Gold and Black’s Tom Dienhart is reporting that Purdue will be without Nic Scourton and Hudson Card for today’s game against Northwestern.
While that’s an awful bit of news for Purdue, it’s a bit of a reprieve for me after not getting out a preview during what turned out to be a week from hell at my house, culminating in my daughter spiking a 104 degree fever yesterday.
My preview would have been worthless anyway.
Purdue Without Card
Sounds like Purdue will use both Bennett Meredith and Ryan Browne under center today, with Purdue going with the hot hand.— Tom Dienhart (@TomDienhart1) November 18, 2023
I was wondering if this might happen. Ryan Browne, Purdue’s true freshman quarterback, will also see action in this game. He’s performed well in practice, and honestly, after a year of prep school, there isn’t any sort of experience gap between the two quarterbacks.
Browne is the more athletic of the two and has great size at 6’4”, 215. He hasn’t taken a college snap yet (thanks again schedule). He can play in the next two games, if needed, and still maintain his redshirt. I think Bennett will get his chance to start the game, but if he falters or Purdue struggles to get the ground game going, expect to see Browne.
If Tom Dienhart’s report is correct, and I have no reason to believe it isn’t, Bennett Meredith will make the first start of his college career in two hours. On the season, Meredith has appeared in 2 games, completing 2 out of 4 attempts for 7 yards. Not to beat a dead horse, but one issue with not playing at least one easy non-conference game is your backup quarterback doesn’t get any work. Purdue will have the least experienced starting quarterback in the nation today.
The good news is that Bennett should be well rested and Graham Harrell liked him enough to take him out of Arizona State not only as Hudson Card’s backup, but as his potential long term successor. A two year starter at Alabama powerhouse Hoover High School, Meredith put up 48 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 21 games. He’s not the most mobile quarterback. but he’s capable of making available plays. Consider him somewhere between Hudson Card and Aidan O’Connell in terms of mobility.
Purdue’s game plan just went from run heavy, to run all the time. Look for the Boilermakers to lean on Mockobee, Tracy, Downing, and wide receivers Burks and Sheffield in the run game. I expect Harrell to try and get everyone involved because losing Card hurts both the passing and running game. Card gave Purdue two run options on every play, Meredith is not that type of quarterback. I expect to see more jet motion and players moving in and out of the backfield today to give the defense something else to think about, since they no longer have to worry about the quarterback run game.
The Boilermakers have to run the football. That's the only way they win this game. If Meredith attempts more than 20 passes, Purdue will have a hard time winning the game. The offensive line is still in shambles, at least in terms of pass protection, and won’t give the green quarterback time in the pocket on obvious passing downs. The running backs have to win first and second down to give Purdue a chance at third and medium / short because converting on 3rd and long will be a difficult and risky proposition today.
One thing Meredith does bring to the table is the deep ball. He threw it well in high school, and that’s the perfect pass for today. When Purdue throws, they need to throw deep out of pay action with max protection. If the ball gets picked, it’s an arm punt. This would be the perfect game for another Tyrone Tracy deep route, either up the seam off the play action fake like last week, or on the wheel route down the sideline. Deep passes don’t hurt you much, even if they’re picked off. Purdue’s receivers found space behind the Minnesota secondary, they should be able to find the same behind Northwestern’s.
Purdue Without Scourton
This one doesn’t hurt quite as bad as losing Card, because of Purdue’s depth at outside linebacker, but taking one of the best outside linebackers in the nation off the field is never a good thing.
Khordae Syndor, today is your day for redemption.
Physically, the 6’5”, 280 pound Syndor is as close to Nic Scourton as Purdue can get. I thought he would be the third man up in the outside linebacker rotation, and he was against Fresno State. He wasn’t after Fresno State. He played undisciplined, freelancing football and put Purdue’s defense in a couple bad situations that ended in touchdowns.
Since that game he’s worked his way back onto the field, but only as a substitute, not as a rotation player. True freshman Will Heldt became the next man up in the outside linebacker rotation, and you’ll see him a good bit today, but this feels like a game for Syndor. Northwestern is going to want to run the ball, and Syndor has proven to be an excellent run stuffer at times during his career. If he can maintain his discipline and not become mesmerized by the quarterback and forget everything else, Purdue will be fine on the edge. The problem is, “if” is doing some seriously heavy lifting in the previous sentence.