The offensive struggles in the first half against the Indiana Hoosiers was evident to even the most casual of football fans for the Purdue Boilermakers. Some of those struggles are likely explained to the news of Aidan O’Connell’s family grieving of the passing of his older brother. However, some of the play calling was just really poor and Jeff Brohm admitted that in talking to reporters after the game saying “There was pressure to figure out a way to close this thing out. The first half wasn’t pretty. The did a good job on us and mixed some things up. We had to come out in the second half and adjust some things on offense.” Brohm would later go on to mention that the focus in the second half was going to be getting the ball in Devin Mockobee’s hands which is something they inexplicably went away from following the first drive where Mockobee 38 yards on 4 total touches. The rest of the first half he had just 2 touches and accounted for 10 total yards.
To start the second half, adjustments had clearly been made and the firs two drives of the half showed that with Purdue going down the field with relative ease and getting to the end zone three times in their first four possessions. It was here that Mockobee was almost exclusively used to open up the passing lanes for Durham and Jones whether that be in the run game or using Mockobee in the passing game.
Let’s go back and take a look at the big plays from those first two drives that highlight what Brohm was able to accomplish after making adjustments in the second half.
Second Half | Drive 1 | 8 Plays | 82 Yards | 2:47
This first play of the second half was definitely something that Brohm and his offensive staff saw from the first half. Purdue comes out in a double tight end set with Durham and Piferi to the right of the formation with Charlie Jones split to the wide side of the field. Mockobee is split to AOC’s left with another wide receiver split to the left side of the formation.
What is key here is the tight ends are bunched together with roughly 15 yards between them. This gives Durham and Piferi a lot of room to the wide side of the field while also removing the cornerback help and forcing the safety to play wider and deeper. On the snap, Piferi runs what amounts to a quick out at 3 yards which takes the OLB/NB outside which is key to opening up the deeper out that Durham is going to run at 5 yards. This is a tough play for the IU defense to make as Durham reads that the linebacker is playing with inside leverage and he needs to go outside. This leaves a lot of room for an easy throw from AOC and a good 11 yard pickup on the 2nd play of the drive.
The second big play from this drive comes on the next first down from the Purdue 39. It was clear that Brohm felt he had an advantage to the outside with Mockobee in the passing game because IU was late getting to cover him on this play. Mockobee is to the right of AOC with Charlie Jones being split wide again. Durham comes in motion from right to left which shows AOC that IU will be in a man concept and the free OLB/NB will be blitzing from the right. This is clearly a tendency that Purdue saw from IU’s defense that they exploited perfectly in the second half multiple times.
In this concept, AOC is looking for two options: Charlie Jones on a slant or Devin Mockobee on a swing pass out of the backfield. Due to the blitzing NB, AOC sees that Devin has a huge advantage out of the backfield and throws a dart to him (not thrown well but Mockobee does an excellent job catching it and getting upfield). If you pause the video at 6 seconds, you will see just how open Mockobee is along with seeing how open Jones is as well (which Purdue uses to their advantage to counter a change IU made due to this drive).
Mockobee is able to shed the tackle and get upfield for a big gain into IU territory and at this point it is clear Purdue has made some changes to their game plan.
This is the very next play of the drive and Brohm is seeing Purdue again has a numbers advantage to the wide side of the field. IU shows a possible blitz from that OLB/NB again and to cover this potential, Purdue pulls their right guard. The IU defender doesn’t blitz which still gives Purdue a chance to a good play here if the tight end and wide receiver can make their blocks.
On the snap, Mockobee sprints out to the left for a screen pass and both Purdue players execute their blocks in space to free Devin for another long gain out of the backfield as a receiver. This is a good play because had IU gone to their tendency of blitzing that OLB/NB, the tight end would have either picked up the ILB (who actually makes the tackle) or gets upfield more for a block at the third level of the defense.
These quick swing passes out of the backfield act as an extension of the running game and forces the IU defense closer to the line of scrimmage and to have to defend wider parts of the field. It is here that Brohm knows he has angles to throw into for Jones and Durham.
It is now 2nd down and 10 from the Indiana 32 and Purdue is going to use that previous success with Mockobee out of the backfield against the IU defense. AOC shifts Mockobee over to the right side to manipulate the defense to give Jones more room on his dig route. The IU defense has shifted to a zone concept and Mockobee out of the backfield occupies the cornerback while Durham’s route is used to occupy the linebacker and prevent them from dropping further into coverage. This leaves Jones in the cushion in front of the safeties and and easy throw for AOC to make for a Purdue first down.
Finally, the drive culminates in a 15 yard strike from AOC to Durham on a post route from the tight end. Although it is in a different formation, the concept is the same as that first play highlighted first in this discussion. The tight ends are stacked but this time there is no wide receiver split out wide. Instead, Jones is placed into the slot to occupy the safety because Purdue knows that the tendency is to have that OLB/NB blitz when presented with this look. This is what many inside college football see when they say that Brohm has one of the best offensive concepts and minds in the game.
On the snap, a token play action is given to Mockobee who comes through the line of scrimmage to occupy one of the linebackers. With him coming through the line as a receiver, the other linebacker is now responsible for Piferi who is the inside tight end. This leaves Durham as the widest receiver and thus being covered by the cornerback with the safety playing over the top. Piferi’s job is to occupy the linebacker and safety and so he battles to get in front of the face of the linebacker that will then occupy the safety and force them to stay in the middle of the field. Durham’s route goes outside to gain inside leverage and then back inside for an easy throw from AOC.
First Half | 2nd Quarter | 2: 48 | Drive 4 | 58 yard Pass AOC to Charlie Jones
This play just before the half is likely where the shift in play calling and scheme occurred. Getting into the flats with quick passes and screens forced IU into adjustments and this play call is a great work of scheme.
Purdue starts off in a trips look to the right with Durham covered up so he is ineligible as a receiver to go down field. This likely tips IU to believe Purdue is going to be running toward that side of the field being overloaded to the right. Jones is put into motion which forces the linebackers to shift over and pushes IU into their tendency to blitz when provided this look. It also brings the safety further down to help cover Jones which gives Purdue a huge advantage to that side of for the tunnel screen.
It is also important to note that this play is run toward Mahamane Moussa’s side because of his athleticism to get out into space for a play like this. You can see him allow the defensive end through so he can get out in front of Jones on the edge and lead block. The same can be said for left guard Spencer Holstege. The blocks of the offensive linemen and overloading the right side gives Purdue the advantage and allows for the 58 yard pass to Jones.
That first drive of the second half is a highlight of the kind of scheme Jeff Brohm employs at Purdue to gain an advantage with the skills of players that he has. I still feel as though these adjustments can be made earlier in the game if Brohm was not saddled by calling the play himself and engrossed in that manner. If duties were given to his brother Brian with Jeff able to interject in key situations and make adjustments from drive to drive, the offense would likely benefit more overall. However, what gives Purdue a chance against Michigan is these types adjustments that Brohm can make to quickly put points on the board before a defense can make their adjustments. The key, though, is to have a defense that can also quickly get off the field by holding the opposing offense to short drives.