WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A passing-heavy aerial assault has been synonymous with Purdue football in recent memory. In the era of head coach Jeff Brohm, the Boilermakers have often struggled to run the ball.
But without starting quarterback Aidan O’Connell at full force the past two weeks, it’s been the running game that has helped lead the team to wins by closing out games, and Purdue’s offensive line is at the vanguard of that recent success.
“We need to do the best job we can to put them in a position to be successful in having some balance,” Brohm said during his weekly news conference on Monday. “If you ask them to protect the pass for the whole game, no one can do that.”
Gaining yards passing will always be this team’s bread and butter, but by showing he can have consistency running the ball, he gives an offense that has the third-most passing yards in the Big Ten more options. but he ranks seventh in total yards. through five weeks.
After a 1-2 start to the season that featured two heartbreaking last-minute losses to Penn State and Syracuse, Purdue won its last two games thanks to back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances by junior Dylan Downing and student freshman in red shirt. Devin Mockobee.
Downing rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in the team’s 28-26 Homecoming victory over Florida Atlantic in Week 4. Mockobee went on to gain 112 yards on just 11 carries while also reaching the end zone to seal a 20-10 win over No. 21 Minnesota on the road last week.
It was the first time the Boilermakers had rushed a duo for 100 yards in back-to-back games since Markell Jones and DJ Knox during the 2017 season. After ranking bottom of the league in rushing yards the past three years, Purdue ranks 10th place in the Big Ten with an average of 140.4 rushing yards per game.
“Before the season started, we had some goals as a unit to try to get to every game and that was one of them, 100 rushing yards. And so far, we’ve gotten two,” the jersey freshman offensive lineman said. Purdue Red, Marcus MBow. “It’s a good feeling, we’re going to continue to build on that and get better.”
Throughout the 2022 season, the Boilermakers have chosen to field a stable of players along the offensive front. As many as eight different offensive linemen have seen playing time in the first five weeks.
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The depth and rotation have resulted in fresh legs late in games, allowing the team to build momentum in the running game without being affected by fatigue. Purdue has allowed just three tackles for loss per game, which is the fewest in the Big Ten and ranks fourth in the nation.
“I think having a lot of guys that can play is really helpful. Just being able to move guys around and not miss a beat has been huge,” Purdue junior center Gus Hartwig said. “Guys have gotten hurt and been able to play. And really, everybody being able to play different positions and do different things has been really nice.”
After facing concerns about scoring in the red zone to start the season, the Boilermakers have trampled all expectations, scoring on 19 of 20 trips inside the 20-yard line. In fact, 17 of those scores have been touchdowns.
The offensive line has been a big supporter of that success. All nine of the team’s rushing touchdowns on the year have come in the red zone, including seven from inside the 5-yard line.
“Whatever the play is, the kids have to block and play at that high pace to get us the ball into the end zone and not settle for field goals,” Purdue offensive line coach Dale Williams said.
Even if a rotating offensive lineman is a seemingly unusual tactic, the Boilermakers have made it part of a winning formula on offense. The talented unit has paved the way for Purdue’s offensive scheme to adapt to its opponents and evolve with more multiplicity.
They will look to continue to be successful in a road matchup with Maryland on Saturday. The game is scheduled for noon ET at SECU Stadium in College Park, Maryland.
“We’ve been working hard on that for the last two years,” said Brohm. “It’s never going to be perfect or perfect science for us, but we’ve got a good core of guys that give us a lot of effort. They always have. They want to win.”
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