In our weekly feature, or at least when the other team has an SB Nation blog and somebody from that site feels like doing it, we asked Travis Miller of Purdue blog Hammer and Rails to answer some questions. His answers are below.
1. Vanderbilt fans are familiar with Jeff Brohm, having faced his Western Kentucky teams in 2015 and 2016. Has Brohm changed anything up since taking over at Purdue, or is this simply a case of “same concepts, but with better athletes”?
I don’t know if I would necessarily even go with “better athletes”, at least in the first two years. Darrell Hazell was an abysmal recruiter and talent-wise we were on par with WKU much of the time. In fact we have even had a couple of his former players at WKU follow him over as a grad transfers and start immediately like Dennis Edwards, TJ McCollum, and Ben Holt. This year’s freshman is our first top 25 recruiting class in a very long time and when Hazell’s classes were rated in the high 60s/low 70s it is a significant improvement.
Many of the concepts are the same though. He wants to keep teams guessing and he relies on a smart quarterback that can make a variety of throws. David Blough thrived under him last year and it was enough that he made Detroit’s 53-man roster this year despite being an undrafted free agent. We have a wealth of young talent at receiver, but the running game and offensive line are suspect still.
2. Vanderbilt fans are also familiar with Nevada, a team that Vanderbilt beat 41-10 last year. Nevada, of course, came back from 17 points down to beat Purdue on Friday. Was this just a fluke, or were there danger signs in that loss?
I think it was a bit of both. Purdue had five turnovers to Nevada’s zero and two were on punts. When you hand a team 10 points because of punt miscues that is not something that happens every game. Kenneth Major also appeared to have the game-sealing interception in the end zone, but it was ruled incomplete before the tying touchdown.
A lot of things really went wrong in the last 8 minutes for Purdue, and the biggest concern was the defense getting gassed. The offense could not run the ball in the final two drives and did not do enough to keep Nevada off the field. It felt like we were about one first down away from locking up the game, but we couldn’t get it. Then the turnovers and poor special teams really took its toll.
What makes it so frustrating is that it was a game Purdue probably should have won by double digits. If we don’t hand them 10 points in the third quarter thanks to punting mistakes it is not even close enough late because we’re up 24 with 8 minutes left instead of 14. Those miscues really came back late when the defense was exhausted and the offense kind of faltered.
3. Last season, Purdue started 0-3 with losses to Northwestern, Eastern Michigan, and Missouri, but then recovered to win six games (including a blowout win over Ohio State.) What adjustments were made, and what does Purdue need to do to adjust after the Nevada loss?
The first adjustment is holding on to the football. We had two interceptions where they were tipped passes, a freshman receiver fumbled, Rondale Moore fumbled a punt, and another punt went off of a player’s helmet. Fixing all that goes a long way because if Purdue even had three turnovers it still probably wins.
That said, I really liked the adjustments after the Eastern Michigan game last year. We looked just awful on a dismal, rainy Saturday against the Eagles and blew a game we should have won (much like Nevada). Purdue responded to have a very narrow loss to Missouri in which is played much better, especially on offense. I think coach Brohm is big on seeing what mistakes are made, including his own, and working to fix them. I think against Nevada he did sub in and out on defense well and he abandoned the running game too quickly.
Right now our running game is suspect because our top two options are injured, leaving a former walk-on and two true freshmen in the backfield. I think that made Brohm hesitant last week because there was not a back he could trust to grind clock like he had last season. We need King Doerue to get a few more carries and the line needs to open things up for Zander Horvath.
4. Most Vanderbilt fans have probably never been to West Lafayette. For any of our fans making the trip, what’s there to do before and after the game?
Juan Crespo has created our Game Day Guide to West Lafayette. It has everything you need to know!
4a. In spite of being basically due north of Nashville, West Lafayette is in the Eastern Time Zone. What the hell, Indiana?!
Indiana is drunk when it comes to time zones, especially when you consider that if you go about 15 miles north of Tippecanoe County you’re on central time. The Northwest and Southwest corners of the state are on Central time because of Chicago, but the rest is on Eastern.
This is actually an improvement from before 2005, when most of the state did not observe Daylight Savings Time. Current Purdue President Mitch Daniels was Governor then and helped implement Daylight savings time for the entire state. Before that, some counties in southeast Indiana practiced it because they were close to Cincinnati and Louisville, while some up by Chicago did because they were so close to Chicago.
And yes, even after 14 years of Daylight Savings Time people are still Very Mad about it.
5. Finally, make a prediction for the outcome of the game.
I think Purdue is going to benefit from being home and look to play better. An underrated aspect of the fatigue we ran into was playing a late game after a 2,000 mile trip and at altitude. It showed at the end. I feel like this is a must win for Purdue. We’re and extremely young team with 18 freshmen on the two-deep. There is a significant talent increase from the Hazell era, but it is young. A lot of people feel that if we tread water and get to 6-7 wins this season it can be a launching pad for a big 2020 and 2021 season.
That said, Nevada was supposed to be an easi-er win and look what happened. I felt like 2-1 in the first three games was a reasonable expectation, but was counting on Nevada as one of the wins. Much like last year, people were counting on Eastern Michigan to be a win towards bowl eligibility, but we replaced it with a win over Ohio State.
Brohm in close games is definitely a growing concern, too. Of our last eight losses, four (Eastern Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Nevada) all came on the final play of the game. He also had narrow losses to Rutgers, Nebraska, and Louisville in year 1. At some point this team is going to have to get past that. Hopefully it is this week in a close win at home.