Friday night is a huge night for Purdue Football. No, I am not referring to the debut of permanent lights at Ross-Ade Stadium (although that is a huge win). Friday night marks a chance to follow up on the positive momentum generated by the season opener in Indianapolis against Louisville. Coming into the season, expectations were low, but after one game where Purdue looked significantly better than it did at any point under Darrell Hazell there is an actual buzz about the team.
And all that means nothing if Purdue loses at home to Ohio.
Perhaps the last time Purdue was in this position was 2009 after a narrow loss at Oregon. That was a game where Purdue probably should have even won, as it gave up two defensive touchdowns at Autzen Stadium. The Boilers came home and slept through a 28-21 loss to Northern Illinois at home as part of a five game losing streak.
Now we get another MAC team at home. These are the games that Big Ten teams schedule to be challenged, but win. Sure, the MAC inevitably gets a few wins over the Big Ten per season, but beating your MAC opponent is pretty much a pre-requisite for reaching a bowl game. Hazell couldn’t do that. He was 1-3 against MAC opponents, all at home, and that is one of many reasons he was fired.
This needs to be a Purdue victory to sustain all the goodwill form last week.
Ohio Bobcats (1-0, 0-0)
2016 Record: 8-6, 6-2 MAC East
Bowl Result: Lost 28-23 to Troy in Dollar General Bowl
Blog Representation: The Hustle Belt
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 7-0
Last Purdue win: 33-10 at Purdue on 9/17/1988
Last Ohio win: None
Head Coach: Frank Solich (89-67 overall, 60-37 in 13th season at Ohio)
We really can’t take a lot from last week’s opener for Ohio. They scheduled an absolutely terrible Hampton team and blew their doors off 59-0. Hampton gained only 108 yards, had 7 first downs, and in general did very little to stop the Bobcats. It has been rare to say this, but playing Purdue will be a significant step up for a team that won the MAC East last season. Ohio blew the game open with a 26 point third quarter and Hampton only had a handful of possessions that crossed midfield.
Who to Watch on Offense
Quinton Maxwell – QB – Maxwell made the start last week but did not need to do a lot. He was 7 of 9 passing for 100 yards and a TD. Last season he threw for 1,267 yards and 8 TDs against 4 INTs. Most of the time he was handing off to a stable of running backs as Ohio had no need to throw the ball. His backup, Nathan Rourke, even had more passing attempts. Rourke also rushed for 50 yards and three touchdowns. It seems like Ohio may play two quarterbacks like we did with David Blough and Elijah Sindelar.
Cameron Odom -WR – The redshirt freshman had an excellent debut with 4 receptions for 75 yards. He did not get in the end zone, but he had the longest play of the game for the Bobcats with a 48 yard reception. At 6’1” he is one of their bigger receivers.
Dorian Brown – RB – Brown had 10 carries for 49 yards and a score, but Ohio had the luxury of spreading the ball around. Overall, the Bobcats finished with 248 yards rushing on 53 carries. A.J. Ouellette led the team with 12 carries for 63 yards. Last season Brown was the leading rusher with 825 yards and 4 TDs.
Papi White – WR – The top returning receiver from last year, White had 35 yards on 3 receptions and a score. He is a smaller, fast receiver at 5’9” and could cause a lot of damage in the slot.
Jylton Tusha – OL – The freshman lineman was originally a Purdue commitment last season under Hazell before decommiting and switching over to the Bobcats. At 6’4”, 307 pounds I am not sure if he is playing immediately, but he was expected to be one of Hazell’s better recruits, for what that is worth.
Who to Watch on Defense
Evan Croutch – LB – The junior linebacker had four tackles and two sacks as he wrecked the Hampton offense. He also forced a fumble.
Quentin Poling – LB – The long time starter at middle linebacker had over 100 tackles a season ago and is once again a leader on the defense. Against Hampton he led the team with 6 tackles, but with the bobcats leading by a lot he did not play much in the second half.
Austin Conrad – DE – He is listed as a tight end on the roster, but the redshirt freshman played defensive end last week and had six tackles. He also had half a tackle for loss. At 6’2” 250 pounds he brings good size and speed to the end spot.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Louie Zervos – K – With a shutout last week the Bobcats did not have to worry about returning many kicks. Zervos was 6 of 7 on extra points and made a 38 yard field goal. Last season he was 29 of 35 on field goals.
Is that excitement and hope we all feel? If Purdue can play with the same intensity it had against Louisville and eliminate some of the mistake on both sides of the ball it should win this game. That’s what is so exciting. Purdue had some defensive lapses with long third down conversions. It struggled on special teams with two bad kickoff returns and a blocked field goal. It threw three interceptions with one of them being a pick six. Through all that, it still lost by only 7 and had a chance right to the end against one of the better teams in the country.
With a week to fix some things and fine tune the defense who knows what can happen. Last week the defense was aggressive, but narrowly missed on several sacks because Lamar Jackson happens to be really good. It missed out on a couple of more turnovers as well. Offensively, Purdue needs to have more of a running game than it did last week. Ohio gave up just 47 rushing yards last week, but Hampton was playing catch up the entire game. Purdue never did really get the running game going, and that was supposed to be a strength.
Still, I feel good about this game. For the first time in ages I feel like we’re a legitimate Big Ten team going against a MAC opponent where we should be favored. When was the last time you could say that? Sure, that should be the norm, but coach Brohm has a lot to rebuild. The next step is to go out and prove last wasn’t a fluke. Even Hazell had some near upsets of Notre Dame and at Michigan State. He never built on them.
Last week means nothing unless Brohm can build on it.