Craig Has The Scout - Purdue 2022
Well, the winning streak is over, which means we could go back to letting Craig publish articles. I wasn't going to switch it up while we were winning six in a row. But we still haven't solved the issue why Craig can't publish articles under his own byline, so here I am publishing Craig's article again.
Maybe this will start a new winning streak.
Who: Purdue Boilermakers
When: 11:00 am - November 12th, 2022
Where: Home Sweet Home
Head Coach: Jeff Brohm. Brohm is in his 7th year at Purdue. His record is 33-33 with a 23-25 record in the B1G. Brohm is a Bobby Petrino protege and has made his hay as a chaos team bringing excellent offensive game plans to big games. That is mixed with head-scratching losses and a middling defense.
Offensive Style: Shotgun Spread gap scheme rushing attack with West Coast passing. Brian Brohm is the OC in name, but Jeff is the brains behind the offense. The Brohm offense is a tempo offense mixing pro-style, spread, pistol, and I-formation looks. Brohm is a fan favorite for his liberal use of trick plays.
Defensive Style: 4-2-5 Cover 1 shell. Last year Purdue had a complete defensive reboot, Brohm fired his defensive staff and replaced the lot. The main play-caller last season was Brad Lambert, and he built a top 25 defense last season. Lambert left after the season and moved to Wake Forest. That left co-DCs Ron English and Mark Hagen behind. The defense has backslid this season with the new play-callers.
Specialists: Purdue has decidedly average special teams, but has a very special punt returner in Charlie Jones. Illinois needs to remain sound in its lanes with Jones, he is explosive and can break one.
2022 Purdue at a Glance:
2022 Record: 5-4, 4-2
Rushing Offense: 125.6 ypg
Passing Offense: 298.0 ypg
Total Offense: 423.6 ypg
Scoring Offense: 29.4 ppg
Rushing Defense: 118.4 ypg
Pass Defense: 237.1 ypg
Total Defense: 355.6 ypg
Scoring Defense: 25.3 ppg
Turnover Margin: -4
Three Things to Watch
Pace of Play. Illinois has struggled against the higher pace of play teams they have faced. The four highest-pace-of-play teams the Illini have faced are Indiana, Virginia, Nebraska, and Michigan State. Purdue will try to run fast to wear down the Illini defense.
The Illini run percentage on 1st down. The Illini ran the ball on 67.6% of their first down plays against Michigan State. And continually fell behind the chains. If Illinois has similar issues against the Boilers, it puts the Illini passing attack into troubled waters.
Purdue double-tight formations. Illinois has been able to utilize Sydney Brown as a lockdown defender on opposing tight ends, but Purdue has two solid options. Purdue has used Durham extensively all season, Paul Piferi will be the one to watch as the Illini try to match up.
Scouting Review - Offense
Jeff Brohm is one of the most pass-happy play-callers in all of FBS. Brohm's Purdue teams have passed 59% of the time in the last few years, and in the last five games are passing 59.6% of the time. That's Mike Leach's Air Raid level of passing. The slight difference this year is that Purdue found a rushing attack. Brohm continues to air it out but the offense is not incredibly efficient. The Boilers are averaging 5.48 yards per play, a lower-level offensive output in FBS (Illinois is 5.37 for reference). In the era of wide-open passing, Brohm gets props for his dedication to the passing attack. His offensive efficiency though is right on par with Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Stanford, and Virginia. All teams not known for killing it on offense.
Brohm is great at finding something and doubling down on it though. Aidan O'Connell was touted as one of the top B1G QBs in the off-season, but he has regressed considerably from last season. It is masked a bit by the emergence of freshman Devin Mockobee. Mockobee has been able to change the dynamic and Purdue is converting drives into touchdowns. Last season they converted about 45% of their red zone drives to TDs, this year it is 75%.
Part of O'Connell's regression is due to losing David Bell and Milton Wright from last year's squad. Purdue took to the transfer portal to help rebuild the receiving corps, landing Charlie Jones and Tyrone Tracy from Iowa. Brohm's offense continues to utilize the TEs and attacks the middle of the field. The Spartans used a similar passing attack and had great success against the Illini last week passing.
The base Petrino offense utilized more gap-blocking scheme than zone. The Paul Petrino experience at Illinois should give Illini fans a frame of reference. The Purdue offense utilizes I-formations, Shotgun Ace formations, and more recently Pistol. Purdue runs out of all the formations but will use more zone-blocking plays out of the Shotgun Ace formation. Brohm goes back and forth between inside and outside zone depending on the opponent, and will most likely lean more heavily on inside zone against Illinois.
Over the course of the year, they have been struggling to consistently create space for the backs. Maryland in particular had great success stopping the run. The Boilers will mix up the formation to help open the run game. One particular favorite formation Purdue will utilize is Trips.
They'll mix the receivers on the trips side, often splitting out the TE Durham. The advantage for the Boilers is the run attack will pull the linebackers up allowing the receivers to slide behind the LBs on their routes.
The TE is blocking a Wham block for the split zone here, while the OL is blocking inside zone. Mockobee is a bowling ball of a back, which is the type of back that Purdue has had success with over the years. Mockobee is not the preferred style back for outside zone, the Boilers will run it though.
Purdue runs primarily out of the Pistol formation. They are more prone to pass out of Pistol when they put a receiver in motion.
Purdue likes using the roll motion with O'Connell to clear him from pressure. O'Connell is a good enough runner to get yards with his feet if required. The percentage of pass plays shows the Boilers prefer to pass to move the ball though.
The gap run that Purdue utilizes often features a pulling player is numerous versions of counter. The use of motion is something the Boilers utilize to bring the extra blocker into the box as seen here.
The Boilers are motioning their Z receiver TJ Sheffield here. The play works here as Wisconsin was sitting in zone, while the Illini will be bringing a defender into the box if in man. The Boiler offensive line goes 7-deep, and this play is impressive since they are using their backup guard and tackle and driving the Badger defense this far off the ball.
The most common version of the Gap scheme though is Duo. Duo looks like inside zone but uses Power gap scheme blocking rules and double teams the interior DL.
The H-back turns out here to shut down the outside rusher from crashing down on the play, and the OL is blocking an inside zone play. The Purdue OL did a solid job of staying with their blocks and creating some space downfield. Purdue will use this as a primary scheme against the Illini to help neutralize the 4i defenders. Purdue will run the play out of multiple formations as well.
The latter is of interest to me. I think the Boilers will flex the TE often to move Illinois to the 4 DL look which pulls a defender out of the box.
Purdue will also run I-formation, and when they do they will run standard lead plays out of it.
The Boilers use the FB in less than 10% of their plays, but the run/pass ratio is closer to 60-40 when the FB is in the game. Furtney is a good run blocker but a terrible pass blocker. When he is not the lead blocker, they try to use him as an additional pass blocker and lead him out in the play-action passing game.
The Boiler play-action out of these looks attack the perimeter. The favorite routes are the comeback along the sideline, and the out route. The pass plays will all have a receiver attacking the middle on a crossing route and another receiver releasing deep.
The comeback will be the preferred route against man coverage.
Purdue will use the play-action look often out of the Shotgun Ace look as well. Purdue's play-action pass fake is a weak fake, merely intended to slow the opposing D. The Boilers' pass protection out of Shotgun Ace generally entails what I learned as Waggle blocking. The Boilers will pull a guard across the formation and O'Connell can do a quarter roll or stand tall in the pocket.
The interesting part of the Purdue attack is that pulling guards pretty much guarantee a pass, while the idea for the play-action is to release the inside receiver down the seam for a big play.
The primary pass concept the Boilers run is mesh. The concept runs two shallow receivers on crossing routes with a deeper receiver running behind. Purdue utilizes it often and will use the TE Durham and their top receiver Jones underneath. The deeper route is the Z receiver.
The Boilers motioned into the a trips formation from a 2x2 set to begin. They will run similar route trees with the TE cross.
O'Connell loves taking shots down the seams of the defense. When he is pressured, he will sail his passes though.
The other concept the Boilers use is the crossing concept. The Boilers will use this out of the trips formation, and it is a 5-man passing concept. The three receivers normally run a cross, flat, and post while the two receivers run a go and a dig. The RB runs the dig route but has pass-pro responsibilities. Here is one version of it.
The receivers all read the zone defense by the Badgers on this and sit down in the open zones. O'Connell hits the receiver who broke the post route off. It also happens to be his favorite receiver, Jones.
Since the Illini defense will be running a great deal of man coverage, the Boilers will take the chance to take shots downfield with vertical routes. Running the verticals against man allows the QB to find a favorable matchup, and then utilize open space to make a big play. The Illini corners play with inside leverage, so throws down the sideline are open.
O'Connell has a good arm, so it is imperative for him to make a throw that gives the receiver a chance to run under the ball. Purdue runs a wrinkle on the Four Verts by breaking the TE off on an out route. If the downfield options are covered, the TE has man coverage heading to the sideline.
Purdue's passing attack also has the screen game added to it. If the Illini pass rush is getting home, the Boilers will begin leveraging the screen game.
Purdue added this late in the game against Wisconsin. As they became pass-dependent, Wisconsin began blitzing heavily. Purdue added this to slow down the rush. If the Illini pass rush is effective, the Boilers will add either this look or the RB in the flat.
Finally, the Boilers will use extensive motion during the course of the game. Purdue's movement will stretch the Illini defense sideline to sideline and open up throwing lanes for O'Connell. It is imperative that Purdue keep easy throws available to O'Connell.
The Boilers are going to be the most pass-heavy team the Illini will see this year. Purdue will also try to run more tempo against the Illini, Indiana found success doing so earlier in the season. I suspect Walters might mix up the coverages this week, Iowa was about 50:50 on man and zone last weekend. Illinois using zone could be helpful in confusing O'Connell which would allow the Illini pass rush an opportunity to get home. Brohm's track record as a play caller is weaker than his reputation, but if he finds something he will lean into it. The mantra after all is Feed The Studs.
Scouting Review - Defense
Brad Lambert was the primary DC last year, one of three co-DCs that Brohm brought in last year. Lambert utilized an aggressive scheme and George Karlaftis to make rapid improvements to the defense. Lambert parlayed that success into the sole DC role at Wake Forest. Ron English, another of the co-DCs is now calling the plays. The Boiler defense has regressed, but the talent level took a similar drop. The Boilers were not able to replace the lost talent in the portal.
The Boilers' defense remains aggressive. The issue is that the last three opponents seem to have cracked the code. In the last three, opposing offenses have been consistently running for over 6 ypc. Nebraska did it by blowing holes through the Boiler front. Iowa did it by sealing the second level and breaking runs.
The Boiler defense was typically a zone outfit through the majority of the season, but have started mixing in much more man coverage the last two games. Purdue is allowing a much higher success rate against the pass. Nebraska averaged 9 yards per pass attempt, but Iowa and Wisconsin were held to 7.
The run defense of Purdue is giving up similar yards per attempt as well. The run fits are pretty solid but able to be moved off the ball.
The defensive line holds the point of attack well. The Purdue LBs are not exactly world-beaters though and on this play cheated to their gaps.
The pass defense of the Boilers is solid and possesses a few great pieces. CB Cory Trice has been the primary defender this year, and both safeties are solid but not spectacular. The Boilers prefer to run zone defense.
Illinois will see more man coverage than this, but zone coverage is more prudent if they can't mark Williams in single coverage. Man coverage for the Boilers has been intermixed this year with blitz packages, particularly from the Star LB.
The Boilers brought the Star LB and created a five-man rush. Most of the Boiler defenders have their man covered, but the backup corner in this case gave up too much cushion. The main concern for Purdue is a lack of pressure from the blitz.
Iowa had good success against the Boilers. Brian Ferentz actually laid out a very successful game plan! Iowa had a matchup mismatch using Sam LaPorta but took advantage of the entire pass coverage. When the Boilers were caught in man coverage, Iowa took advantage. Here is the same edge blitz, on this play Iowa hit the hot route.
The Nickelback gave the cushion on the quick crossing route and gave up the big play. Iowa took advantage of seam routes as well.
LaPorta ran a really nice out-and-up route on this. He is a matchup nightmare, but Illinois could generate the same opportunities using slot receivers against the defense.
Purdue has some nice pieces on their defense. The scheme is not as disciplined as Iowa's but does a nice job of preventing explosive plays by their opponents. The best feature of the Purdue defense is preventing opponents from scoring on drives. The biggest issue for the Boilers is allowing big plays on early downs and allowing teams to put together drives. Illinois struggles on early downs. The Illini offense vs. the Boiler defense will be quite a matchup.
What does it mean?
Illinois is coming off a tough loss. Purdue struggled mightily against the Iowa defense. Michigan State was able to throw relatively well against the Illini defense and put up points when they were needed. Michigan State had some success running the ball against the Illini, and Purdue will too. Purdue will need time to adjust to the Illini pressure, and Purdue struggled against the Iowa man defense.
The Illini started strong against the Spartans but then struggled to close out drives. Illinois will perform better against the Boilers and force Purdue to begin blitzing to stop the Illini attack.
For Illinois to Win:
Illinois needs to generate a pass rush this week. Iowa throttled the Boiler offense by taking away the quick throws and putting pressure on O'Connell. When O'Connell sees pressure, his accuracy drops and he puts the ball in danger. Illinois has done a solid job of slowing opposing rush games, but Nebraska and Michigan State have shown a game plan that exposes the Illini pass defense. The main method was slowing the rush.
On the offensive side, Illinois needs to start converting drives into points. The Illini have become overly reliant on Chase Brown running and passes at or near the line of scrimmage. The Illini need to remain balanced and take advantage of a weak Purdue intermediate pass defense.
For Purdue to Win:
Purdue is going to sell out stopping the Illini offense near the line of scrimmage. The Boilers were successful in throttling the Minnesota and Maryland attacks. Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Iowa have all had success taking it to the Purdue run defense. Purdue will run more zone against the Illini to force DeVito and the Illini receivers to run routes to get open.
Illinois faced adversity last week and struggled to meet the moment. Purdue has played a majority of its season playing in tight games. The Boilers need to keep the game close and take advantage of their experience in the moment. The Boiler OL needs to stymie the Illini passing attack to allow O'Connell clear reads.
Illinois controls its own destiny in the B1G West, and is coming off a ROUGH showing. Purdue is coming off a similarly bad showing, and needs to beat the Illini to get back in the running for the B1G West title. Illinois needs a get-right game, and I feel like the ability to match up in man coverage will be an advantage for the Illini. The seams will be harder to hit, and O'Connell will need to hit the tough passes but has an issue with throwing to the other team lately. Illinois will get a few picks and cover this.
Craig YTD Against the Spread: