Purdue returns to cleanup mode after winning streak ends
Purdue had all the answers for four glorious weeks.
Quarterback David Blough played impeccably, the defense proved it could go toe to toe against some of the nation’s top teams and everybody made an impact in the Boilermakers’ success.
It all went wrong last weekend against Michigan State, forcing coach Jeff Brohm to go back on cleanup duty. The Spartans held the ball more than 38 minutes, preventing the Boilermakers from getting into any kind of offensive rhythm.
“We did a lot of the small things not as good as we have in the past, and I think all of those small things added up,” Brohm said Monday.
He’d hoped to see a different reaction following Purdue’s most significant win in years and the biggest of his coaching career, a 49-20 upset of No. 2 Ohio State.
Instead, he watched the mistakes return as the Boilermakers (4-4, 3-2 Big Ten) misfired in essentially every facet.
Blough threw three interceptions — two more than he had all season.
A 5-yard penalty at the end of the first half turned a 52-yard field goal attempt into a 57-yarder that fell short, Michigan State blocked another field-goal attempt and the Boilermakers fell on the ball at their 1-yard line after blocking a Michigan State kick. The play cost Purdue crucial field position, which the Spartans eventually turned into another field goal and the blocked kick led to the Spartans’ game-clinching score in a 23-13 win.
It reminded Brohm of what went wrong so often earlier this season when Purdue lost its first three games — and what could happen if they don’t find solutions.
“We’re going to have to play at a high level and we’re going to have to execute,” Brohm said when asked about Purdue’s final four games. “We have to play confident. We’ve got to play to win. And if we do that, hopefully we can get some of these games to the fourth quarter with a chance to win.”
Their next chance comes begins Saturday when the Boilermakers welcome another ranked opponent to Ross-Ade Stadium, No. 19 Iowa. The Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-2), like Purdue, find themselves in the West Division hunt. But unlike Iowa, Purdue doesn’t control its own destiny because of a season-opening loss to Northwestern — who the Hawkeyes face Nov. 10.
This weekend’s winner certainly gets a boost. For the Boilers, it must start with Blough getting back on track.
“I think he just got a little bit too overconfident being able to make throws,” Brohm said. ”“We’ve got to work hard to make sure he maintains that toughness and stands in the pocket and does what he’s supposed to and if it gets too tight in there, he’s got to make plays with his feet. We just can’t turn the ball over, especially when you only have the ball for a little over 20 minutes of the game.”
But it’s not merely one player who was at fault.
The Boilermakers struggled to run against the conference’s top rushing defense and must be much more efficient against the conference’s No. 2 run defense this week.
The receivers need to win one-on-one matchups as they routinely did during the winning streak. Purdue’s defense must get off the field more consistently, and, of course, the Boilermakers need to clean up the special teams’ miscues.
They’re already working on it as Purdue chases two more wins to become bowl-eligible and a win this weekend that could keep it in the division hunt.
“We’ve got to do the small things right and we’ve got to find ways to get a lead early to give us a chance,” Brohm said. “If we’re not doing those, we’re going to have a hard time.”