At 0-6 in the Big Ten, Northwestern will trudge forward to take on Purdue this weekend. The Boilermakers are just 3-6 overall and 2-4 in conference play, though they are coming off of a late win over Nebraska. Here’s what Wildcat fans should be aware of heading into the Saturday morning matchup:
The Boilermakers are pretty banged up
Purdue has not exactly had the best luck with injuries this past season. Two key pieces have been missing from their offense for most of the season in starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar and All-American receiver Rondale Moore.
To make matters worse, backup quarterback Jack Plummer went down with a foot injury on Saturday. Right now, the Boilermakers are looking at walk-on Aidan O’Connell as the only real option under center, after he stepped in to help them secure the Nebraska win with Plummer having gone down in the second half.
Meanwhile, on the defensive side, star linebacker Markus Bailey has been out since early in the season and defensive end Lorenzo Neal has missed all season, both due to knee injuries. Jeff Brohm’s group is certainly hurting, and has been throughout a trying season.
Freshmen help lead on both sides of the ball
Heading into the matchup against Nebraska, Purdue had 19 first years listed on the depth chart, eight of whom were in starting positions. Plummer is a redshirt freshman, and though he is likely out for the season, the rest of the offense also relies on youth.
David Bell was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week two weeks in a row after he became the first freshman nationally to total nine receptions, 138 yards and two touchdowns in a single 2019 game. Additionally, running back King Doerue has been a key part of the Boilermaker offense, earning a critical score late against the Cornhuskers.
On the other side of the ball, defensive end George Karlaftis leads the team with six sacks, making him the first Purdue freshman with at least 3.0 sacks in a season since 2000. Freshman cornerback Cory Trice also leads the team with three interceptions. Regardless of the position, Brohm’s impressive recruiting is coming to bear quickly for the 2019 iteration of Boilermaker football.
It’s been a season full of swings
Purdue started off the year on a bad note, suffering a shocking upset loss against Nevada in their season-opening game. Then, two weeks ago, the Boilermakers were upset once again by Illinois, losing by a then-shocking margin of 18 points. A combination of bad weather and a failure to run the ball when needed meant that the Purdue offense was stagnant and ultimately unable to score until there was under five minutes left in the game.
On the other hand, Purdue hung with Iowa pretty well (only losing by six points) and beat Nebraska, proving that they have the ability to compete in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers’ struggles with consistency are understandable considering their long list of injuries, but their tendency to play down to seemingly weaker teams has put a damper on their season so far.
That trait makes the outcome on Saturday, even with how poorly Northwestern has played over the past few weeks, very much in doubt.