Music City Bowl 2021: Q&A with Rocky Top Talk

The past few days have been slow for Purdue fans athletically, but they will start to pick up again in the coming days. We’re only four days away from our bowl game with the Tennessee volunteers. That means it’s blogger interview time, and SB Nation’s Rocky Top Talk’s Nick Carner is here to talk about Flights, which is a 4.5 point favorite.

T-mill: This is the first year for Josh Heupel after a disappointing 3-7 during the bizarre COVID season. Were things roughly as expected or did you exceed them?

Pseudo: I think everyone here in Knoxville was surprised with the 7 and 5 record. I was looooww over Tennessee before the season – like I picked them to have a 4 and 8 low – but given The recent history of Flights, the new trainer and the exhausted roster, I was pretty comfortable with that assumption.

But pretty much everything turned out better than I expected. The offensive guys adopted the new pattern, and the defense was good enough and aggressive enough to allow the offense to outsmart the teams.

Some people were more optimistic than me, of course. But no one expected Tennessee to field a top-10 offense. Anybody.

T-mill: Hendon Hooker has been a great addition to the Vols. How important has this turnaround been to him?

Pseudo: He was a driving force, there is no doubt about it. This season is not going as well as it has been without him. Just look at Tennessee’s first two games of the year – Bowling Green and Pittsburgh – when Joe Milton started.

Milton had won the job at camp, but had only collected 18/35 for 190 yards and a touchdown before injuring himself and leaving the game early in the second quarter of Game 2. The same issues he had in Michigan, like the overturning of * wide open * receivers, made the offense erratic.

Hooker came in and really took the job more than Milton lost it. By the time Milton was healthy again, a few games later, Hooker was playing too well to be on the bench again.

It can be quite difficult to differentiate who should get what credit between a quarterback and their offensive-minded head coach. Heupel’s system and play calls are definitely part of the equation here, but there’s no doubt this season is a lot different with a QB other than Hooker under center.

T-mill: Besides being “Alabama” or “Georgia”, what did the defenses do to slow the Flights?

Pseudo: Well, as you mentioned, Tennessee was considerably overstaffed against ‘Bama and UGA. These games were always going to end the way they did.

Offensively, this group has been extremely opportunistic this season. If you look at the big games, a lot of them come from broken tackles. The Flights were good in the on-screen game – the WRs blocked well on the perimeter, then it’s a missed tackle and nothing but green grass and a touchdown.

Teams that do well against Flights defensively have done well in keeping the game manageable, so to speak. Don’t leave WRs behind DBs for long bombs and don’t miss out on tackles in the open. If Purdue can do these things, and get the Flights to beat them nickel in the field, they are removing some of the air from the sails of the offensive. Tennessee wants to go fast and score fast, don’t let them.

T-mill: How effective is the diverse running game in moving football?

Pseudo: I feel like people think of quick infractions and they think the magic happens in the air. But running play is integral to what Josh Heupel wants to do, and Tennessee has finished in the NCAA top 20 in rushing yards per game. Earlier this year it was a three-pronged attack with Hooker in the middle and RB tasks split between Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small. Evans seemed to have a hard time staying healthy and has since transferred, but there was no doubt the running game was better when he was part of it. He added a dynamic and significant volatility that Small does not have.

With RB’s split time, Hooker actually ended up leading the team in the rushed attempts. I’m not a huge fan of QB runs designed just because Hooker is so important to offensive skill. But whatever. I am not the coach. As with any mobile QB, the threat it retreats and runs creates problems for the defenses. Something to watch out for: Earlier this year Hooker had a groping problem. He was a bit loose with football, and sometimes instead of slipping he tried to extend the game and it burned us a few times. Keep an eye on it.

Tennessee uses a mix of area and gap patterns in the running game and is especially good on counters or powers when they get an OL pulling and moving through space. If I had to pay attention to anything in the racing game this is where I would be looking.

T-mill: Defensively, Tennessee struggled with the pass. Does that give much concern in the face of a big passing attack on Purdue?

Pseudo: Certainly. Haven’t seen a team coached by Jeff Brohm in quite some time, but I know he got some crazy numbers in Western Kentucky and used a lot of moves and scythes and tricks to try and scramble the defense. . The Vols are aggressive on defense, 94 tackles for losses over the year, and I could see Brohm trying to reverse that aggression and use it against us.

Like everything else in football, however, everything is so interconnected. I don’t like the idea that DB Volks have to cover for three and four seconds, so if the pass rush can get to Aidan O’Connell, that should help DBs survive.

T-mill: Who are your own impact players and how much will virtual home play be?

Pseudo: Offensively it’s obviously Hendon Hooker, but WR Velus Jones and Cedric Tillman are also guys to watch. Velus can work with a DB on a go route or host a screen pass, while Tillman is most effective when Hooker throws him up and lets him go and get him.

In defense, MLB Jeremy Banks, who is a former RB converted to LB, led the team in tackles, but he also took more than his fair share of 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (another thing I tell you. would say to all to watch). Byron Young and Tyler Baron are both LB / DE and are Tennessee’s top passer. Super senior Matthew Butler has been the centerpiece of the Tennessee DL, despite over 80 snaps played in multiple games.

T-mill: Is there still anger after Purdue’s 1979 Bluebonnet Bowl win?

Pseudo: Uh no ? It’s hard to be crazy about something I didn’t know happened 8 ^)

But I’m more of a hoop guy, and there’s definitely a residual hurt in seeing Carsen Edwards and Ryan Kline showering in a Million 3’s against Tennessee in the 2018-19 Sweet Sixteen. It was a BIG basketball game, however. While we’re here, what team do you all have this season. I watched Jaden Ivey at the FIBA ​​World Cup this offseason and knew Purdue was going to be something serious again this season. Enjoy it!

T-mill: How do you see it going?

Pseudo: I’m a Tennessee fan and inherently a bit of a cynic so I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Having said that, the Flights have surprised me most pleasantly all year round. I think some Theft fans are neglecting Purdue to some extent, mostly because of the bias that comes with playing in the SEC, but that’s not the case. The Boilermaker offense is the real deal, and I can’t overlook the quality voices you’ve got this season.

I think the Vols probably win, especially with Purdue without David Bell and George Karlaftis, but I expect a close game. I’ll call it 42-38 Vols.

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