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What to Expect on Saturday

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Snow, expect snow, and a bunch of hand-offs

Illinois v Purdue

Honestly guys, let’s hope the snow continues to fall, because Purdue’s offense might be better if we don’t try and pass the ball.

As many of you know, I have long been an advocate for starting Elijah Sindelar, or at least I was when Brohm was running his traditional offense. Then, after the Rutgers debacle, Brohm essentially ripped the 2 zone read option pages out of his playbook and tossed the rest of it in the garbage.

People have been calling for a Purdue coach to make adjustments, and you’re getting with Brohm, who I’m going to assume has lost all faith in the Purdue wide receivers, and have shifted the burden of the gameplan onto the more reliable running back stable.

Purdue threw the ball 24 times and ran the ball 44 times vs Illinois. Purdue receivers accounted for 7 of the 24 receptions vs Illinois, with the rest going to the TE’s and RB’s. That is not Jeff Brohm’s preferred method of moving the ball down the field but if your receivers can’t catch, throwing the ball to them is futile. You’ve got to give the man credit for not being stubborn and for going with what works.

Subsequently, in this new offense, David Blough was the obvious choice to not only start, but play the entire game. It’s not that Blough is a prolific runner (7 carries vs Nebraska, 3 vs Illinois) but he’s athletic enough to get on the outside, threaten a defense, and also get into some looks that Sindelar simply can’t physically manage.

I like Sindelar better as a passer, but if we’re going with the zone read and other option based stuff, Blough is far and away the better choice. Everything was working well until Blough almost got his foot ripped off his body in the 4th quarter.

Now it’s back to Sindelar, and I’m going to assume Brohm dug through the trash and picked out a few more pages from his old playbook, because the run game looks different with Sindelar at QB.

Here is an example of what Blough was able to do in the run game for Purdue:

Option Look

Notice that Purdue isn’t blocking the DE on this play, and is instead letting Blough option off of him. On this play, the DE took Blough, Blough made the correct read and tossed it to Knox, and Purdue gained 7 yards on 1st down.

This play is pretty much gone, because for the option to work, the QB has to be an actual threat to run the ball. With Sindelar in the game, the DE would always take the pitch.

Here is what Blough is able to do to the backside linebacker:

Blough holds the backside LB on the zone read

On this play, the threat of the zone read holds Illinois’s backside linebacker. He can’t attack the ball carrier because he has to sit outside for an extra count in case Blough pulls the ball.

Illinois has 7 in the box, but 1 of those players gets to stand around unblocked because Blough is a threat to run. So now Purdue is blocking 6 on 6 instead of 6 on 7. Notice both guards getting to the 2nd level on the middle and play side linebacker, while the backside linebacker is ignored because in a sense, Blough’s threat to run is blocking him.

This is what the zone read looks like with Sindelar in the game:

No respect

You see the same zone blocking scheme, with 5 blocking 5, but the unblocked DE isn’t showing any interest in Sindelar and is free to go straight down the line and attack the ball.

Instead of the zone read, expect more of the power:

RT pulls through the hole

This is what you see more than the zone read when Sindelar is in the game.

The right tackle pulls around the right guard at the snap, the center and left guard double team the DT, and the running back attacks the hole.

Purdue is still leaving the end unblocked, but instead of expecting to hold him with the quarterback, Purdue simply expects Knox to beat him to hole on the quick hitting run in the A gap. Ideally, you will also see the left guard get off his double and go find the playside linebacker. So now you once again have 5 blocking 5, with the RB responsible for beating the DE.

I also expect Brohm to go with the “Wild Sparks” more in this game:

We pick up an extra blocker

In the “Wild Sparks”, Purdue picks up an extra blocker, using the fullback to lead the quarterback through the hole, again, making it 6 on 6 in “the box”.

On this play, the center and the fullback are responsible for the 2 linebackers in the middle of the field.

I’m surprised Illinois is in a 4-2-5 look with Sparks in the game, instead of a base 4-3-4, even with Purdue in a spread formation, but Sparks does have the ability to throw. If I were Illinois (or Northwestern) I would go man across the board and leave an extra linebacker in the box (but that’s just me).

Overall:

Purdue is going to have to run the ball against Northwestern in the snow. They will have fewer options with Sindelar in the game. It’s going to be tough sledding out there, but since the Purdue receivers can’t catch the ball consistently in even the best of weather, at least the snow takes away Brohm’s temptation to go with plays that work right up until the ball hits the receivers hands.