/220 pounds) that is very capable of burning the Hoosiers deep. Yancey has 84 targets on the year and is second on the team with 41 catches. He has 639 yards receiving and a team-high 15.6 yards per catch (plus five touchdowns). Danny Anthrop is the most likely target if they throw across the middle of the field and Domonique Young has had his best two games in the past two weeks (107 yards and 52 yards) but Yancey is the target the Hoosiers need to worry about.
3. The Offense is Clicking
Nate Sudfeld and the Indiana Hoosiers faced a 21-3 deficit and running back Jordan Howard was on the sideline with a knee injury. The senior quarterback produced one of his best performances of his career and the IU offense roared to life and kept the Hoosiers season alive with a dominant performance. The passing attack has to have some confidence after Sudfeld threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns. Jordan Howard is expected to return for Saturday’s game to bolster a running game that managed 170 yards against the Terps, largely in his absence. The Hoosiers have a trio of dangerous receivers (Cobbs, Paige and Jones), a battering ram at running back and a senior quarterback that played his best game of the season just last week. In addition, the Hoosiers are getting contributions from ancillary parts like Luke Timian and Andre Booker Jr.
IU will be going against a Purdue defense that hasn’t been awful but certainly can be gashed. They are currently 67th in the S&P+ rankings and they are far worse against the run that they are against the pass. The Boilers have been run over by Iowa (174 yards), Northwestern (250 yards), Illinois (382 yards) and Minnesota (326 yards). They were able to contain Nebraska’s rushing attack and they kept Wisconsin under 100 yards but Nebraska was way behind and needed to throw a ton and the Badgers haven’t run the ball well all season. The Boilers are led by Leroy Clark and Danny Ezechukwu and they have a pair of good corners in Anthony Brown and Frankie Williams but if IU’s offense executes well and gets a healthy Howard, the Hoosiers should put up quite a few points.
4. Managing Emotion
Part of playing in a rivalry game appears to be (I say appears to be because I’ve never played in a football rivalry game myself) controlling emotion. The fan bases don’t like each other and the players are well aware how important this game is in the grand scheme of the season. Additionally, IU is playing to reach six wins, a goal they have been working for as long as each player (and coach) has been at IU. There hasn’t been a strong crowd at Ross-Ade Stadium all season long and I doubt that there will be anything close to a sell-out on Saturday but IU can’t afford to get behind 21-3 as they did last Saturday. For my own mental health and for the sake of Indiana’s chances in this game, IU needs to get off to a much better start than they did at Maryland.
Keep checking Hoosier Huddle for more excellent coverage of the Old Oaken Bucket game.