Reaching across enemy lines: Purdue Boilermakers

Editor’s note: Every week, The Daily Illini football staff will chat with a sports editor or football beat reporter from an opposing school’s paper. Up this week is The Exponent sports editor Brock Reish. His answers have been edited for space.

The Daily Illini: How big of a win was the Nebraska game?

BR: The win over Nebraska was huge for Purdue as a program. It was Hazell’s first conference win in front of a home crowd. It was David Blough’s first win as a starter. And it was a game that most people didn’t expect Purdue to win, at all. The Boilermakers have been in close games throughout the season, so to finally come out on top of one, means a lot to the team, coaching staff and Purdue football community.

DI: Is there a sense of hope now after the win or was it just a nice surprise?

BR: This one really depends on who you ask. There were plenty of things in Purdue’s favor during Saturday’s matchup, and some will make the argument that the team lucked out, facing an inexperienced quarterback whose tendancy to turn the ball over gave Purdue great field position and cost the Huskers the game. On the other hand, there was definitely hope to be found in that game. David Blough and the rest of the offense looked entirely different. He was moving more in pocket, making plays outside the pocket and even taking off on some runs he might not have tried earlier in the season. The Purdue defense gave the fans reason to be excited as well. Anthony Brown’s three interceptions, no matter how inexperienced the quarterback was, are somthing for him and the rest of the defense to be pround of. Whenever a team comes out plus-five in the turnover margin, you’ve got to give credit to more than just luck.

DI: What is the general feeling about football at Purdue?

BR: There are a few different categories of people when it comes to the general feeling about football here. Some fans gave up on the team weeks ago, and probably won’t be paying much attention unless they can string together three or four wins. Others see the upswing of the program. The Purdue football team of today is orders of magnitude better than the team Hazell was coaching his first year here. It have found a way to stay competitive in games throughout the season, but seem to just now be learining how to finish close matchups. Some people in the community see that, and they are the ones who are starting to get excited about Purdue football again.

DI: Is it just a matter of time before head coach Darrell Hazell is fired?

BR: I have no idea. Most of the people who say he is going to be fired have gathered their information from online message boards and social media comment sections. There has been no official word, no information from a reliable source and no concrete reason to think that is happening in the near future.

DI: What type of quarterback is David Blough?

BR: David Blough is whatever type of quarterback the coaching staff wants to put on the field. If the game plan invloves him handing the ball off and making short passes, he’ll do it. I think what the Nebraska game demonstrated, however, is what type of quarterback David Blough needs to be to thrive. During that game, Blough was outside the pocket, scrabling around, looking deep, taking off on his feet. That style seems to fit Blough much better than the Peyton Manning “sit in the pocket and take a sack if nobody’s open” style. I’m sure John Shoop and Hazell plan to use him in a similar fashion to what we saw on Saturday for the remainder of the season.

DI: What kind of defense should Illinois’ struggling offense expect?

BR: Purdue’s defense gets by on being solid everywhere, despite not being excellent in any one particular area. Up front, Evan Panfil, Gelen Robinson and Jake Replogle lead the defensive line and have been able to get pressure on quarterbacks and slow down the run. The linebackers have been battling injuries since fall camp, but are playing well. Sophomore Ja’Whaun Bentley is out for the season after having ACL surgery and junior Jimmy Herman is a day-to-day decision with a hamstring injury. The younger players that have been forced to step up are improving quickly and making an impact. The secondary is coming off a solid week, and is led by Brown and Frankie Williams, both senior cornerbacks. They are often touted as the most experienced defensive unit and created four turnovers against Nebraska.

DI: Why should Illinois not overlook Purdue on Saturday?

BR: Purdue has been just at the edge of getting some big wins for a while now. Coming off the win over Nebraska, it seems as if the Boilers are finally tying up some of the loose ends that were keeping them from victories earlier in the season. Illinois’ offense has been struggling and Purdue’s defense is finding its footing. I don’t think Illinois can afford to overlook Purdue and vice versa.

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