First, it was a huge win on Saturday that could have long-term repercussions for the program (if Purdue University is interested in the business). I chose Purdue to win the Big10 West, and his win over Minnesota on the road put them in the perfect position. What’s more, Bordeaux beat Gopher with a left hand. If you showed me O’Connell’s baseline (199 yards, 2 IQs, 0 TDs) I’d assume Purdue lost in double digits. Instead, Jeff Brohm trusted his running game and managed to score a win. It’s only one game, but pragmatist Jeff Brohm is my favorite of all, Jeff Brohm.
After 5 matches, we have a pretty good idea of what this offense can achieve. I’ve come into the season saying this offense is probably the best in Brum, and I don’t see any reason to go back that far after 5 games. This team has everything they need. If Purdue can combine the running game they had against Minnesota with the passing attack they faced against Penn State, I see no reason why Purdue shouldn’t turn the table and finish the regular season 10-2.
I thought I’d put on my teacher’s hat (it’s incredibly dusty) and hand out some scores for the Boilermaker’s offense through 5 matches.
As the season approached, questions surrounded Purdue’s skill positions. The departure of David Bell, Jackson Anthrop, Milton Wright and Alexander Horvath from last season’s squad required Purdue to find a new No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 receiver and a new striker. Purdue has filled most of those slots in 2022, if not upgraded, and a three-headed monster has emerged for the Boilermakers.
Charlie Jones might be the biggest surprise in college football. I’m an optimist, and when he faced Bordeaux Jones in the transfer gate, I thought “sweet, the kick-back game has improved dramatically.” I wasn’t expecting to talk about pan-American wide receiver Charlie Jones, but in 5 games, Jones has played to this level. Everyone knew Jones was quick and cunning coming into the season, but I had no idea he was a technical road runner with a Velcro hand. He held 588 yards in 47 receptions (12.5 yard reception) and 7 touchdowns. Almost impressive, he hasn’t dropped a single pass all season. Purdue needed a receiver to step in, but I’m not sure many Purdue fans had Jones as the man to make the move.
While Charlie Jones is the rising star of the Boilermakers, Pine Durham’s tight end gives Aidan O’Connell a mismatch in every game. If a team wants to play a man against Bordeaux, they have to decide whether they want to cover Durham with size (back-back) or speed (angle or safety). The problem is that Durham is faster than the majority of linebackers, and at 6’5″, 255 is too physical for a defensive back. Its 21 receivers make it the Purdue’s second most targeted receiver and unlike Charile Jones, it is the only Purdue receiver to have multiple landing receivers (2).
If Jones turning into a more explosive version of Vinnie Sutherland wasn’t shocking enough, Devin Mockobee’s sprint appearance had my jaws touching the ground. The only place I thought Mockobee would contribute this season is the special teams. Instead, the 6’0 inch, 195 pound freshman showed up from Boonville High School where Perdue desperately needed. Florida Atlantic showed his pass on catching the ball. Purdue didn’t win that game without the four receptions for 59 yards. In front of Minnesota, he went up 112 yards and landed on 11 buggies. The highlight of his production against the Gophers (you know which one I’m talking about) is something I thought I’d never see from Purdue again (being a bit dramatic). While running back, fellow stablemates Dylan Downing and King Doerue (when he comes back from injury) are good at picking up available yards with a Purdue block. Mockobee has enough wiggle and blast to capture yards on his own.
The combination of Jones, Durham and Mokobe, in theory, should allow Purdue to keep defenses guesswork. Double Jones and Durham devour one-to-one coverage among the hashtags. Play 2 deep vaults and Mockobee (and company) can grind yards with a proper boot chest. Play straight and Jones skips your corner and heads toward the end zone. Purdue’s more balanced attack is a nightmare for defense coordinators.
room for improvement
The 2022 season was a mixed bag for the big gunslinger. Don’t get me wrong, he played really well. It’s hard to complain about a quarterback throwing 1,199 yards, 8 Tds, and 3 Ints during 5 games, despite playing with broken ribs in most Syracuse games, sitting on a potentially stable podium at Florida Atlantic, and winning. Minnesota despite dealing with limited training time and what I’m sure was an excruciating pain, due to the ribs he hit against Syracuse.
While his play was more than enough to make Purdue sitting at 5-0 at the moment, his decision against Syracuse and Minnesota leaves something to be desired. It’s hard to justify pick 6 against Syracuse. A Year 6 senior should always take the sack rather than throw the ball toward the line of scrimmage and hope. This play cost Purdue the game in my opinion. I don’t think Syracuse will score enough to win without help. Against Minnesota, he threw two head-scratching interceptions in tight (or double) coverage. He’s been playing with his bad ribs, thanks for all that, but it shouldn’t have a negative effect on his brain.
Purdue needs O’Connell to be healthier and sharper in decision-making until the middle of the season finale and back, if they are to reach the promised land in the Big10 Championship game.
I spent more time than I wanted to spend discussing the shortcomings of the Boilermaker’s offensive line during the Brohm era. Credit where credit is due, this offensive line showed a marked improvement over previous Purdue lines.
Scroll protection is solid so far. Purdue only allowed 6 bags (1.2 games) despite throwing the ball an unreasonable amount of time against Penn State (59 attempts) and Syracuse (56 attempts). O’Connell isn’t exactly the most elusive quarterback in the nation, but he did a good job moving enough to avoid sacks when the streak kicks off an accidental leak.
The running game is looking better this season (no doubt it’s going down). They are far from dominant, but there are gaps, and running backs hit them. My biggest question about Purdue’s attack going into the season was their ability to finish driving in the red. Last season, Purdue scored a significant number of field goals in the red, in part, because Purdue’s line struggled to block short-yard plays. This season, the Boilermakers have done a fantastic job finishing driving, which is a direct indication of the improvement in the offensive line. In fact, out of 20 red zone attempts this season, Bordeaux have 9 quick touchdowns (!), 8 passing touchdowns, and only 2 field goals. I’ll take it all day every day.
I don’t have anything decisive to say about the offense at this juncture. They put enough points on the board to win every match. Outside of Maryland, I don’t see any team in the Big10 West that could score enough to beat Purdue, if Purdue didn’t beat themselves (which was a problem). Of all the teams in the West, the Purdue is the Ohio, Michigan or Pennsylvania State team that they don’t want to see in the Big10 Championship game due to their ability to put points on the scoreboard.