Tomorrow marks 100 days until the kickoff of the 2021 Purdue football season, and it is expected to be one of normalcy. We should play the full schedule. We should have fans back in the stands. Also, in terms of normalcy, outside expectations of the program are low.
It really is a critical season for Jeff Brohm. He desperately needs a bounceback after an injury-plagued 2019 season and an abbreviated 2020 season that mostly felt like six glorified scrimmages. When looking at the 2021 schedule it isn’t easy, but it is not overly hard, either. Purdue plays a pair of CFB Playoff teams from 2020 in Notre Dame and Ohio State, both on the road. That negates our significant advantage over the Buckeyes in Ross-Ade being their kryptonite. Getting Ohio State, Michigan State, and Indiana from the East is a tossup. The Buckeyes are the Buckeyes. Michigan State is coming off of a down year. Indiana was a top 10 team a year ago but, in my opinion, was extremely overrated (their best win was worse than Purdue’s best win).
Of course, there are non-conference games again. Winning in South Bend would be a shock. There is no valid excuse at Connecticut. The season opener against Oregon State presents an interesting challenge, as we will see.
Oregon State Beavers
2020 Record: 2-5 Pac-12 North
Bowl Result: None
Blog Representation: Building the Dam
Series with Purdue: Oregon State leads 1-0
Last Purdue win: None
Last Oregon State win: 22-14 at Purdue on 10/21/1967
Head Coach: Jonathan Smith (9-22 in 4th season at Oregon State)
Last Season for the Beavers
Don’t let the 2-7 record fool you. It was a season of close calls for the Beavers, much like Purdue. They lost to Utah by 6, Stanford by 3, and Washington by 6. Oregon “won” the Pac-12, but the Ducks lost the annual Civil War to the Beavers 41-38 in Corvallis. Like so many teams last season, it was a strange season played under absurd conditions yielding varying results, especially when there wasn’t going to be a Pac-12 season for a period of time.
In terms of their history with Purdue, it is extremely rare that you can say the following phrase in regards to Purdue football: Oregon State cost the Boilermakers a national championship. In the only meeting between the two schools in 1967 Purdue, yes, our beloved Boilermakers, were ranked No. 2 in the nation at 4-0 after wins over Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Northwestern, and Ohio State.
Oregon State came to West Lafayette on October 21 and stunned Purdue 22-14, one of three wins they had over top 2 teams in that season. Here is how the game ended:
In the third quarter, Keyes scored his second touchdown on a seven-yard run to give the Boilermakers the lead for the first time, 14–10. After the touchdown, the Beavers’ defense stiffened, not allowing Purdue past the Oregon State 40 for the rest of the game. Late in the third quarter, the Beavers pulled within one on Haggard’s 32-yard field goal. With 6:35 left, Jess Lewis came up with his second fumble at the Boilermaker 30. Six of the next seven plays, Preece handed off to Bill Enyart, who capped the drive with a four-yard run with 3:54 left. However, the two-point conversion failed, leaving Oregon State in front by five. Haggard was instructed to kick the ball away from Keyes. He lofted the ball high in the air, and Purdue was unable to field the kick, which was recovered by the Beavers’ Mel Easley on the Boilermaker 28. Oregon State only managed seven yards, but Haggard converted his third field goal, a 38-yarder with 1:06 left to put the Beavers on top 22–14. Purdue’s last hope evaporated when Mike Groff intercepted the Boilermakers’ first pass on their next drive to seal the victory.
Purdue later lost at Indiana to share the Big Ten title with the Hoosiers and Minnesota, but does an undefeated Purdue headed to Bloomington with a natty on the line change the result, especially since Purdue could not have returned to the Rose Bowl due to the Big Ten rules at the time? We’ll never know. Oregon State even did a favor by taking out both No. 2 UCLA and No. 1 USC in November, clearing the way for a Purdue natty.
Lately Oregon State has struggled. They have not had a winning season since going 7-6 in 2013. The following stretch had a pair of 2-10 seasons and even a 1-11 year where they pulled “the Hazell” of only barely beating an FCS team in 2017. Against recent Big Ten opponents they have a 77-31 loss at Ohio State in 2018, a 48-14 loss to Minnesota in 2017 and a 30-23 loss in Minneapolis the year before, and a 35-7 loss at Michigan in 2015. Their last win over a Big Ten team was 10-7 over Wisconsin in 2012.
Oregon State Offense
Last season Oregon State had excellent balance between the run and the pass. They were almost dead even in the two categories. The running game will take a significant hit with the loss of running back Jermar Jefferson. Despite the Beavers going 2-5, Jefferson was named the Pac-12’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 858 yards and seven touchdowns. South Carolina transfer Deshaun Fenwick, along with BJ Baylor, Damir Collins, and Isaiah Newell give the Beavers a lot more depth at the position than Purdue has.
Like Purdue, Oregon State got inconsistent quarterback play from multiple quarterbacks. Tristan Gebbia threw for 824 yards and 3 TDs against 3 INTs. Chance Nolan threw for 537 yards and 6 TDs with two picks. Each played in a total of four games. Nolan also ran for 147 yards and a score. Both players return and will vye for the starting job.
Trevon Bradford (24-239-1) and Kolby Taylor (20-224-1) were the top two receivers a season ago. Taylor is gone, but Bradford returns as a senior with more than 1,000 yards receiving in his career. Teagan Quitoriano (14-185-1) had a respectable season last year. Tyjon Lindsay and Zeriah Beason each had three touchdown receptions to lead the team.
The offensive line will be in flux. In just seven games last year Oregon State gave up 12 sacks and 30 tackles for loss. If Purdue has a defensive coordinator that actually believes you’re allowed to get pressure in the backfield, unlike last year with Bob Diaco, it should be okay.
Oregon State Defense
Get ready to see some points. The Oregon State defense allowed over 30 points per game last year, 10th in the Pac-12, while the offense was middle-of-the-pack at about 28 per game. They also had the worst pass defense in the conference by a wide margin, giving up more than 300 yards through the air per game. Jack Plummer or Aidan O’Connell should have a good day. David Bell has to be salivating.
Inside Linebacker Avery Roberts had a solid season with 69 tackles and should pair well again with fellow linebacker Omar Speights, who was second on the team with 63 tackles. They both should be good in the middle of the defense.
The second struggled to create turnovers with only five interceptions across seven games, two each from Nahshon Wright and Jaydon Grant. Grant is back, but Wright is not. He will be paired in the secondary with Akili Arnold, who had 30 tackles and a forced fumble.
The Beaver pass defense was almost as bad as Purdue’s, as they had seven sacks across seven games to Purdue’s five over six games (and George Karlaftis, who was not 100% the last four games, had 2). Redshirt sophomore Kilan Oladapo had two of their seven sacks as a defensive back. Isaac Hodgins was the only defensive lineman that got much of a push. Andrzej Hughes-Murray was a competent blitzer as an outside linebacker. Overall the defense does return a good amount of experience, but there was not enough production from them.
Oregon State Special Teams
Oregon State must break in a new punter after former Nebraska punter Caleb Lightbourn graduated. Luke Loecher did punt 12 times last year for a 44.38 average. In the kicking game Everett Hayes was 5 of 7 on field goal attempts last year as a freshman.
Champ Flemings and Jesiah Irish split return duties a year ago and averaged 23 yards per return. Receiver Trevon Bradford was a good punt returner, averaging 13.4 yards per return.
This might be the most important game of the Brohm era. It definitely feels like a crossroads that Purdue has not faced since the season opener at Marshall in 2015. In that game, after modest improvement in 2014 after a disastrous 2013, Purdue needed a win to propel itself in year three under Darrell Hazell. It failed and went 2-10.
After a stunning debut in 2017 and the Rondale Moore Experience in 2018 Jeff Brohm has unquestionably taken a step back. 2019 was due to a ton of injuries and last year was a weird year all around, but we’re paying Brohm a lot of money to avoid going 4-8. The pressure is starting to mount, especially with Tom Allen performing a small miracle in Bloomington and getting Indiana into the preseason top 25.
Purdue has a path to a 4-1 start. It might even need a 4-1 start At minimum, it absolutely must start 2-0 with an Oregon State team that hasn’t been great the last few seasons and a UConn team that is one of the worst FBS programs in the country. This feels like a must-win in every sense of the phrase.
We’re going to see a much different Purdue team in 2021. Jeff Brohm has hit the transfer market hard, especially on defense. There are stars in Karlaftis and Bell, both potential first round picks, but they can only do so much. There has to be marked improvement on defense, and there should be simply by getting rid of Bob Diaco, who was an awful fit. Offensively, Brohm needs to get back to his swashbuckling days. It’s time to open things up with two experienced quarterbacks and a hopefully improved offensive line.
Here, 100 days out, I might be overconfident, but I think Purdue starts the season off right. Purdue 38, Oregon State 27