Get to know Purdue: Joe Duhownik speaks on Boilermakers, Illini matchup
October 29, 2020
Ahead of Illinois’ home opener against Purdue Saturday morning, I asked Joe Duhownik, Purdue Exponent’s assistant sports editor, about the Boilermakers who started off the season with a win against Iowa.
What were the main takeaways from Purdue’s win at Iowa?
Joe Duhownik: I think the biggest thing I got out of it was Aidan O’Connell proving himself to be a comeback artist. He’s engineered three comeback drives in the fourth quarter now in the I think six games he’s played. He’s clutch and he has really good composure especially for someone who is brand new. He’s a redshirt, so he’s been around for a while, but he hasn’t really played much. So for someone that inexperienced it’s really, really impressive to see. Then, of course, David Bell kind of taking the place of Rondale Moore, almost. Rondale was always the guy we thought was going to be the x-factor for us and it looks like in his absence David Bell is doing just as well as Rondale would be.
Who or what position surprised you the most from the game?
Joe Duhownik: Definitely Zander Horvath. King Doerue was our starting running back for most of last year and he was out with an injury. Horvath is a guy that got playing time last year, but didn’t really do much. The run game, in general, didn’t really do much last year. And I think (Horvath) ran for (129) yards on (21) carries, so that was impressive. The one play he hurled a guy, that was impressive. I think he definitely proved himself to be better than I thought he was, better than a lot of people thought he was. So, I’m curious to see when Doerue is back who gets the most carries now.
What did you think of Aidan O’Connell’s production against the Hawkeyes (282 yards, 31-50, 3 TDs, 2 INT)?
Joe Duhownik: After the game, he was talking a lot about mental errors and how he has to focus himself. Like I said, that’s something he does really well late in the game, but he has to be more consistent with it because he is inexperienced and he is young. So he does make those errors more than they would like. Overall I think it was a tossup between him and (Jack) Plummer starting. (Jeff) Brohm said they decided who was going to start the Sunday before the game. So with that being said, I was impressed with how well he did overall, but I still would’ve like to see more consistency because every now again he’d have a really bad 2, 3 plays in a row.
David Bell looked awesome, softening the blow of not having Rondale Moore, what growth have you seen from him?
Joe Duhownik: He’s just a man among boys out there a lot of matchups out there. I think his strength and his toughness is most impressive to me because the hits that he takes and the tackles he can fight through. Every time I see him running, I think of that tone play of Rondale running through Ohio State’s defense two years ago and I see that in David Bell. And I see just his toughness and his physical maturity. That’s something that wasn’t necessarily there when he first started because being a true freshman in the Big Ten, that’s a lot to put on somebody. And he grew into that way faster than I thought he would. And just his hands, the catches that he makes — he doesn’t drop the ball.
What position group will have the biggest challenge at Illinois?
Joe Duhownik: I would say either the defensive line or the linebackers. You look at last year, and Illinois just ran all over them. They ran it down their throat time and time again. The rain helped that because Purdue’s passing offense practically went to s— because they couldn’t do anything in the wet weather. So, it was just a running game and Illinois’ run game was way better than our own. So I think guys like Lorenzo Neal, George Karlaftis on the defensive line, Derrick Barnes at linebacker, they have to be able to step up and be tough because we’re expecting the same offensive scheme. We’re expecting a run-heavy offense so they’re definitely going to have to be on their toes.
How does Purdue get the win in Champaign?
Joe Duhownik: I think they’re going to have to have tough run defense and David Bell is going to have to have another amazing game. If Zander plays the way he plays last week, we’ll have that, but I don’t think that’ll make the difference. I think the difference is David Bell having another breakout game, getting 2 or 3 touchdowns, having 100+ receiving yards, that’s going to be the most important thing.
Score Prediction: Purdue 27-21