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Previewing The Enemy: Purdue Boilermakers

No. 12 Penn State football (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) will be back at Beaver Stadium to cap off Homecoming week with a game against Purdue (1-3, 0-1 Big Ten).

The Nittany Lions have dominated their all-time series against the Boilermakers and hold a 14-3-1 record over Purdue. The two sides haven’t met since 2016, and Penn State is currently working on an eight-game winning streak against Saturday’s opponents.

The 2019 season hasn’t been very kind to Purdue through four games. The Boilermakers were upset at the hands of Nevada in their season opener before bouncing back to beat Vanderbilt, but they followed up that victory with consecutive losses to TCU and Minnesota.

The Team

Head coach Jeff Brohm is four games into his third season as Purdue’s head football coach. Brohm has amassed a 14-16 record through 30 games in charge of the Boilermakers, and he’s led the program to consecutive bowl games. Purdue beat Arizona in the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl before losing last year’s Music City Bowl to Auburn.

Purdue has gone 9-10 in conference play since bringing on Brohm as head coach. Included those nine victories was the Boilermakers’ famous 49-20 ass-kicking of then-No. 2 Ohio State under the lights at home last season. They also beat then-No. 19 Iowa 38-36 on home turf last season. Purdue, however, has yet to beat a ranked opponent away from home under Brohm.

Brohm will be without two of his top players — star wideout Rondale Moore and starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar — after they got injured on the same play against Minnesota.

Offense

Believe it or not, there is more to Purdue’s offense than Rondale Moore — the electric slot receiver who will be out of the lineup due to injury against Penn State. Purdue’s offense has managed to spread the ball out quite a bit in the passing game.

Eleven different players have caught multiple passes from Sindelar and Jack Plummer, who will start at quarterback after the Boilermakers’ regular starter went down with a broken clavicle. All things considered, Plummer played decently after relieving Sindelar against Minnesota by throwing for 245 passing yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.

Of those 11 wideouts, nine have secured a touchdown pass so far this year. With Moore out of the lineup, Purdue will field David Bell, Jackson Anthrop, and Amad Anderson as its starters on Saturday. Bell is second on the team behind Moore with 244 receiving yards and a score, and Anthrop has hauled in 10 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Fifth-year senior Brycen Hopkins is also a big part of the Boilermaker passing game at tight end. He has 13 catches for 202 yards and a team-leading three scores through Purdue’s first four games of the season, and he’ll undoubtedly serve as a safety valve for Plummer, a redshirt freshman making his second collegiate start this weekend.

Meanwhile, Purdue’s running game isn’t exactly dynamic. The team has gained a total of 297 yards on the ground this year, and leading rusher King Doerue has averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns for the Boilermakers.

Pitt proved that a team that may lack talent can pick apart Penn State’s secondary, but that might prove to be too tall of a task for Jack Plummer and Purdue on Saturday.

Defense & Special Teams

Injuries have decimated the Boilermakers’ offense so far this year, and they haven’t been all that kind to the defense, either. Fifth-year senior linebacker Markus Bailey — a three-year starter prior to this season — suffered a season-ending knee injury prior to Purdue’s game against TCU. He made 14 tackles in 2019 before going down, but graduate transfer Ben Holt has admirably filled his shoes.

Holt leads the Boilermakers with 44 tackles — 17 of which came in Purdue’s loss to TCU. He made nine stops against Minnesota last week and, interestingly, is the son of Purdue’s co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. He’ll be flanked by Jaylan Alexander and Cornel Jones, who have combined for 22 tackles this year, in the starting lineup.

Purdue’s front seven has done a decent, if not below-average, job of getting to the quarterback so far this year. The Boilermakers have registered 11 sacks — three of which belong to team leader George Karlaftis — so far this year, and seven players make up that total of 11 sacks. Penn State’s offensive line managed a good Maryland pass rush last week, but Purdue will present it with a similar challenge as a 4-3 defense.

Meanwhile, the Boilermakers’ secondary is, in two words, not great. The team has allowed 296.5 passing yards per game — good enough for the 13th-worst total in the nation — and has secured just one interception. Purdue boasts a middle-of-the-pack rushing defense that’s allowed more than 150 rushing yards per game to its opponents so far this year.

The injury bug has also bitten the Boilermakers’ special teams unit hard this season. Rondale Moore’s absence on Saturday will also leave an elite return man on the sidelines against Penn State, which undoubtedly makes life easier for special teams coach Joe Lorig and the Nittany Lions.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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