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How has the 2019 season unfolded thus far for the Boilermakers?

Purdue v Northwestern Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Brimming with optimism after retaining head coach Jeff Brohm, who spurned his alma mater Louisville to stay at Purdue, the 2019 football season was supposed to be an improvement from the 6-7 overall finish in 2018 for the Boilermakers.

Instead, Purdue has been hampered by injuries so far this season and the team has yet to live up to the off-season conversations that had the Boilermakers in the preseason Big Ten West division race. After losing four of their first five games, Purdue has won their last two in conference.

Here are the results so far for the Purdue Boilermakers (4-6 overall, 3-4 B1G):

  • Loss at Nevada 31-34
  • Win vs. Vanderbilt 42-24
  • Loss at TCU 13-34
  • Loss vs. Minnesota 31-38
  • Loss at Penn State 7-35
  • Win vs. Maryland 40-14
  • Loss at Iowa 20-26
  • Loss vs. Illinois 6-24
  • Win vs. Nebraska 31-27
  • Win at Northwestern 24-22

In this edition of B5Q’s upcoming “opponent at a glance,” we take a deeper look at how Purdue has looked so far this year.

Offense

Elijah Sindelar, Jack Plummer and Aidan O’Connell have all seen time this year due to injuries at the quarterback position. Both Sindelar and Plummer are not expected to return this season, leaving O’Connell to run the offense the rest of the way.

O’Connell, a walk-on, has thrown for 400 yards and three touchdowns, with two interception in four games. The bulk of his attempts, though, came in the most recent win over Northwestern in which he threw the ball 50 times for 271 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Purdue attempts to throw at one of the highest rates in the country, meaning that the sophomore signal caller will be the tasked with moving the offense primarily. The Boilermakers are No. 2 in the conference and No. 18 nationally, at just under 300 yards passing per game, but are only No. 78 nationally in terms of passing efficiency.

A big reason for the massive number of passing attempts is the lack of a consistent running game. As a team, Purdue is last in the conference and No. 128 nationally in rushing offense at under 80 yards per game averaging 2.7 yards per carry.

Freshman running back King Doerue is the leading rusher on the team at 40 yards per game, with very little happening behind him on the depth chart.

Another major reason for Purdue’s infatuation with throwing the ball so often is the bevy of solid wide receivers on the team. Sophomore sensation Rondale Moore has missed the past few weeks due to a knee injury, but he is not far removed from winning the Paul Hornung Award for being the nation’s most versatile player in the country and being a consensus All-American as a freshman. The electric slot receiver recorded 114 receptions for 1258 yards and 12 touchdowns receiving last season, and he may potentially be healthy enough to play again this weekend.

Moore’s running mate David Bell is another breakout player on the outside. As a freshman, he has 65 catches for 791 yards and five touchdowns. A bigger, physical receiver, Bell presents matchup problems for most secondaries. Tight end Brycen Hopkins, a Mackey Award semifinalist, has also had a tremendous senior year for Purdue with 561 yards and three touchdowns.

One glaring issue for Purdue has been their offensive line. The Boilermakers rely heavily on a quick passing game to help the offensive line out with a lack of rushing game. The offensive line is currently allowing 2.5 sacks per game, tied for No. 96 in the nation in the category with 25 total sacks allowed on the season.

If Wisconsin wants to win, keeping David Bell and Rondale Moore (if healthy) in check will be of the utmost concern, because Purdue’s run game will not be nearly as intimidating.

Defense

This year Purdue has conceded 410 total yards per game, good for No. 78 in the nation, resulting in an average of just under 28 opponent points per contest. The Boilermakers have given up 172 yards per game on the ground, and 238.5 yards through the air. Neither statistical category is great, but a big reason for that has been injuries and youth.

Fifth-year senior linebacker Ben Holt is the unequivocal leader. He leads the team in tackles by a wide margin with 99 and plays with a chip on his shoulder at all times. The graduate transfer from Western Kentucky is undersized, but he is the main cog in the Purdue defensive machine.

Junior Derrick Barnes has played exceptionally well from his defensive end spot and is second on the team in tackles with 47, and in sacks with four. On the opposite side of the defensive line, freshman George Karlaftis is one of the most talented lineman in the Big Ten. A former top-100 recruit, he has the size at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, and has a never ending motor. He has the team lead in sacks with six, and he is just scratching at the surface of his abilities with 14.5 tackles for loss already.

Redshirt freshman Cory Trice leads the Purdue secondary in interceptions with three, while fellow freshmen Jalen Graham has also played well at the safety next to him. The cornerback position is also super young, which has been part of the problem for this Purdue defense.

The Boilermakers rank almost equal in rush defense, No. 82 in nation, and in pass defense, at No. 81 in nation; the achilles heel for Purdue has tended to be the rushing numbers against Wisconsin though.

Last season Jonathan Taylor ran for a career high 321 yards against Purdue during a double-overtime thriller in West Lafayette. The year before that, as a freshman, Taylor ran for 219 yards against the Boilermakers. Needless to say Wisconsin has been able to run the ball against them.

Based on the injuries and the season statistics, another strong game from Jonathan Taylor could be on the horizon.

Overall

Purdue ranks in the bottom quadrant of the Big Ten in every major statistical category outside of passing yards. Wisconsin, on the flip side, is in the top five in those same categories outside of passing yardage and net punting.

This game has been close the past two seasons with Jeff Brohm at the helm for Purdue, but this season has not gone as planned for his team. Brohm is now two games under .500 during his tenure at West Lafayette overall, and this year has been his worst season on record.

Purdue is recruiting much better, with talented players like David Bell, Rondale Moore, and George Karlaftis as young headliners for the program. At this point though, Wisconsin is a heavy favorite, and given the injury concerns and youth movement across most of Purdue’s starting units they should be.