3 –Fumbles on punt returns in recent weeks for Purdue's Lance Melvin, who is averaging 8.7 yards/punt return this season. Considering Indiana's struggles on special teams, that could be a positive sign for the Hoosiers…
Not so fast. With Melvin's struggles, Purdue Coach Joe Tiller is considering turning the job over to someone else for the season finale. Possibilities include senior Brian Hare – whom Melvin took to job from after the Notre Dame game – and redshirt freshman Desmond Tardy. Both are names that should be familiar to IU fans.
Tardy is the former Warren Central quarterback who earned Mr. Football honors in 2003 after leading Warren Central to the state championship. He has since moved to wide receiver, but has yet to catch a ball during his Boilermaker career. He's a tremendously gifted athlete who would seem to be a good fit on the punt return team.
Hare, meanwhile, is the former Pima (Ariz.) J.C. standout who originally committed to Purdue, then de-committed and pledged to IU, then changed his mind a second time and signed with the Boilermakers. The senior hasn't been much of a factor this season, catching 11 passes for 94 yards and no touchdowns. He has also returned six punts for an average of 3.2 yards/return.
236- Rushing yards for senior tailback Jerod Void in the Boilermakers' last two games. After running for 134 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries in a 28-21 win over Michigan State, Void followed that up with a 24-carry, 102-yard, one-touchdown effort in last weekend's 37-3 romp over Illinois.
How critical is Void's running to Purdue's success? Void has eclipsed the 100-yard mark four times this season, and Purdue is 4-0 in those contests. In the six games he's failed to hit the century mark, Purdue is 0-6.
The 6-2, 212-pound Void has 641 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season and is averaging 5.3 yards/carry. He also has 36 career touchdowns, putting him three scores shy of the school's all-time record of 39, held by current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Alstott (1992-95). Void had 10 touchdowns as a freshman; 13 as a sophomore; three as a junior; and 10 this season. Tiller has expressed an interest in trying to get Void that record, so expect to see a heavy dose of Void on Saturday, particularly around the goal line.
113-Purdue's national ranking in pass defense (out of 117 Division I schools). Purdue surrenders 299.1 yards/game on average, which ranks ahead of only Oregon State, San Jose State, Western Michigan and Texas A&M.
The Boilermakers headed into last week's game against Illinois ranked 117th in pass defense, but a better effort against the Illini allowed them to climb four spots in the rankings. Purdue limited a pair of Illini quarterbacks to 11-of-28 passing for just 97 yards, picking them off three times.
In fact, Purdue has been much better against the pass during the last month. After giving up at least 270 passing yards to each of their first six foes, the Boilermakers are surrendering just 194 yards passing in the last four games. Those four teams have combined for just three touchdown passes, which is marked improvement from what the Boilermaker secondary was giving up in the first half of the season. Each of Purdue's first six opponents threw three touchdowns in their games against Coach Joe Tiller's squad.
One of the reasons for Purdue's recent struggles was a slew of injuries that decimated the secondary. One-time wide receiver Ray Williams was forced to move to cornerback and start, and he's now settling into the position and playing much better than he did early on. In addition, Brian Hickman – who started the first four games of the season at cornerback - has returned from the injured list and is providing experience at free safety.
94.6-Purdue's opponents' success rate in the red zone. The Boilermakers have allowed opponents inside their 20-yard line 37 times this season, and those trips have resulted in points 35 times. That 94.6% success rate ranks Purdue's defense last in the Big Ten in red zone defense by a wide margin (Illinois is 10th at 86%). Purdue has allowed touchdowns 23 times, while opposing field goal kickers are 12-of-13 on field goal attempts as well.
That's good news for an Indiana offense that ranks last in the Big Ten in red zone success, also by a large margin. Indiana is scoring points on only 66.7 percent of its trips in the red zone. Indiana scored touchdowns on 23 of its 39 chances, but is just 3-of-6 on its field goal attempts.
88.6-Receiving yards/game for Purdue's Dorien Bryant, which ranks third in the Big Ten behind Indiana's James Hardy (95.0/game) and Michigan's Jason Avant (90.0 yards/game). Both have chances of winding up as the category leader in the conference depending on their efforts in the regular season finale.
Bryant, meanwhile, leads the Big Ten in receptions, having caught 74 passes this season for 886 yards. Avant ranks second in the league in the category with 70 receptions, while Northwestern's Shaun Herbert (68 receptions) is third and Hardy is fourth with 57.
While Hardy has turned those 57 catches into 10 touchdowns, Bryant hasn't been nearly as good at finding his way into the end zone. Bryant has only four touchdown receptions, and Purdue has only 10 touchdown passes in 10 games overall. The once proficient Boilermaker passing attack hasn't been nearly as productive in the red zone, as Purdue has scored 26 rushing touchdowns compared to the Big Ten-worst 10 through the air.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Key Matchups
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do to Win
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
On Saturday – Hoosier Gameday
Five Days and Counting...
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