So a season that we expected to be rough but with noticeable improvement has been turned on its ear after a beatdown by Michigan, and the Huskers find themselves in a turning point game against a Purdue team that has gone from looking very beatable two weeks ago to 3-point favorite after a convincing win against ranked Boston College.
What can we expect from Purdue this week? For insight on that, we turned to Travis Miller of Hammer & Rails, a brother website representing the Boilermakers. Many thanks to Travis for taking time out to answer a few questions for us.
How has Purdue shored up their defense after the shootout with Missouri?
Travis: Honestly, I think a large part of it was Boston College not doing anything flashy against us. They thought they could line up and smash it down our throats and it did not work. BC Interruption called it “Vanilla playcalling to the extreme” and they weren’t wrong.
Also, Purdue’s defensive line and linebackers played much, much better. Derrick Barnes and Cornel Jones have come on as very promising sophomore linebackers this season. The defensive line is still very young and inexperienced, but has gotten much better each game. Missouri was great stress test because Drew Lock is a heck of a quarterback. He spread us out, his offensive line protected him, and he picked us apart. Boston College never spread us out and we really didn’t have much trouble stopping them.
Barring injury, what’s the likelihood that quarterback Elijah Sindelar starts another game instead of David Blough this season?
Travis: Blough has certainly been great the last two weeks. Coach Brohm said it has been the best stretch of his career and he isn’t wrong. I think he has won the job unless he goes in the tank. It also has been fortuitous (for him, I guess), that Sindelar got injured in practice before Missouri and has been day-to-day. It seems that both quarterbacks have done better when the other is not right over their shoulder. Neither got in much of a rhythm in the first two games, but Blough has earned the starting job with his play in the last two games. I think he has it the rest of the year.
Has anyone gone from hot coach (after last year) to hot seat (after starting 0-2 with loss to Eastern Michigan) back to hot coach (after the close loss to Misery and blowout of ranked Boston College) faster than Jeff Brohm this year?
Travis: I think the hot seat was mostly in other people’s minds. The Eastern Michigan loss was definitely bad, but the entire team played poorly, EMU played well, there was a rainstorm, and we had turnover issues to result in a one point loss. It’s the type of game where I think Purdue wins 9 out of 10 times and it happened to be the 10th time.
We also know that we’re still trying to overcome years of poor recruiting under Hazell. We’re working with classes rated 71 (2014, Hazell), 68 (2015, Hazell), 73 (2016, Hazell), 68 (2017, started by Hazell, finished by Brohm) and 49 (2018, Brohm). His 2019 class is currently rated 23rd nationally, so there is a huge talent increase coming. That means this year had the potential for a slight dip before a big jump forward.
It also helps that is was 3 losses by 8 points. In 17 games at Purdue Brohm is now 8-9, but of those nine losses, five were by a grand total of 11 points (the 3 this year, plus Rutgers and Nebraska last year). If Hazell had lost any game by 11 points or less it was a cause for celebration. Purdue was very close in all three losses this year and beat itself in the first two. Against Missouri the overruled touchdown was a factor, but we were also encouraged that we rallied from a 17-point deficit to tie it and we at least had a shot to win.
I think most Purdue fans see the long term here. Things were so bad under Hazell and Burke it wasn’t going to be an instant fix. Last year looked like a miracle, but we also lost a ton defensively. Now that the offense is rounding into form and the inexperienced guys on defense have some experience it is looking up again. We also have three guys in the 2019 recruiting class that could probably start for us right now if they weren’t HS seniors. Once they get here things can really get going.
So, Rondale Moore - Rivals three star WR ranked 100th in the country at his position. Did you guys get any warning during fall camp that you might be sitting on the sleeper of 2018 recruiting or was he a complete surprise to everyone in the Northwestern game and since?
Travis: Moore was a 4-star commit according to ESPN and I think 247, so we had some inkling. He also comes from the high school where Brohm’s dad is the long-standing quarterbacks coach. He got the vote of confidence from the Brohm patriarch. He was hyped up in Purdue circles, but that first quarter of his first game against Northwestern… my God. He has just been electric pretty much anytime he touches the football. He reminds me a lot of former star Dorien Bryant who holds our total yardage record because he was an ace kick returner too. We have Moore on kickoffs and punts now, mostly to give him a few more chances with the football in the open field.
We haven’t had a dynamic player like him in a very long time. He is a lot of fun to watch.
Scott Frost bulletin board material alert, week 2: “We get a game we can win next week.” Is Purdue taking that quote as a sign of disrespect or an attempt by a coach whose 0-3 team just lost 56-10 to believe it can find that elusive first win? Or is Brohm and his staff quietly using last year’s 1-point loss as inspiration to finish the Huskers off this time?
Travis: I don’t think it is any disrespect at all. If you don’t think you can win every game why play? While we’re coming off of a very nice win, but we are still 1-3. If you have seen some of the mistakes we made in the three losses you definitely have a chance. I mean we lost to Eastern Michigan for crying out loud. That was the one game every Purdue fan had marked down as a win before the season started. I am willing to bet it keeps us from a bowl game in the end, but it happened. If we can lose that game we can lose to anyone.
I also know that game last year was a rough one. We let that one slip away for sure. Seeing Tanner Lee pick on Kamal Hardy because Da’Wan Hunte was out was a rough one. I think most of the guys will remember that as a missed opportunity and one we didn’t finish. Also, if we are going to recover and reach a bowl game there is no margin for error. Barring a massive upset of Michigan State, Ohio State, or Wisconsin we can’t lose any other game. We view this as a winnable game.
Prediction time: Do the Boilermakers make it two in a row or does Nebraska get their 1st win?
Travis: It’s hard to say. Even in a weakened state it is virtually impossible to say we can walk into Lincoln and win easily. I do know we’re probably a better team than our record indicates and could easily be 4-0, but we’re also a flawed team capable of beating itself. That’s why we’re 1-3. We’ve played a lot better the last two weeks, however. If that same Purdue team shows up I like our chances. If the team that lost to EMU shows up we’re in deep trouble.