Boilermakers may have found receiving answer in Moore

Rondale Moore needed one half to show what a big deal the speedy little receiver could be for Purdue.

Now the true freshman from southern Indiana, who starred at coach Jeff Brohm’s high school alma mater in Louisville, needs to prove his record-breaking debut was no fluke.

“I knew he could be a special player,” Brohm said during Monday’s weekly news conference. “We want to make sure we don’t give him too much. I think he performed outstanding in the first half. Second half, we couldn’t get him the ball as much.”

Moore’s incredible half included a nifty 76-yard touchdown run, a 32-yard TD reception after breaking free from a defender in the secondary and two long kickoff returns. He finished with 11 catches for 109 yards and two carries for 79.

By halftime, he compiled 302 all-purpose yards — third all-time for a single game in Boilermakers’ history and just 10 yard short of Otis Armstrong’s record set in 1972 against Indiana. But Moore was virtually silent in the second half when Purdue (0-1, 0-1 Big Ten) relied heavily on its ground game and the defense pitched a shutout — negating Moore’s ability to make big plays on special teams.

The 5-foot-9, 175-pound receiver managed only 11 yards in the final 30 minutes, barely surpassing Armstrong. It was still good enough to be named the conference’s first freshman of the week award.

And now, with a date against Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference coming Saturday, the Boilermakers need their new weapon to deliver an encore performance.

Other questions continue to linger.

Brohm yanked quarterback Elijah Sindelar late in the first half, after he was picked off three times — each leading to Northwestern touchdowns.

David Blough played the entire second half and got the Boilermakers in position for a fourth-quarter comeback that came up short when the Wildcats (1-0, 1-0) managed to play keep away for the final 7 minutes, 57 seconds.

Sindelar and Blough are both expected to play again this weekend, though Brohm doesn’t plan on determining a starter until later this week.

“Two of the interceptions I’m extremely disappointed in. The other one, the guy made a good play. Still, you’d like to be able to see that and throw it where only we can catch it,” Brohm said, referring to Sindelar. “I think David came in, gave us a spark. Made a few more plays with his feet, savvy, moxie in there, does a decent job. Still like to be able to throw the ball up the field and see things. We just got to continue to work at it.”

And clean up the costly mistakes including Lorenzo Neal’s personal foul with 2:31 to go and the Boilermakers out of timeouts, which allowed Northwestern to run out the clock.

Brohm said the explanation he received from one of the officials was that Neal body-slammed running back Jeremy Larkin — a call Brohm didn’t see quite the same way.

“I did not see a body slam. If that’s what he’s calling it, I don’t agree with that,” he said. “Did we go a little beyond the whistle? We probably did. We are trying to strip the ball at that point in the game. I think Lorenzo tried to strip it, kind of turned and flung the guy around, trying to get the ball, which the ball did come out. I can see why it was called. Doesn’t mean I agree with it.”

What he does agree with, however, is the visible role Moore can play as the season progresses.

Brohm doesn’t expect anything less.

“We’ll continue to utilize him. At the same time we have to make sure we utilize the others,” he said. “He (Moore) definitely showed what he can do on the playing field.”

Note: Brohm does not expect cornerback Simeon Smiley to play Saturday after needing stitches to repair multiple cuts above his left eye following a collision with one of his teammates. Brohm thought the injury was the result of either someone’s hand getting stuck inside Smiley’s visor or how the helmet twisted. “We’re going to let the week play out,” Brohm said before making a decision about Smiley.