Purdue, Maryland looking for answers in key midseason game
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm has spent most of this season scrambling for answers on offense.
Now he is trying to fix the defense, too.
“We need to start mixing things up a little bit more, need to be a little more creative,” Brohm said. “It’s got to be a constant and we’ve got to, you know, feel comfortable with it and roll with it.”
Three straight losses have put Purdue’s postseason plans in jeopardy and Brohm on the verge of his first four-game skid as a head coach.
It’s been that kind of season for the Boilermakers (1-4, 0-2 Big Ten).
They blew a late lead at Nevada in the season opener. Starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar missed Purdue’s third game with a concussion and suffered a broken left collarbone in the conference opener. All-American receiver Rondale Moore hasn’t played since hurting his left leg on the same play where Sindelar injured his shoulder, and now major changes could be coming to an offensive line that allowed 10 sacks in last week’s loss at Penn State.
The bigger concern might be Purdue’s defense.
The Boilermakers rank last in the league in yards allowed (452.8) and yards passing allowed (290.0), 13th in points allowed (33.0) and 11th in yards rushing (162.8).
And now, one week after seeing Penn State score touchdowns on each of its first four drives, Purdue on Saturday will face Maryland, which averages 41.4 points per game.
“I think we made progress (last week), and I do think our guys played hard,” Brohm said. “But we have got to continue to coach this thing up and take some chances.”
Maryland coach Mike Locksley understands Purdue’s plight as well as anyone.
The Terrapins defense has allowed the second-highest passing total (251.6 yards) and ranks in the bottom half of the league in most of the key defensive categories. Injuries have already forced Locksley to replace three starters on the offensive line and this week, he expects Tyrrell Pigrome to start in place of the injured Josh Jackson at quarterback.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Piggy and his ability to come in and perform and run our offense,” Locksley said. “His teammates have confidence in him, and I know as a coaching staff we do.”
Brohm just hopes the Boilermakers find some answers quickly.
“Sometimes you’ve got to have the perfect balance of being creative but also not doing too much where you lose your fundamentals and your techniques,” Brohm said. “That’s been the dilemma, making sure you have enough, and making sure your guys know what to do.”
Maryland safety Antoine Brooks Jr. has 30 solo tackles, most in the Big Ten and the 15th-highest total in the country.
“When you see a safety lead in tackles, you kind of think, well man, (they’re) getting a lot of big plays,” Locksley said. “But a lot of his tackles take place around the line of scrimmage.”
Brooks’ value to the Terrapins transcends his performance on the field.
“The biggest asset is his leadership,” Locksley said. “He doesn’t do it with a whole bunch of talk, and he’s not a guy that stands up in meetings and talks. But he plays hurt, he plays reckless with his body.”
Purdue is changing the script this week: Neil Armstrong’s alma mater will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with a “Cradle of Astronauts” theme.
The Boilermakers plan to wear all white uniforms, like the original astronauts, and will use white, moon-inspired helmets with the numbers 2, 25 and 64 on the stripe. Those numbers represent how many Purdue alums have walked on the moon, how many become astronauts and the number of missions Purdue astronauts have participated in.
Players and coaches also will wear a commemorative patch and the halftime show will include some of the school’s astronaut alums.
Maryland’s Javon Leake has a knack for getting into the end zone, as evidenced by his performance last week against Rutgers Leake scored on runs of 41 and 12 yards, and he also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, helping him earn Big Ten special teams player of the week honors for the second time in his career.
In a Week 2 upset over No. 21-Syracuse, Leake ran for 107 yards on just seven carries and scored a pair of TDs. Leake has 898 yards in kick returns, 13th in school history, and last year against Illinois became the first Terp to score four touchdowns in a game since D.J. Adams in 2010.