Following their 31-14 loss in the home opener Saturday afternoon, the Eagles will be traveling to West Lafayette, Ind. to take on the Purdue Boilermakers Sept. 15. Purdue lost a close game by a field goal at Notre Dame on Saturday, but has a decisive win on their record against Kentucky State.
The key to defeating the Boilermakers will be for the Eagles to hold on to the football. Fumbles were the main reason for the loss to Illinois State. Two late interceptions thrown by quarterback Alex Gillett, who threw a total of three during the game, also played a factor in the loss and Purdue will most certainly take advantage of those opportunities.
The Eagles must also play more disciplined football. They had nine penalties for a total of 69 yards on Saturday. Special teams were also an area of concern for the Eagles, as they muffed two returns (losing one) and missed a crucial field goal attempt late in the game.
Positive momentum is another thing that the Eagles must maintain if they are going to have a chance against Purdue. They recovered a fumble and had an interception on defense against Illinois, but the offense was only able to turn one of those opportunities into a scoring drive.
The offensive line was a liability on Saturday, as Gillett was sacked three times and forced to make bad throws on quite a few occasions. The line needs to give Gillett a pocket and let him throw. Once he has a solid pocket, he has proven he can complete passes downfield, something that can be exploited against Purdue as Notre Dame was able to do this past week.
On defense, the Eagles need to isolate and shut down the Boilermaker running game. The Eagles gave up 216 total rushing yards to Illinois State and three of their touchdowns came on the ground. Purdue has two guys who could potentially be a factor this coming week. They have a running quarterback in Caleb Turbush, who averages 6.75 yards per rush and will likely see some action, as well as a running back in Akeem Shavers who averages 4.8 yards per rush. Notre Dame shut down the running game and that paid off for them in the end.
The final thing that the Eagles will need to do in order to beat Purdue is not give up big plays. Illinois State scored their first touchdown on a 58-yard rush in the first quarter. They also had three long passes for first downs throughout the game. Playing a tighter defense will force Purdue into hurrying their throws and not opening up lanes for their running backs to break free.
If the Eagles can do these things, they will have the potential to have a good game against Purdue and looking at some of the improbable wins around college football this past week, they might even defeat the Boilermakers.
If they play like they did this past Saturday and make the same mental mistakes, they will be in for a very long game and will almost certainly lose. Kick off for the Purdue game is noon from West Lafayatte. The game will be carried live locally on WEMU 89.1 and the Big Ten Network.