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Purdue Offense vs Illinois Defense by the Numbers Review

I bought into the hype yet again.

Illinois v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Note: (The Pregame stats/analysis from my previous article are in italics)

Last week, Purdue faced a talented, but struggling Notre Dame defense and got exposed. This week they face a struggling defense that also lacks talent. They should be able to get back on track, even if David Bell isn’t able to go.

In fact, even if Bell is ready to go, Brohm should probably give him another week to recover, because there is no way this Illinois defense should be able to slow down the passing attack, regardless of the available receivers. Travis should be able to line up and hobble his way to a 2 touchdown game. If Purdue doesn’t dominate this game from the opening whistle with their passing game, it’s time to worry.

I’m confident they will dominate.

What Happened?

Purdue faced a struggling Illinois defense that still lacks talent, they should have been able to get back on track, even though David Bell couldn’t go, but they didn’ was ugly.

There was no way Illinois’s defense should have been able to slow down the passing attack, regardless of the available receivers, but they did. I still contend that Travis should be able to hobble his way to a 2 touchdown game, but I’ll concede that the speedier Andrew Ledman may have been required on Saturday.

It’s time to worry, they in no way dominated.

Scoring Offense vs Scoring Defense (Points Per Game)

Purdue Offense: 30.7 (63rd)

Illinois Defense: 30.25 (102nd)

Purdue’s offense took a huge step back in the national standings last week, but should recover this week against a putrid Illinois defense.

The Fighting Illini defense have been sworn pacifists most of the season, but they come into this game with a good feeling after holding Maryland to 20 points last week ( in a loss). They’ll look to channel that same energy against on Saturday, but this is the type of defense Purdue is built to score against. In the predictions article, I had Purdue scoring 27, but after further consideration, if they don’t hit the mid 30s against this team, there are serious issues.

Purdue Offense: 13 (-17.7)

Illinois Defense: 9 (+21.25)

Illinois held Purdue 17 points under their season average. Meanwhile Purdue managed to come in 21 points below Illinois’s season average for points allowed. Whenever I get excited about the potential of the Purdue offense, I’m going to slam my thumb in a door. I can’t help but buy into the clearly erroneous Brohm hype and I need a pain conditioning regime to break me of the habit. A throbbing thumb should do the trick.

This is the type of defense Purdue is built to score against, but they couldn’t score. I should have stuck with 27, because I would have been less wrong. I’m not sure anyone, including the Illinois defensive coordinator, believed they were going to hold Purdue to 13 points going into the game.

On the positive side, Purdue won. This article, however, is about the offense (before you break into a chorus of “YEAH BUT WE STILL WON!” in the comments. I’m well aware of the outcome of the game, and am relieved that the defense bailed out the offense. That doesn’t happen against better teams.)

Total Offense vs Total Defense (Yards Per Game)

Purdue Offense: 437 (42nd)

Illinois Defense: 481.5 (122nd)

The Boilermakers can move the ball. They’ve shown that consistently throughout the season. That hasn’t necessarily led to points though, because the passing game is methodical to the point of being tedious. It’s hard to sustain long drives with the short passing game. Too many things can go wrong.

Illinois will be happy if they can hold Purdue close to their season average on offense, and not their season average on defense. They won’t be able to stop Purdue from moving the ball, but will try to limit the damage on the scoreboard and make Purdue methodically work the ball down the field. I don’t think they can do it, but that’s the game plan.

Purdue Offense: 315 (-122)

Illinois Defense: 315 (+166)

Purdue struggled to move the ball. The passing game was so tedious under Plummer (I’ll talk about that in a different article) that Brohm went to the bullpen and brought in O’Connell yet again, because he needed the quarterback to throw the ball into tight windows and stop checking down to 3 yard routes.

Illinois has to be kicking themselves, because they held Purdue in check the entire game, but their terrible offense/Purdue’s great defense, still made them take an L back with them to Champaign. According to Brohm, they played 2 deep safeties (I believe him, but I’m going to need to look at the tape closer) to prevent the deep pass. That should mean the underneath stuff and the run game is available all game, but they also managed to prevent the short pass and the run. Brohm said he brought in O’Connell because he can throw the intermediate pass, which appears to be the only thing Illinois did not take away. Purdue should be able to dictate the game to a ragged Illinois defense.

3rd Down Conversion Percentage vs 3rd Down Conversion Defense

Purdue Offense: 43% (51st)

Illinois Defense: 39% (76th)

Purdue’s poor showing on 3rd down (25%) doomed them against the Fighting Irish. They won’t be facing the same level of athlete this week, and should be able to pick up around 50% of their attempts this week.

The Ilini defense has been decent at getting teams off the field, in comparison to their otherwise terrible defense across the board, but it’s still not good. I anticipate them trying to crowd the line on third downs like Notre Dame did last week, but they don’t have Kyle Hamilton, and Purdue’s receivers should be able to make a few more plays this week.

Purdue Offense: 50% (7/14) (+7%)

Illinois Defense: 50% (7/14) (-11%)

Hey, I got this one correct, Purdue picked up exactly 50% of their first down attempts. It didn’t help put the ball in the end zone, but it did keep the defense fresh, which helped keep Illinois out of the end hurray!?!

One advantage of Purdue picking up first downs is it (as well as a stellar punting game from Ansel) limited Illinois field position and made their horibad offense try and drive the entire field to score. Purdue’s offense should be better than “limit the other teams field position” but I’ll take it what I can get.

Rushing Offense vs Rushing Defense (Yards Per Game)

Purdue Offense: 110.7 (112th)

Illinois Defense: 160.2 (82nd)

Jeff Brohm talked about an improved run game all offseason. The Purdue run game isn’t improved. Not having Horvath or a speed back hurts. Dorue and Downing are serviceable, but otherwise unspectacular. A quarterback run game (Austin Burton?) would be helpful, but Plummer isn’t that guy, and I don’t see Brohm going out of his way to kick start things on the ground, despite my desire for him to do so against a bad defense.

This defense can’t stop the run, but neither could Notre Dame’s. Purdue’s offense won’t put them to the test, and even if they do, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort based on what I saw last week. I’ve given up on Brohm attempting to run the ball this season until further notice.

Purdue Offense: 38 (-72.7)

Illinois Defense: 38 (+122)

I have no more bad things to say about the Purdue rushing attack. It’s like saying bad things about the bloated raccoon laying on the side of the highway. They averaged 1.5 yards a carry. That’s not a running back issue, that’s a blocking and scheme problem. 1.5 yards is getting within a yard of the line and falling forward. Any running back on a college roster should be able to pull that off. Still trying to figure out the why Brohm is intent on playing two pocket quarterbacks instead one pocket quarterback and dual threat quarterback Austin Burton...and no, Jack Plummer is not a dual threat quarterback, he’s just more mobile than O’Connell.

I’m going to copy and paste from the preview because it’s perfect. “This defense can’t stop the run, but neither could Notre Dame’s. Purdue’s offense won’t put them to the test, and even if they do, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort based on what I saw last week. I’ve given up on Brohm attempting to run the ball this season until further notice.”

Passing Offense vs Passing Defense (Yards Per Game)

Purdue Offense: 326.3 (16th)

Illinois Defense: 321.2 (123rd)

This should be a walk over for Purdue. They want to throw the ball and Illinois can’t stop anyone from throwing the ball. They kept Maryland out of the end zone for the most part last week, but Tagovailoa still threw for 350 yards. I expect Plummer to throw for 375+ and wouldn’t be surprised if he threw for 425+.

What can you say, this defense is bad. They need Purdue to help them out with turnovers and red zone mistakes, because the Boilermakers are going to accumulate yardage in the passing game. Short of Plummer and company tossing 3+ picks, I don’t think they can hold up.

Purdue Offense: 277 (-49)

Illinois Defense: 277 (+44)

Frankly, I’m shocked at how bad Purdue’s passing game was against one of the worst pass defenses in the nation. This should have been a game to pad the stats through the air. I don’t get it, Purdue is better than this (I think?). Maybe the offense was dealing with a post Notre Dame hangover? Maybe David Bell is worth 21+ points a game? I’ve got nothing.

Full credit to Illinois, they held tough and kept Purdue from breaking anything big. They sat back, let Purdue catch horizontal passes and then tackled the receivers when Plummer was in the game. O’Connell gave them a little taste of the downfield game, but threw them the ball twice. Neither quarterback covered themselves in glory.

Yards Per Passing Completion vs Yards Allowed Per Completion

Purdue Offense: 10.31 (108th)

Illinois Defense: 13.39

This stat gives you the best look at Purdue’s offensive philosophy. Brohm is all in on the air raid. Purdue will attempt to spread the field horizontally in order to open up seams for their receivers vertically. This isn’t the offense Purdue thought it was getting when they hired Brohm, but it’s the offense they have. The horizontal part has worked, but the receivers haven’t turned many short passes into long gains. I think they break a few against Illinois.

What can you say about this defense. They give up yards in every facet of the game. Notre Dame struggles against the run but had a credible pass defense. Illinois struggles against both, and does so while giving up chunks of yardage at a time. Purdue has to up their yards per completion this week. If they can hit 13.39 yards a completion, it’s a wrap. If Illinois can hold them to under 10, they’ve got a shot. I don’t think they’ve got a shot.

Purdue Offense: 11.5 (+1.2)

Plummer: 7.9

O’Connell: 15.2

Illinois Defense: 11.5 (-1.89)

There are plenty of reasons why Plummer is one of the least effective downfield quarterbacks in the nation, and not everything is on him. If you’ll remember in my offseason article about the quarterback options (I advocated starting Alaimo) my main problem with Plummer was his inability to throw the deep ball with any sort of velocity. He’s not terrible when he can put air under the ball and throw it over safeties, but Illinois watched the same tape I did, kept 2 safeties deep, preventing him from throwing it deep with air under the ball. All he had was the check down game available.

O’Connell can throw the ball into tight windows. Sometimes he throws the ball into non-existent windows and gets picked. It’s dealers choice at this point. If Brohm plays Plummer every defense is going to play 2 deep safeties (b/c they have no fear of the Purdue run game) and make Plummer beat them 5-7 yards at a time. If he plays O’Connell he gets a significant upgrade in downfield passing, but an uptick in turnovers and sacks.

I bag on Brohm, but he made the right call by pulling Plummer. Probably should have done it sooner when he saw what Illinois was up to on offense. Good work by Illinois though. They came in with a game plan and executed it well. That’s all you can ask for as a coach.

Sacks Allowed vs Defensive Sacks (Per Game)

Purdue Offense: 2.33 (83rd)

Illinois Defense: 2.25 (62nd)

This isn’t surprising for a team that throws as often as the Boilermakers. When you attempt 50+ passes, you’re going to take some sacks. I think the offensive line has been decent, not great, but decent, in pass protection. They’ll need to be decent again, because I finally found a strongish part of the Illinois defense.

The Ilini pass rush has come from 2 interior defensive linemen and blitzing linebackers. They’ll try to heat up Jack Plummer this week, but unless they’ve got some edge rushers I haven’t seen yet, I don’t think they get the job done without sending the house, and the quick passing game eats up teams that consistently blitz. One slipped tackle on the outside and it’s a house call.

Illinois will probably get Plummer on the ground a few times, but unless it’s a complete avalanche, I think Purdue should be able to handle an occasional sack.

Purdue Offense: 3 (-.67)

Illinois Defense: 3 (+.75)

Nothing too shocking here. Purdue throws the ball a good bit and isn’t particularly good at keeping the quarterback upright. Illinois is decent at rushing the quarterback. ESPN doesn’t credit Illinois with a single QB hurry (they don’t credit Purdue with one either, so I’m skeptical) and if that’s true, it was a good day for the Boilermaker line in pass protection all things considered.

Tackles For Loss Allowed vs Tackles for Loss (Per Game)

Purdue Offense: 7 (99th)

Illinois Defense: 5.8 (71st)

Purdue doesn’t run the ball often, and when they do, their running back (or wide receiver on the sweep) has a tendency to not make it back to the line of scrimmage. All the talk about and improved offensive line and a commitment to running the ball was a smoke screen.

This is the way forward for Illinois. If they’re going to win this game, they’ve got to live in the Purdue back field and dare Plummer and the receivers to beat them on the outside. I think Purdue is more than willing to take that dare,

Purdue Offense: 4 (+3)

Illinois Defense: 4 (-1.8)

This is even more damning for Purdue’s 1.5 yards a carry. It’s not like there were a bunch of negative plays to skew the run numbers. Purdue’s running backs did a good job for making it back to the line of scrimmage...and that’s all the room they had. The running game is broken and should be discarded. Brohm says they’re “going to work on it” but I don’t believe him.

Illinois wasn’t as aggressive as I anticipated. They were content to make Purdue drive the ball down the field. It worked.

Red Zone Offense vs Red Zone Defense(% of Scores Inside the Red Zone)

Purdue Offense: 84.6% (71st)

Illinois Defense: 85%

When you don’t have a running game, red zone scoring is difficult. The field shrinks, the windows get tighter, and defensive backs get closer to your receivers. Purdue has 13 red zone attempts and has 2 rushing touchdowns, 6 passing touchdowns and 3 field goals. They’ve been stopped twice. The limited number of attempts skew this number a bit, but a team that can run the ball in the red zone doesn’t have the problem of throwing picks in the red zone, and a red zone pick essentially ended the game last weekend.

Illinois has given up 20 red zone attempts, and allowed 5 rushing touchdowns, 6 passing touchdowns, and 6 field goals. They’ve made 3 stops. Expect them to drop 8 into pass coverage, flood zones with defenders, and beg Purdue to run the ball in the red zone. Brohm still won’t run (and probably shouldn’t), but Plummer should be able to fit in enough passes to get the job done. Holding Purdue to red zone field goals is the goal for Illinois tomorrow. They did a good job of it against Maryland, and will try and repeat the trick. It would be nice if Purdue could find away to break a couple big plays and avoid the red zone all together.

Purdue Offense: 75% (-9.4%)

Illinois Defense: 75% (+10%)

This is what happens when you can’t run the ball. Purdue made 4 red zone appearances and came away with 13 points. That’s abysmal. That’s how you lose to a team like Illinois. They tried passing, it didn’t work well. They tried running, it didn’t work at all. Purdue makes scoring look incredibly difficult. Even their touchdown required a 3rd and 7 conversion. O’Connell’s interception came from a set of downs that started at the 4. Brohm called 2 straight passes from the 4, and I don’t particularly blame him because Purdue’s run offense is awful (which I do blame him for).

Illinois did what they needed to do on defense to win the game, but their offense couldn’t put a touchdown on the board. That’s two games in a row where they have limited an offense in the red zone. That’s something to build upon moving forward.

My Take Away

Purdue has to dominate the game on offense.

Period. End of story. No excuses.

This is a bad Illinois defense and Brohm, Plummer and company should shred them without the services of Bell, Rice, or any other ailing receiver. Purdue has plenty of receivers capable of carrying the load. In fact, it would be nice to win a game without needing David Bell to carry the entire weight of the offense. Getting another receiver going won’t keep Bell from getting double teamed the moment he steps on the field, but at least Purdue could punish a team for doing it. Milton Wright is the obvious choice to fill this role, but if he can’t get going against this Illinois team, it’s time to start looking for a different #2 receiver.

It would be nice to see an attempt to get the run game going, but I’m not holding my breath. Either way, it won’t matter against this defense.

I’m adjusting my score prediction for tomorrow upward.

Give me Purdue 37, Illinois 17

Purdue didn’t dominate the game on offense. No excuses, that was a poor performance from a team whose head coach is a supposed offensive savant. Purdue’s cobbled together defensive staff is keeping the Boilermakers afloat while the untouchable offensive staff continues to significantly under perform.

We’ve seen Brohm’s defense struggle, and we’ve seen him snipe at defensive coaches during his press conferences. Purdue’s offense doesn’t get the same scrutiny, but how could it, Brohm is calling the plays in tandem with his brother. He’s not going to fire himself, and I doubt he’s going to fire his brother. The offensive line is still a mess in year 5, and Dale Williams is still on staff (although he has ceded some offensive line coaching responsibility to Neil Callaway). I like Chris Barclay, in theory, but Purdue’s running back position was thin heading into the season and featured a walk-on at the top of the depth chart. Purdue has 2 running backs on the roster that they actually recruited, and 1 is a true freshman. Horvath being the only guy capable of toting the rock with any effectiveness is inexcusable.

This needs to get better in a hurry, or the offensive staff needs to polish up their resume. We’re seeing the same problems this year (lack of running game, lack of a downfield passing game) that has plagued the Purdue offense for the last 3 seasons.