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Behind Enemy Lines: Talking Purdue Football With Hammer & Rails

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Let’s hear more about BC’s opponent on Saturday

NCAA Football: Missouri at Purdue Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Every week during the season, opposing writers will give their perspectives on the upcoming game. Today we talked to Travis Miller of Hammer and Rails, SB Nation’s premier Purdue Boilermakers blog. Check them out on Twitter.

BCI: Purdue started the year off 0-3, but only has lost by a combined 8 points. What positives and negatives have you seen with this team?

H&R: A definite positive has been freshman receiver Rondale Moore. He was considered the prize of the 2018 recruiting class and much of what we heard all summer was how coach Brohm was going to get the ball in his hands in a variety of ways. He was like a new toy for the offensive-minded coach. It didn’t take very long for him to make an impact, either. In the first quarter of the season opener he had a 32-yard touchdown catch and a 76-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep. In that game he set a new Purdue total yardage record with 313 yards between receiving, rushing, and kickoff returns. He had 302 in the first half alone.

Moore was mostly quiet in the Eastern Michigan game (he had another big gain that would have been a TD, but he got tripped up by a teammate and we had to settle for a field goal, but he was big against Missouri, too. He had 11 receptions for 137 yards and another score. He is a dangerous offensive weapon that can explode pretty much at any time.

Aside from that, Purdue has been very inconsistent and that is why we are 0-3. Yes, David Blough just had a school record 572 yards passing against Missouri, but the defense struggled all night long. We have beaten ourselves with turnovers, missed kicks, inopportune penalties, poor defense, an inability to finish drives with touchdowns, and a myriad of other mistakes. The EMU loss was bad because just about everything that could go wrong did and we still only lost by a point. We had some questionable calls go against us against Northwestern and against Missouri we had a touchdown called back that probably shouldn’t have been called back. In listening to Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody this week they mentioned that Purdue has had an end of game Win chance above 50% in all three games, and in their projections we had a 4% chance of going 0-3. Here we are.

BCI: Talk about Purdue’s defensive strategy, and how you see Jeff Brohm attacking AJ Dillon and BC’s dynamic attack?

H&R: Purdue’s defense has been interesting because it has been worse in the first halves of games and better in the second halves. It gave up 31 points against Northwestern in the first half, then pitched a shutout. Against EMU it had a third quarter shutout before a TD drive and the late field goal drive in the 4th quarter. Overall it has given up 68 first half points and just 23 second half points (six over those on the late FG drives the last two weeks).

Part of our problem is that seven defensive starters and two key reserves from last season graduated. They were a great unit that Nick Holt whipped into shape in year one. It was easily the best defense we had in years as it was aggressive against the run and the back four could hold up vs. the pass. This year we have one experienced lineman (Lorenzo Neal), one experienced linebacker (Markus Bailey), and both returning safeties. Everyone else is either a relative newcomer or a backup that did not see a lot of time before. Combined with the fact that Darrell Hazell was a horrid recruiter means we’re thin without much experience. Hazell never had a recruiting class ranked above 65. Brohm’s first full class was around 48 and his 2019 class he has lined up is ranked 23rd. The talent is coming, but it doesn’t help now that three guys who could probably start right now are playing their final season of high school football.

There have been a few bright spots. Cornel Jones and Derrick Barnes have provided stability and linebacker and along with Bailey give us a pretty solid middle. Unfortuantely, the defensive front four has struggled to get any sort of a pass rush, and the secondary has struggled even on passing downs (giving up a crucial 4th and 15 on EMU’s final drive). The second half adjustments have helped, but we desperately need to start stronger.

BCI: This is BC’s first game against the Boilermakers. Who are some playmakers we should be looking out for?

H&R: Definitely Moore on offense. He has been fantastic and is a threat to score on any play. Jared Sparks, Isaac Zico, and Terry Wright also had big games against Missouri at receiver. In the backfield Markell Jones and DJ Knox were two guys who had big games against EMU. They each had 100+ yards rushing and it was the first game we have had dual 100-yard rushers since 2002.

On defense, we need a playmaker. Cornel Jones has been solid in his first season as a starter and had 2.5 sacks against EMU. Redshirt freshman corners Dedrick Mackey and Kenneth Major have some promise too, but they are going to make freshman mistakes. They are probably guys that will be good in time, but we have to live with growing pains.

BCI: I love talking hate. Let’s be honest here, what Big Ten team do Purdue fans hate the most.

In basketball there is little question we hate Indiana. They are a program has been pretty much dead even with us over the last 15 years or so, but because of their history and those damn banners they feel they are college basketball royalty. It doesn’t help that they constantly get better recruits, then do little with them.

In football we haven’t had much room to hate of late. The Hazell years mostly made us numb to hate because all we felt was pity from the rest of the league. That happens when you go 3-30 against the conference and two of your wins are over a really bad Illinois program. Personally I despise Penn State and feel they should never be allowed to field a football program again after the Sandusky thing. We also have a history of some shocking upsets at home against Ohio State (which would be nice to return on October 20th).

BCI: Prediction time, what have you got?

H&R: It is hard to say because we really did respond well against Missouri. At one point we were down 27-10 and it looked like we were going to get blown out, but clawed back to tie it at 27-27 and 37-37. You can even argue we should have led 41-37 late had the touchdown catch by sparks not been overturned. I think you’ll see a Purdue team fight hard against a BC team that on paper reminds me a little of Missouri. You guys have a really good offense, but the defense has some questions.

That’s mostly what I want to see. I don’t want to see this team give up. It could have at a few points last week and it didn’t. Everyone knows we’re close to being 3-0 instead of 0-3 and we need to find a way to finish. Do we find it this week again or do we see another close game and wonder what will happen this time? It wouldn’t surprise me if we see another shootout this week with both teams getting into the 30s. Are offense really woke up last week, so if it stays awake I think we could see some fireworks.