Week 8 Scouting Report: Purdue

The Purdue rushing attack has been abysmal so far this year, which has caused the offense big problems in late downs.


Lily Smith

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley (4) gestures at a possible Iowa touchdown from Iowa fullback Austin Kelly (46) during the Iowa/Purdue game at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. The Boilermakers defeated the Hawkeyes, 38-36, with a last second field goal. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Mills, Sports Reporter

Coming into the season, Purdue was thought to be a serious threat to win the Big Ten West, but a tough first half of the season full of offensive woes has brought the team to a 2-4 start.

The center of Purdue’s troubles so far this season starts with its inability to run the football, along with its refusal to even try. The Boilermakers average a dismal 2.2 yards per carry this season, which puts it only ahead of Akron in the FBS. For perspective, Iowa is putting up 4.1 yards per carry, though, granted the number is much lower against Power 5 opponents.

This makes it difficult to convert on third downs. Purdue finds itself in several third-and-long situations because its run game can’t afford its offense options on first and second down. The predictability of pass plays in third-and-long situations makes it easy for feisty Big Ten defenses, and this is without even mentioning the Boilermakers’ struggles at the offensive tackle position.

Purdue ranks No. 64 in the FBS in third-down conversion percentage at just over 40.2.

Penn State took full advantage of mismatches here on third-and-long situations. The Nittany Lions fully expect a pass and bring pressure on the outside in Purdue’s weakest parts of its offensive line. Penn State recorded 10 sacks in its win over Purdue.

The Boilermakers dropped four of their first five games this season because of their lopsided offense. This led to a massive change in personnel by head coach Jeff Brohm last week, who inserted three new starters into the struggling offensive line. His team bounced back.

Purdue still relied heavily on its passing game in its win over Maryland last week, but its 3.4 yards per carry in the game were a massive improvement since the team failed to gain positive yards on the ground against Penn State in its previous game.

Because its run game was marginally better in the win over Maryland, it opened up opportunities through the air.

Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer fakes a handoff to the running back — with Maryland linebackers spying in the second tier — and Plummer goes deep to wide receiver Milton Wright for a touchdown. Any sort of running attack that keeps a defense honest like this goes a long way in establishing an explosive offense.


On the other side of the ball, Purdue’s defense will be equipped to face the Iowa offense. The Hawkeyes have struggled greatly protecting the ball in their two recent losses to Michigan and Penn State, as Nate Stanley has thrown four interceptions and running backs have coughed up two fumbles.

But Purdue has had issues forcing turnovers this season, a welcome sight for the Hawkeye offense. The Boilermakers have only forced two fumbles on the year, which is tied for last in the conference. The secondary has picked off five passes, which is respectable but still keeps it in the bottom half of the Big Ten in that category.

Purdue took down Maryland handily last week, 40-14, largely due to changes it made on offense. Whether that speaks more to the quality of its opponent or its progress has yet to be seen, but it seems that Iowa is set up to have a more manageable matchup on Saturday.