Student News Chronicles: Rutgers vs. Purdue
Looking ahead to the Rutgers football team's homecoming game against Purdue this Saturday, The Daily Targum reached out to the Purdue Exponent, the student newspaper of Purdue. The Exponent's sports editor Conner Klotz was kind enough to answer some questions ahead of the matchup.
Q: Purdue has played both David Blough and Elijah Sindelar at quarterback. Is it safe to say Sindelar has taken control of the position? What does he bring to the table?
A: I wouldn't say it's safe to say that Sindelar has taken control of the position quite yet, but the needle is definitely swinging in his favor. Blough only played three snaps against Wisconsin last week and the offense went nowhere. Personally, I think Brohm has been partial to Sindelar since he got hired but couldn't justify naming him starter because of how Blough was playing. There is a lot to like with Sindelar. He's a 6-foot-4-inch 230-pound pocket passer with a rocket for an arm. I wouldn't call him mobile, but he can catch the defense napping with the occasional scramble. He's a quality build for someone who could be the immediate future under center.
Q: What changes has Jeff Brohm made that have led to a 3-3 start and Purdue playing three ranked teams very closely?
A: As far as Xs and Os go, the defensive scheme plays more to the strength of the roster. Last year, the defense played a 4-2-5. Linebackers are the best position on the team, and with only two of them on the field, the defense struggled. This year, a more conventional 4-3 allows another linebacker to get on the field. In a general sense, Jeff Brohm is a guy that everyone wants to play for. If you haven't seen a video of him throwing chairs in speeches to the team, do that and then tell me you wouldn't want to play for him. I promise, that won't be your response. He has this team playing hard which is way more than Darrell Hazell ever did.
Editors Note: Please enjoy these two videos of Jeff Brohm being an absolute maniac and you will understand why his team plays so hard for him.
Q: Purdue is ranked 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams in rushing defense. Is that a result of the competition it has faced or is there reason for concern over that area of the team?
A: I think the numbers are slightly skewed when looking at the Boilers' 13th rushing defense. The competition has been outstanding. Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin have top-notch rushing attacks. Particularly last weekend against Wisconsin runs either went for 20-plus yards or were stopped behind the line of scrimmage. They have been susceptible to the big play on the ground. Michigan had a 49 yard TD late in the game. Minnesota got 91 yards off two carries in the fourth quarter, and Wisconsin broke off a 67-yard TD. So while the rushing defense isn't as strong as it could be, it also isn't as bad as the numbers look.
Q: Who is Purdue's best player and what makes them so important for the team?
A: Senior linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley. I wrote earlier that linebacker is the best position group on the team, and Bentley is the best of them. He has 46 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss on the season, and that's after missing most of the second half against Michigan and the entire first half against Minnesota due to a targeting ejection. Bentley is talented, aggressive and the unequivocal leader of the defense. He also has impressive speed. His interception return touchdown sealed a victory against Minnesota by outrunning everyone (including a chasing wide receiver) for a 76-yard pick six.
Q: What is the perception of this game from a Boilermaker perspective? Do fans expect them to steamroll Rutgers?
A: I think fans definitely expect a solid victory. The perception of Rutgers as a Big Ten football team isn't as positive as it could be, and the rising tide among Purdue fans is that the Boilers need to separate themselves from the teams at the bottom of the conference with whom they've recently been associated (Rutgers, Illinois etc). In just six games, Jeff Brohm has reenergized the fan base and convinced them that this team is good enough to make a bowl, and bowl teams don't lose to Rutgers.
Q: What is your prediction for the game, including a final score?
A: I think Purdue will take the win, 31-14. I'm expecting an explosive offense because last week, for the first time in Jeff Brohm's head coaching career, his team didn't score a touchdown. However, it is a road game, and it is homecoming at Rutgers, so the environment feels like there could be some potential for a letdown on the part of the Boilers. But, I don't expect that to happen.