Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A team goes up against a playoff-hopeful Ohio State team at home and brings out the all-black unis. They beat them by a handful of touchdowns. They then proceed to disappoint the following week in a road contest.
Obviously, this isn’t the 2017 Iowa Hawkeyes story. We’re talking about the 2018 Purdue Boilermakers, a team laden with offensive talent in their second year under Jeff Brohm. To get a better idea of who the Boilermakers are this season, we enlisted some help from our worst enemies at Hammer & Rails, SB Nation’s Purdue Boilermakers blog. We talked about how Michigan State beat them, how Iowa can slow down their offense, and of course, what they predict to be the outcome.
Without further ado, here are the Q’s and A’s.
Max Brekke: After finally getting rid of Darrell Hazell and turning a corner in 2017, expectations were high for Purdue entering Jeff Brohm’s second year as head coach. Where have expectations been exceeded, and where might they be falling a bit short in 2018?
Travis Miller: Well, I would say that walloping Ohio State by 29 points was definitely exceeding expectations. I have to say it was fun not only from the standpoint of being a Purdue fan, but because we got so much support from the college football world at large because of those that do not like the Buckeyes. We also got a nice win over a ranked Boston College team. After not beating a ranked team in 7 years we’re 2-0 against them this year, both at home.
Oh, you’re ranked too? Be a shame if something happened there.
Of course, there have been downsides. Purdue beat itself in about every way possible in the first two games of the season. Losing to Eastern Michigan is… bad. Losing at Michigan State last week when they looked prime to be beaten was bad. It would have been nice to get either of those games because it likely would have meant our first top 25 ranking in 11 years. This is still a work in progress though. We’re still dealing with the majority of Hazell players. Where things can really get fun is next year when we add our first top 25 national recruiting class in 15 years.
Max: Taking a page from 2017 Iowa, the Boilermakers wiped the floor with Ohio State before being shut down last week against Michigan State. What were the Spartans able to do against Purdue that Ohio State couldn’t do to slow them down?
Travis: Michigan State got pressure on David Blough early and our receivers were not able to get a lot of separation from the defensive backs. That held our offense in check for the most part. They also slowed down the running game to nothing except for one big run by D.J. Knox. Purdue has been at its best when Rondale Moore is breaking big plays, then is used as a decoy to open other areas up. Michigan State really played well overall defensively, and I know Iowa is better.
On defense for us I was really disappointed we left such cushions for the MSU receivers. In the TD drive just before halftime especially we let them dink and dunk their way down the field and it cost us.
Max: This Purdue offense has the potential to be very high-powered, as QB David Blough has explosive playmakers in D.J. Knox, Rondale Moore, and Isaac Zico, along with many others. Do they have any weaknesses that the Hawkeyes can exploit?
Travis: Well, Michigan State held the run in check. Knox has been pretty solid this year and could be our first 1,000 yard rusher since Kory Sheets in 2008. He has been getting tough yards and breaking big plays all season. They also covered everyone but Moore well and got pressure on Blough. Moore is Moore. He is a threat to break any play where he touches the ball. MSU did a good job of covering everyone else and keeping him mostly in check on short stuff. If Blough has time to throw he has a lot of weapons, but when MSU made him uncomfortable early that disrupted everything.
Max: Something that hasn’t been discussed nearly as much as the offense this season is the Purdue defense. Where are the strengths, and what is a work-in-progress in 2018?
Travis: The pass defense is, for lack of a better term, lousy. The run defense has been pretty good, but we’re dead last in the Big Ten against the pass at almost 300 yards per game. Part of that is competition. Ohio State and Missouri are both really good passing teams. Nebraska also was playing catch up and had a good second half. Still, it was disappointing to see a freshman making his first start look great like Rocky Lombardi did.
Max: You always let us dish out our hatred to you. Here are YOUR two minutes to hate Iowa.
Travis: You guys are black and YELLOW, alright? YELLOW! That is not gold. Our corn is superior, as we use it to make great Orville Reddenbacher popcorn. Hannah Horvath inflicted her lousy writing on the world by attending Iowa. Iowa is one of two Big Ten stadiums I haven’t been to yet so I can still make wild claims about Iowa City. Iowa is also probably Slipknot’s weakest album overall.
You do have the Children’s Hospital, however, and since Michigan State got behind the Cancer Suck cheer for Tyler Trent I am trying to get us to wave to the west after the first quarter.
Max: Prediction time - who ya got?
Travis: Iowa has a great defense. It is better than Michigan State’s and they held us in check almost all day. That has me deeply concerned. We had a few chances at a fourth quarter TD to pull in front last week but they always made a play. I think Iowa wins this one in almost a reverse of last year’s 24-15 score if it gets after Blough.
Huge thanks to Travis for joining us for a Q&A. Of course, I hope the Hawkeyes beat the Boilermakers by a thousand. For more excellent coverage of Purdue athletics, check out Hammer & Rails. You can also find them on Twitter at @HammerAndRails. Go Hawks.