I will say this much: facing Maryland at home on homecoming should be much easier than facing Penn State late week in Happy Valley. That doesn’t mean it is going to be easy. Far from it, in fact. Because of injuries ranging from a pulled hamstring to Legionnaire’s Disease I am pretty sure I am currently Purdue’s 5th wide receiver at the moment. The decision to start three new offensive linemen hardly gives me confidence, but neither does giving up 10 sacks to the Nittany Lions. There is also the defensive performance from two weeks ago against Minnesota.
Still, Maryland lost to the team that just beat us 59-0. Purdue wasn’t much better against Penn State, but at least we scored and we managed to keep them under 40. After a 1-4 start and all the injuries, I will take what positives we can get.
I know last year Nebraska made a big deal about Purdue being a “winnable game” with their own slow start before Purdue went to Lincoln, won, and Markell Jones reminded Scott Frost it was a “winnable game”. I am not a coach or a player, but from my uneducated blogger position this is a winnable game for Purdue. You should always feel good about playing at home, and Maryland has been an up and down team so far this season. It is their first ever visit to West Lafayette, but they have their own injury concerns that make this game interesting even if the Terrapins are a 6 point favorite.
2018 Record: 5-7, 3-6 Big Ten East
Bowl Result: None
Blog Representation: Testudo Times
Series with Purdue: Maryland Leads 2-0
Last Purdue win: None
Last Maryland win: 50-7 at Maryland on 10/1/2016
Head Coach: Mike Locksley (4-7 in first full season at Maryland, 6-33 overall)
2019 so far for Maryland
Maryland has been in the top 25 this year, but it was a very brief visit. During the first two weeks of the season their offense looked unstoppable in hanging 79 points on Howard and 63 on Syracuse. As it turns out, Howard is awful and Syracuse was overrated to start with. The Terrapins went to Temple and fell 20-17 before getting destroyed 59-0 at home by Penn State. They recovered to blow out Rutgers last week 48-7 in Piscataway, but Rutgers is a zombie program right now with a fired coach and it might be the worst power 5 program at the moment.
At 3-2 Maryland may need this game in order to reach a bowl game. They still have Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State on the schedule plus Minnesota, Indiana, and Nebraska. There are chances for three other wins there, but no guarantees. Right now, Purdue is the weakest team left on their slate.
Who to Watch on Offense
Tyrrell Pigrome – QB – Pigrome will get the start on Saturday as regular QB Josh Jackson is out with a foot injury. Since Purdue has a history of backup quarterbacks absolutely going off against us that should be a warning sign. Pigrome is just 17 of 27 for 171 yards and a TD this year, but he is a versatile dual-threat QB with 57 yards rushing and a touchdown. We have seen him before, too, as he played as a true freshman in our 50-7 loss in College Park three years ago. He finished that game with a 9 yard TD pass and 19 yards rushing. Maryland likes to do a run-pass option with its quarterbacks, and Pigrome is quite experienced with more than 500 yards rushing and 7 TDs in his career. He is not your typical green backup as he has played plenty in the previous three seasons.
Anthony McFarland Jr. – RB – McFarland has 336 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns. Given that Maryland ran over, around, and through Purdue the last time we saw them that is a concern. Javon Leake has another 262 yards and 4 TDs, giving them quite the rushing attack. They are third in the Big Ten at more than 218 yards per game on the ground. Last week he had an 80 yard TD run.
Dontay Demus Jr. – WR – Maryland has not had a great passing offense. They average just 227 yards through the air, but Purdue has still struggled to stop anyone. Demus has 13 receptions for 279 yards and 3 TDs to lead the team. Only two other players, Tyler Mabry and Chigoziem Okonkwo have more than 10 receptions. Last week Demus had an 80 yard TD catch.
Who to Watch on Defense
Maryland is giving up 21.2 points per game, but it has a pair of outliers that cancel each other out. They had a shutout of Howard, but gave up 59 against Penn State. They are right about in the middle of the conference in rushing yards per game (114), but 13th and only ahead of Purdue in pass yards given up 251.6 per game. They have a good pass rush with 15 sacks, but have struggled against most teams to stop the pass. If the retooled offensive line can protect Jack Plummer and we have some actual healthy receivers there are yards to gain.
Keandre Jones – LB – Jones has to be ready to go after Penn State got 10 sacks against us. He has 4.5 sacks, 28 tackles, and 7 tackles for loss to lead the Terps. Given the pass protection issues Purdue had last week (which were massive) he can have a huge game.
Ayende Eley – LB – Eley leads the Terps with 35 tackles and is among the conference leaders in that category. He also has been active in creating turnovers with an interception and a fumble recovery. Overall Maryland is +4 in the league in turnovers, while Purdue actually improved last week to -6 my creating three turnovers and only losing one.
Antoine Brooks Jr. – The senior defensive back has 33 tackles and leads the team with three passes broken up. 30 of his tackles have been solo tackles, so he is quite good in one-on-one situations.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Jevon Leake – KR – Leake is the reigning Special Teams Player of the Week in the conference after he had 100 yard kickoff return to start the second half last week. He also had a 42 yard TD run and a 12 yard TD run. Last week Rutgers gave up three plays of 80+ yards, one passing, one rushing, and one receiving.
DJ Turner – PR – Turner has already returned one punt for a touchdown so far this season. He has just three returns, but is averaging 35 yards per return.
Anthony Pecorella – P – Pecorella averages better than 42 yards per punt, so he can flip the field pretty quickly. On the other end, Maryland has not yet made a field goal this season. Joseph Petrino is 24 of 25 on extra points, but 0 of 2 on field goals.
To me, this game is relatively even, but Maryland is the more healthy team overall. Both teams are rolling with their backup quarterbacks against suspect pass defenses. Pigrome has 933 yards passing and 7 TDs against 4 INTs in his career, but is a strong running threat. How well Purdue defends the RPO will be critical. Purdue’s loss of almost every healthy receiver is also a big factor, as is the restructured offensive line.
I do think we have a chance in this one, however. It is a much more even matchup than last week and against Minnesota we saw some of the promise that Plummer has when he has actual protection. If you give him time to throw he can be quite effective, and King Doerue still has some moments last week.
For Purdue to win it has to have the defense it had for much of the second half last week as well as the offense it had in the second half against Minnesota. This team has not had a lead since 3-0 against TCU in the first quarter of that game. If the Boilers can get some promising drives going early and actually play from ahead for once I like our chances.