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Purdue Football: Built Without a Foundation

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Purdue’s consistent inconsistency isn’t hard to figure out...fixing it is another matter altogether.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

*Note: I’ll have an offensive and defensive film break down (one play from each that I feel tell the story) a little later. I tend to write 1,500-2,000 word articles that take up too much time. I’m trying to break things up a little.

After taking another look at the Wisconsin game (I don’t recommend it unless humiliation is your kink), the film told the same story as most frustrating Purdue losses over the last 3 seasons. Wisconsin’s defense wasn’t concerned about the Purdue run game, made O’Connell throw into tight intermediate windows (in front of the deep safeties, behind the dropping linebackers), and the Badgers punished every bad throw. The defense was fine in the first half, but dropped off in the second because Wisconsin ground them into the dirt.

Offense

You can change quarterbacks every down. Hell, you can put all of them on the field together and have them play catch in the backfield, and it won’t make a difference. Purdue can’t run the ball. Subsequently, Wisconsin rushed 3, dropped 8, and invited the Boilermakers to try and beat them with 3 yard passes. That’s nothing new for Purdue. It’s the default defensive game plan against a team without a running game.

O’Connell tries to beat the defense by fitting balls into tight intermediate windows. Plummer tries to beat it by throwing the available 3 yard passes. You can argue one is better than the other, but as I said way back in the preseason, you’re arguing over the superior peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s doesn’t particularly matter because both are average.

Purdue’s offensive is inconsistent because Brohm built the team without a foundation. It’s year 5 and the offensive line, and subsequently the running game, is still bad. Brohm refuses to run the ball against 3 man fronts. That’s understandable. I’m not sure Purdue can consistently run the ball against a 1 man front. On the rare occasion when the offensive line opens a hole, the running backs are not explosive (even when the entire squad is healthy) enough to gain more the 20 yards, even when they hit the second level untouched. No one respects Purdue’s run game, and for good reason.

Jeff Brohm the head coach makes the job of Jeff Brohm the play caller almost impossible. It’s a testament to Brohm the play caller’s acumen that he occasionally figures something out and a game like Iowa happens. It’s also frustrating that Brohm the play caller is forced to call plays against the optimal defense to stop what he wants to do because Brohm the head coach can’t figure out how to put together an offensive line. You can have all the bells and whistles in the world on offense, but if you can’t block anyone, it doesn’t matter.

Purdue is currently 129th in rushing yards (out of 130 teams). The 130th team is Mike Leach and Mississippi State. Leach’s offense is built to function without a run game. Brohm’s isn’t. That’s why Purdue is 106th in scoring offense and Mississippi State is 75th (still not great, turns out you need to run the ball to score in the SEC as well). Take away Purdue’s 49 point win over barely J.V. football UConn, and they’re averaging 17.6 points a game.

Purdue hired an offensive “guru” who can’t assemble a coherent offense. You can rationalize that however you wish, but it’s still true. If Brohm was only Purdue’s offensive coordinator, y’all would be calling for his head right about now. Purdue has failed to score more than 1 offensive touchdown in 4 of their last 5 games. To put that in perspective, the Haze/Shoop coaching combo from 2015 only failed to score more than 1 touchdown in 1 game.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Defense

Yet another Saturday where Purdue’s thrown together defensive staff is let down by Purdue’s tenured offensive staff. The defense was good enough to win this game. They even managed to put a touchdown on the board, but if you’re always on the field against Wisconsin, you’re going to get tired. When you get tired you start missing tackles. When you start missing tackles, Wisconsin starts scoring points and everything snowballs.

In my “Time to Get Hot” article from last week I said, “They have an inefficient, one dimensional offense that struggles to put the ball in the end zone (14 total touchdowns puts them in the bottom 20 of all FBS teams). They’ve been smoked by every legit opponent they’ve faced this year and their quarterback can’t stop throwing the ball to the other team”

Luckily for the Badgers, Purdue’s offense didn’t put any pressure on them to throw the ball. Their one dimensional offense wasn’t punished for being one dimensional. Mertz threw the ball 8 times, completed 5 passes, and Wisconsin won going away. The Badgers will take that quarterback stat line all day, every day this season.

Overall

I ended my aforementioned “Time to Get Hot” article last week with this.

“Every time I get excited about Purdue football, I get a cold bucket of suck dumped on my head, and yet, here I am, getting excited about Purdue yet again. Let’s take care of business this week against the Badgers.”

I got another cold bucket of sucked dumped on my head last Saturday, but I’ve learned my lesson. This Purdue team, as constituted, is nothing but the “Spoilermakers” of old. Expecting Jeff Brohm to put a consistent team on the field, without an offensive line and running game is folly. You’ll have the occasional flare up, but Purdue will remain in the bottom tier of the Big10, fighting it out with the other bottom tier teams for the right to play in a mid-December bowl game.

Not sure that’s a great return on a 4.8 million dollar a year investment.