Ten observations from Purdue's 37-30 loss to Rutgers

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Ten observations for Purdue’s 37-30 loss vs. Rutgers.

1. Special teams continues to baffle and disappoint. The unit is on its fourth coach in four years. That can’t help. Tonight, the miscue was a crushing 100-yard kickoff return for a TD by Rutgers after Purdue had taken a 30-23 lead in the third quarter. The punting has been spotty this year, and the place-kicking had issues at Minnesota. And let’s not even talk about the return game--but it did show a spark tonight.

"Definitely a disappointing night for our football team," said Jeff Brohm. "Up first half, we were able to do some things and get a few things corrected and find a way to take a lead. And then play that poorly in the second half is more than disappointing. So, myself, our coaches our players, we've got to do a lot of soul searching and realize that we've got a whole lot of work to do, a whole lot of things to get better at. And it needs to happen immediately. So, a bad night, and a bad performance and a bad loss."

2. Jack Plummer was spectacular in his 2020 debut last week at Minnesota, hitting 83 percent of his passes for 367 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. The sophomore wasn’t quite as sharp vs. Rutgers, which brought some heat. He was 20-of-35 for 237 yards with two TDs. Plummer tossed a horrible pick in the third quarter after the Boilermakers had yielded a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD to cut Purdue’s lead to 30-23. RU promptly converted that pick in a TD to take a 34-30 lead. That, ladies and gentlemen, is when the the tide turned and Purdue never recovered.

3. David Bell. That’s all. Just, David Bell. Purdue needed more Bell, who was targeted only five times and made four grabs for 68 yards and a TD. Purdue scored just seven second-half points and was 4-of-11 on third downs. Amazingly, the Boilers didn't even attempt a pass in the fourth quarter. The only offense: Four yards rushing on three runs. For the second half, Purdue ran 23 plays for 122 yards. RU never gave up the ball.

4. Let’s talk about Derrick Barnes, shall we? The targeting call that resulted in his ejection in the third quarter hurt. (Barnes also will miss the first half of next week’s game vs. Nebraska.) Barnes deserved a better ending tonight, finishing with nine tackles, a TFL and PBU. The senior linebacker was all over the field. Heck, that has been the case most of this season. Barnes showed what he’s all about on a big fourth-down stop in the first half when he ran down a Rutgers player short of a first down. What did Brohm think of the targeting call.

“I don't know,” said Brohm. “I guess if they called it, it happened. I didn’t like the call.”

5. It was good to see Rondale Moore play for a second game in a row. And, his impact is always noteworthy … no matter what his numbers are. On this day, No. 4 finished with seven catches (nine targets) for 76 yards. And he ran two times for five yards. But he still hasn’t provided the big-play element in 2020. Moore’s long catch was 23 yards and he averaged just 10.9 yards on his catches. This after averaging 7.7 yards on 15 grabs last week. The Boilermakers need more explosive plays from someone … anyone. The long pass tonight: 23 yards. The long run: 16 yards.

“I thought he played hard, and they definitely were keyed in on him when he went in motion on any fly sweeps," said Brohm. "They got over top of him most of the game. When that happens, you’ve got to do some other things. But I though he played hard.”

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6. We all thought Noah Vedral would start at QB for Rutgers. But, he was out with injury. No matter. The Scarlet Knights had their way with the Boilermaker defense most of this night using backups Arthur Sitkowski and Johnny Langan, a wildcat quarterback who never will have to buy a drink again in Piscataway. (More on him later.) Sitkowski wasn’t bad, hitting 18-of-27 passes for 141 yards and two TDs. Last week’s effort was a step back for the defense. This was a bigger big step back.

7. The run game. There was a lot to like, 142 yards rushing in the first half on 25 carries, when Purdue seized control to take a 23-13 lead. But the Boilermakers got away from the run game in the second half, notching just 33 yards on eight totes. Meanwhile, Rutgers ground down the Purdue defense in the second half with its rush game behind third-team QB and new RU legend Johnny Langan, who ran 21 times for 95 yards and a TD and hit 4-of-4 passes for 95 yards and a TD.

“When we had limited possessions,” said Brohm. RU had 83 plays; Purdue 68.

"Second half, multitude of small things that I mentioned previously, happened," said Brohm. "And when you just have a few possessions and you're not taking advantage. We you get a 3rd-and-one and get minus four, a really disappointing finish, once again.”

8. We all know how great Rondale Moore and David Bell are, but you can’t discount the value of Zander Horvath, who ran 19 times for 101 yards and a TD. I don’t care what anyone says: Horvath is on par with most other Big Ten running back and deserves All-Big Ten mention. So, Purdue has that going for it.

9. The Purdue defense talked often in the offseason about limiting big plays, getting takeaways and getting off the field. Neither happened in this game. The Boilers allowed their longest scoring plays of 2020 (62-yard TD pass and a 100-yard kickoff return), had no takeaways for a second week in a row and allowed RU to go 10-of-17 on third downs.

“We had too many third down situations and they would show us a certain look we get to the call and they’d snap out of it and drop everybody in zone and we weren't able to get open and Jack forced a few things. We had a couple open throws on some drives that we misfired on. … it was just a magnitude of small things that added up and limited possessions and didn’t take advantage of it. So, very bad job by myself.”

10. That’s three losses in a row for the Boilermakers. That 2-0 start seems like years ago. Where does Purdue go from here? Listing Nebraska visits West Lafayette next Saturday. Maybe the 1-4 Huskers will provide the pick-me-up needed for the Boilermakers, who just lost to a team that had lost four in a row. Maybe not. Who knows? But this season is unraveling after that promising start.

“Well, there's more than a sense of urgency,” said Brohm. “I mean, we've got a lot of work to do. And we're not gonna win any games playing the way we are. We're not able to finish games, we're not able to play tough for 60 minutes, we're not able to execute, we aren’t able to do the small things, a lot of small things on all three segments in the game have to be better, or you have no chance to win.

"So, like I said, it starts with me. We’ve got a lot, lot of work to do to be able to play competitive football against good teams. And Nebraska has been playing teams tough every week. We’ll have our hands full, so we've got to get better.”

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