Today the 2019 football season officially ended for Purdue in the rain, cold, and muck of a dismal fall afternoon in West Lafayette. The weather was awful, perhaps the worst I have seen for a Purdue game since since the 2001 Bucket game in Bloomington in terms of the combined elements. With wind, rain, and cold it was apparent early that passing would be at a premium.
That said, it should not be an excuse for Purdue. We’re now 34 games into Jeff Brohm’s tenure. He is supposed to be a master tactician. He had solid to excellent running games in his tenure at Western Kentucky, especially when Anthony Wales ran for 2,700 yards and 36 touchdowns in his final two seasons in Bowling Green. As good as Brohm’s offenses are at passing the ball, sometimes you need to run it. Today was one of those days on both sides, and Illinois came in with a poor run defense. Illinois proved it could do so when Dre Brown had a deft 44 yard run to set up the first field goal. Purdue failed to do so all day long.
That was really the difference. Illinois went very simple offensively, got the 3-0 lead, benefitted from a major screwup when Jack Plummer was intercepted by Tony Adams, who returned it 13 yards for a touchdown, and then had to do nothing in particular from that point forward in order to win. At that point, they were quite content to have Purdue throw in a downpour and let our receivers drop passes. The scheming was there, as Purdue receivers were open on several routes, but Purdue dropped the chances it had in the passing game and could not run when it needed to. Because of that, the game was decided on three plays:
- The 44 yard run from Brown to set up the field goal.
- The pick-six by Adams.
- The 17-yard playaction pass from Brandon Peters to Donny Navarro, setting up the touchdown before halftime, which was one of only 3 completions on just 7 passing attempts by the Illini.
That’s all the Illini needed.
The playaction to Navarro effectively ended Purdue’s season. When Illinois went ahead 3-0 it felt like a huge lead with the weather. Going ahead 17-0 was completely insurmountable. To make a bowl game Purdue needs to win its last four games, and quite honestly, that is not going to happen.
That makes this year such a wasted year for a variety of reasons. Today I really have to question Jeff Brohm, especially when he switched to Aidan O’Connell in the second quarter for no valid reason. He ended up going 7 of 13 for 65 yards and a TD, but to me, going to him while the game was in doubt was bad for Plummer’s confidence. Plummer wasn’t even playing that poorly. We could have had vintage Brees in there today and it wouldn’t have mattered because we couldn’t run and receivers were dropping the chances they had.
Of course, Purdue’s complete inability to run the football is also on Brohm. It is one thing to be a bad running team. Today was on par with some of Hazell’s worst outings in 2013. Illinois does not have a good run defense, but time and again Purdue stubbornly tried to throw instead of working the ball on the ground. With this game, last year’s games against Minnesota and Eastern Michigan, and the 2017 game at Northwestern we have plenty of evidence that Brohm cannot run an offense in any kind of bad weather. It is a helpless feeling, and it shouldn’t be. He is being paid a large amount of money to figure this out and he can’t.
Today is the first time I am really questioning Jeff Brohm as coach. Nevada was bad and inexcuseable, but I played it off as more of a fluke where everything that could go wrong, did. The injuries since have been a factor. Today there seemed to be no plan for the weather and Lovie Smith’s boring, NFL conservative offense was great for it, while our own was not.
This is now a lost season. Even with all the injuries I felt we could make a bowl game, but we needed to get this game. Now we have company with Nevada in terms of games we should have won under almost any circumstances. Blowing out Ohio State last season was fantastic, but the evidence of Purdue failing to beat bad teams is becoming more common. 2017 Rutgers, 2017 Nebraska, 2018 Eastern Michigan, 2019 Nevada, and 2019 Illinois are all really, really bad looking losses. Shouldn’t we be building past this right now?
Look, I am not going to call for Brohm’s firing. That is absurd. This is still an extremely young team and we gave him the huge contract last year so we could get the 2019 and 2020 recruiting classes that, in time, are the ones that will make the difference. Still, sitting at 2-6 with two really bad losses to Nevada and Illinois is not a good look. We’re paying Brohm so these games are wins because Danny Hope and Darrell Hazell couldn’t win even those types of games. Today he was outcoached by the coach in the Big Ten whose job is in the most jeopardy. That’s not good.
We’re playing for the future now. We knew this would be a transition year, but there were still expectations and we have fallen flat. We need to get some momentum going for what should be a pivotal 2020 season because if Brohm can’t get us to 7-8 wins next year it is some time for major questions.