Across enemy lines: Q & A with Purdue’s The Exponent


Tyler Courtney | The Daily Illin

Taylor Zalewski kicks a field goal during the game at Ross-Ade Stadium against Purdue.

*Editor’s Note: Every week The Daily Illini football staff will chat with a sports reporter from the opposing team. This week, our staff chatted with George Landsly and Greg Mochen who are the managing editor and football beat writer for Purdue’s The Exponent, respectively.

The Daily Illini:

Maryland was able to run the ball very successfully against Purdue this past Saturday, how do you see the Boilermaker run game fairing against the Illini defensive line?

The Exponent: It’s definitely a cause for concern for Purdue, but it’s a lot different with how Illinois runs the ball compared to Maryland. Purdue really caught up with the zone read, and I think our linebackers really had a tough time getting a sense of where the ball was going. On multiple runs, the Maryland running back was just not even getting touched until he was 30 or 40 yards downfield or something like that. It wasn’t that they needed to attack, it was more of just being in position. I know you guys have about three running backs, so that’s a cause for concern when a team can keep bringing backs in like that. I think that zone read is what threw them off for the most part — 400 yards is pretty bad.

DI: Purdue’s leading rusher, Markell Jones, has been banged up — what’s his status for Saturday?

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P: He’s still been practicing but lightly, he hasn’t gone full speed. They haven’t announced yet whether or not he’s going to play. From what it looks like, he will. They took him out again because of a shoulder injury. I think that was also partially because they were already getting blown out so bad that they didn’t feel the need to have him go back out there.

DI: Sophomore quarterback David Blough had his lowest yardage output of the season against the Terps, how did they slow him down?

P: It was two different factors, I would say. For one, their corners just dominated our receivers from the line of scrimmage. He was off, his accuracy off, and on top of that, our offensive line didn’t play very well — he was sacked six times. He was rushed a lot. He definitely did not play his best game though, there were plays he should’ve made that he didn’t make. He misses throws in most games, but usually, he’s pretty accurate, I think that’s one thing he does pretty well. He makes some questionable decisions, but he is pretty accurate.

DI: Despite the loss to Maryland, Purdue has already matched its win total from last season. What’s their confidence level at right now?

P: Coming out of the non-conference, Purdue had a little bit of confidence just because they managed to get a winning record in the non-conference. But after losing to Maryland, which is a good team but not as good as we made them look, their confidence is probably back to rock bottom, at least from what we could tell. Most people are saying if they don’t manage to at least compete against Illinois this weekend, they’re not going to get another Big Ten, which I would agree with that sentiment. They might have matched their win total already, but it’s not looking particularly good at the moment.

DI: Is this game make-or-break for head coach Darrell Hazell, who has been on the hot seat for the past few seasons?

P: Even if he wins, I would say he has to do a lot of work to not get fired. I would say, unless he has a magical turnaround and manages to get a bowl this season, he’s probably gone no matter what. If he gets blown out by Illinois, there’s a possibility he gets canned on the spot, but I don’t think that’s going to happen, just because a mid-season firing isn’t likely. You have to wonder at this point if Hazell himself even wants this job. It’s been rough, and I know people have been calling for his job already, but I don’t see Purdue making a move until Jan. 1. His buyout goes down from a little over $2 million to about $500,000 on Jan. 1, so unless something drastic happens that’s when he’d be fired.

DI: Lovie Smith is a huge proponent of forcing turnovers, and Blough has already had seven interceptions this season. How do you see that playing out Saturday?

P: It boils down to making good decisions. But at Cincinnati, Blough had five interceptions, but three of them were passes that probably should have been caught, to be honest. He has made some decisions that he regrets making, and that’s really what it boils down to. I don’t think its an issue with his accuracy. And he’s only a sophomore, it’s his second year and really his first year starting right out of the gate, so he’s still getting experience.

DI: What’s your most objective score prediction and overall outlook for Saturday?

P: I could see it going Illinois wins 24-14, but I could also see Purdue getting blown out like 36-7. So I’ll go with 24-14 Illinois. I think the key for Purdue will probably be the lines; if the lines could step up and play a little better than they have been, then it’ll be a competitive game. But if the O-line allows Blough to get rushed or sacked, and the D-line just lets up a ton of rushing yards, then Purdue’s going to lose no matter what.

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