Quick 2018 Recap: The best way to describe Purdue football last season would be to compare their experience to the Penn State basketball team. The Lions’ basketball team, never a Big Ten front-runner, had a losing record on a team that finished 49th in the NCAA’s Net Standings last year. The Boilermakers may have been the best team in NCAA football with a losing record during 2018.
After losing to Auburn in the Music City Bowl, with a record of 6-7 for the year, it may look like a lost season to those people outside the Purdue football program and fan base. Those who follow the team closely know otherwise. There was significant progress made, and with four losses of four points or fewer, the record could have been much different had a play here or there gone their way.
The first game of the season came down to the Boilermakers needing a stop on third down for a chance to run the two-minute drill and gain a late victory. Instead, after the play was stopped, a very bad mental mistake was made by a very good player.
Here is a look at the penalty: pic.twitter.com/5VBkWUVZPI— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 3, 2018
A similar scenario unfolded during the next game; on a third down stop a personal foul was called on Purdue. The drive continued and instead of kneeling on the ball for the win, the Boilermakers watched as a late field goal went through the uprights for a 20-19 loss to Eastern Michigan.
The next week the team lost to Missouri by 3 points and added a triple-overtime loss to Wisconsin later in the year. Jeff Brohm’s team could have easily been 7-2 in the Big Ten last year, instead of the respectable 5-4 result that they had with the late-game mistakes and close finishes.
While their program does not get much attention outside of Indiana, they are on the rise and should not be taken lightly.
Offensive Player To Watch: After battling with David Blough for the starting quarterback spot, and winning it, Elijah Sindelar was injured and missed all but two games last year. With Blough in Cleveland battling for a spot on the Browns’ roster, the starting spot is open for Sindelar. The NCAA granted him an additional season in April, but he is already thinking about the next level.
Here is what he had to say about the extra year.
“My goal is not to use it if I don’t have to. Hopefully I can perform well enough this season to be able to get drafted. That would be ideal. For some reason, if that does not happen and I’m able to take that sixth year to increase that opportunity then that’s what is going to happen.”
Sindelar looked great during his redshirt-sophomore season, throwing for over 2000 yards with 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. With coach Brohm returning to the Boilermakers after speculation that he may move on to greener pastures, both quarterback and coach have a great deal on the line this season.
Defensive Players To Watch: Lorenzo Neal returns for his senior season after suffering an ACL injury in the final regular-season game. Neal needs a solid season if he wants to make an impression on the NFL. The defensive tackle has shown that he has the ability to be a game-changer, but he will have to be more consistent to do well at the next level. Linebacker Marcus Bailey led the team in tackles in 2016 and 2018 and finished 2nd in 2017. Bailey will be flying around the field as he has for the past three seasons.
Penn State Wins If: The game is played on Purdue’s side of the field. Jeff Brohm’s offensive savvy is well-known and should his team gain an early lead, or dominate field position, the Lions may have trouble scoring against their defense. It will be important for the Lions to maintain pressure on the visiting team, which will be playing its first road game of the season.
Purdue Wins If: There are many ways that the Boilermakers could win this game. The record from last season, 6-7, is very misleading. Much of that squad returns, and there is reason to believe that they could be a sleeper team in the Big Ten West. The offense should be in the top half of the Big Ten, the defense will be solid, if not above-average. Much like when Kevin Wilson had the Hoosiers playing well a few seasons ago, getting Indiana to two consecutive bowl games, Brohm has the Boilermakers playing well, even though their efforts have flown under the radar of fans outside of the Big Ten.
Major Changes For 2019: Continuity. The biggest change is that there is very little change for the team this offseason. Coach Brohm is entering his third season at Purdue, after speculation that he could leave after last year. With Sindelar returning from injury the team will regain its offensive leader. With the injury to Neal forcing him to stay at Purdue and Bailey opting to return for his senior season, the defense will have a solid foundation to work with. The major change could be a winning team, one that could pull a couple of upsets along the way.