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Regular Season Reliving: Part II

The second half is where things get interesting.

Purdue v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

If you didn’t catch the first part of this regular season reliving, you can find it here. In the second half of the season, Purdue would face some really good and really bad defenses. Also on purpose, Purdue would surprise us each week, but who needs a healthy blood pressure? Some trophies and crowns were on the line as well, so let’s take a look at the second half of the regular season:

10/15 – Nebraska

This game was a classic shootout and the best the offense has looked all season. Aidan O’Connell threw for 391 yards and 4 touchdowns, Devin Mockobee ran for 178 yards and a touchdown, and Charlie Jones returned to form, catching 12 passes for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns. TJ Sheffield also had his best game on the year, going for 5 catches, 70 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a beautiful spin move. The offense was just buzzing, and the offensive line really hit their stride by pushing the defense around and not allowing a sack. The only blemish was an opening drive interception for AOC, but I think it’s safe to say he bounced back, including an absolute dime to Charlie Jones for a touchdown. Purdue only had to punt twice in this game, scoring on 8 of its 13 drives (1 was the end of the game).

For as good as the offense looked in this one, the defense really struggled. Again, a receiver absolutely lit up the secondary as Trey Palmer caught 7 passes for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns. To add to his ridiculous stat line was a 60-yard rush too. Purdue could not stop this guy, as he single-handedly kept Nebraska alive. The rushing defense played pretty well as Nebraska only rushed for 62 yards on 22 carries if you take away the Palmer rush. Clyde Washington and Reese Taylor each had an interception and the defense recorded 4 sacks.

Purdue 43 Nebraska 37 (5-2)

10/22 – At Wisconsin

Was this finally the year Purdue beats those darn Badgers? Nope. Purdue waltzed into Camp Randall on a 4-game winning streak against an interim head coach and fell right on its face. The first four drives went as follows: long Wisconsin drive ending in a touchdown, AOC pick six, Purdue missed field goal, long Wisconsin drive ending in a touchdown. It was 21-0 and the first quarter hadn’t even ended. In fact, a lot of fans had to stream the game and because of the ESPN app, it was already 14-0 before fans even started watching. The offense was able to put together some touchdowns in the second half, but Wisconsin was basically coasting after going up 28-3 early in the second half. AOC finished with 320 yards, 1 TD, and 3 interceptions while Devin Mockobee gained 108 yards and a generous touchdown on 23 carries. Charlie Jones made the catch of the day on his way to another 100-yard game.

Skyler Bell was the receiver that had a big day, gaining 87 yards and a TD on 4 catches. The defense was put in a lot of bad spots from the offensive turnovers but couldn’t make a stop in the short fields. Braelon Allen and Isaac Guerendo rushed for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 23 carries. Now, that’s the Wisconsin team we all know and hate. Jim Leonhard’s first win as head coach was against Purdue.

Wisconsin 35 Purdue 24 (5-3)

11/5 – Iowa

If I have to relive this one, so do you. The offense was, well, not good in this game as the high winds tormented the passing attack. AOC didn’t even complete half of his passes, throwing 20/43 for 168 yards and 2 interceptions. Again, Charlie Jones had a 100-yard day, but no other Purdue receiver had more than 2 catches. The rushing attack couldn’t find its footing either as Devin Mockobee and Dylan Downing combined for 100 yards on 23 carries but the offense was playing from behind most of the game.

If the Wisconsin game was a letdown, this game was Titanic-level drop. Iowa had the worst offense in the country and the defense just bent over backwards as Spencer Petras and Kaleb Johnson marched down the field at will. In the second quarter, the game was sealed when Iowa drove down the field on 3 straight possessions to go up 17-0. On these three drives, Iowa racked up 219 yards and scored more than they averaged per game. After a 75-yard Kaleb Johnson touchdown to open the second half, Iowa relied on its defense and coasted. Johnson finished the day with 200 yards rushing and a score on 22 carries. As I said in the quick wrap for this game: yuck.

Iowa 24 Purdue 3 (5-4)

11/12 – At #21 Illinois

Following back-to-back lackluster performances, Purdue traveled to Champaign to face arguably the best defense in the Big Ten. Purdue’s first three drives on offense resulted in a turnover on downs, a missed field goal, and an Aidan O’Connell interception. After the previous week, Purdue fans were in disarray, but then something changed. Purdue would run the ball five straight times for 55 yards, resulting in a Devin Mockobee 6-yard touchdown. The first touchdown in over 5 quarters seemed to give the offense confidence, and later that quarter, a 32-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Jones just over the fingers of the Illinois defender tied the game at 14. Purdue would open the second half on offense with back-to-back long touchdown drives and later add a field goal. AOC finished with 237 yards, 3 TDs, an interception, and 2 really awkward looking runs for 33 yards. Payne Durham had an acrobatic catch in the endzone to punctuate his 7 catches for 70 yards and 2 TDs and Devin Mockobee ran for 106 and a TD. The offensive line had another marquee day, allowing zero sacks to a dominating Illini defensive front.

For as much flack the defense has gotten this year, credit has to be given. The defense held firm during the first quarter when the offense was sputtering, forcing three straight 3 and outs. This stand allowed the offense to get back in the game without letting the lead spiral like the previous two games. The defense also held a Heisman candidate in Chase Brown to only 98 yards on 23 attempts. Kieren Douglas’ interception late in the fourth set up the game sealing field goal, so it was a clutch performance in this one. The cannon was Purdue’s.

Purdue 31 Illinois 24 (6-4) | Purdue Cannon Winner | Bowl Eligible

11/19 - Northwestern

Well, the offense fell back down in the bad weather against the lowly Wildcats. Aidan O’Connell had a slow day, tossing 159 yards and 2 touchdowns. The big story in this game was the injury to Devin Mockobee, who left the game to be evaluated for a concussion after a big collision with a Northwestern defender. The offense looked pretty flat without Mockobee, but Payne Durham and Charlie Jones each had a touchdown.

The defense did its job against an overmatched offense. Northwestern was using its 3rd string QB in this one and it showed as Cole Freeman was 9/20 for 78 yards and an interception. The Wildcats did end up running a lot of wildcat to try and jump start the offense, but not much came from it. Evan Hull was able to rush for 105 yards and a touchdown after receiving most of the touches for Northwestern in the second half. The most memorable play of the game was a Jalen Graham interception that Jalen took back to put the Boilermakers up 20-3. The problem was the Jalen high stepped into the endzone and was called for an unsportsmanlike foul and stripped of his touchdown. This proved to be massive as Purdue would miss a field goal on the ensuing drive and only score 3 more points the rest of the game. The penalty was a clear mistake on Jalen’s part, but the following week was spent arguing weather the rule is dumb (I think it is). The defense would only allow 6 more points, but the game ended much closer than it should have. Cory Trice also had a very nice pass break up in this one, saving a touchdown toss.

Purdue 17 Northwestern 9 (7-4)

11/26 – At Indiana

Purdue came into this game after enjoying a feast on Thanksgiving and an early Christmas gift, courtesy of Nebraska. The Cornhuskers defeated Iowa on Black Friday, meaning that a Purdue victory in the Bucket Game meant a trip to Indianapolis in the Big Ten Championship. And boy did the offense come out flat. Purdue scored a field goal on its opening drive but would punt on its remaining thee drives in the first half, going into halftime down 7-3. Then the offense woke up scoring touchdowns on its first two drives in the second half and adding another touchdown in the fourth quarter. Charlie Jones returned to early season form and reeled in 4 passes for 143 yards and a 60-yard touchdown. Devin Mockobee fell 1 yard short of 100 but had an impressive weaving touchdown through the Hoosier defense.

The Purdue defense again played an overmatched offense, especially after starting QB, Dexter Williams II, went down on a non-contact injury. Connor Blazelak came in and passed for 201 yards and a TD in garbage time but was charged an interception that Cory Trice ripped away from the receiver and took to the house to seal the game. The IU rushing attack had a good day, combining for 215 yards, led by Jaylin Lucas’ 100-yard day, most of which came on his 71-yard TD run on the opening drive. Aside from the opening and ending drives, the Purdue defense only allowed 3 points and also recorded 3 sacks and a blocked field goal.

Purdue 30 Indiana 16 (8-4) | Old Oaken Bucket Winner | Big Ten West Champions!

Purdue ends the regular season with 8 wins and 3 trophies, with room for 2 more of each. Jeff Brohm has done a remarkable job with this program and led the Boilermakers to at least back-to-back 8+ win seasons. Overall, this season has marked a great journey for the Purdue players. Aidan O’Connell was able to persevere through some awful circumstances and lead this team. Charlie Jones was able to prove that he is more than just a special teams guy. Devin Mockobee made it clear that he is here to play and here to stay. Defensive players like Cory Trice, Branson Deen, Lawrence Johnson, and Jalen Graham have set out to show what they’ve got and that they can make a difference. It has been a long and twisting road for the Boilermakers this season, but we came to find out where that long and twisting road leads: Indianapolis and possibly Pasadena. See you in Indy, Boiler Up!