WEST LAFAYETTE – We’ve reached the end of the regular season and for the first time under Jeff Brohm, the Boilermakers can win a slice of the Big Ten West title.
This might be the only time as next year is likely to be the final season for the East-West division format, but Purdue has a chance to hang a banner. Whether shared or won directly, a division championship is a division championship.
A win in Indiana on Saturday would give the Boilermakers a slice of the West title. Reaching the conference championship game requires help in the form of an Iowa loss to Nebraska on Friday. Purdue will know his situation well before the 3:30 p.m. kick-off on Saturday.
Continue with the countdown:
5 PLAYERS THAT MATTER
Kyren Douglas: Perhaps a slightly unorthodox leadoff batter for this stretch, but considering how far the linebacker has come since he was helped off the field in Illinois, barely practiced before Saturday’s game and made seven tackles — all solos — should it be easy to understand. Talk about courage. Douglas has a lot. Talk about earning respect in the dressing room. The exact injury Douglas sustained is unknown, aside from his lower limb. Brohm thought Douglas was unlikely earlier in the week but showed enough in the training room to be in uniform, warm up and start on the starting line-up. The sixth grader needed help getting off the field after a game but returned. Douglas made a mistake – jumping offside in fourth to start the second quarter – resulting in a Northwestern field goal. But he made four tackles on the Wildcats’ final drive, which ended with a sack at quarterback Cole Freeman.
Another close gameDefense secures victory, brings Purdue to the brink of program success
Kydran Jenkins: Another defensive player dealing with the lingering effects of a lower body injury. Playing the program’s LEO position, Jenkins left the Wisconsin loss needing help to reach the sidelines. Purdue had his week off, which gave him time to recover, and returned to Iowa for the loss. Against Northwestern, Jenkins recorded two lost tackles — giving him a team-high 7.5 — and a quarterback in a hurry. He made plays from the edge and helped funnel plays back to center. He had a stable and productive season. Jenkins isn’t flashy, but he’s produced an MVP season on defense.
Kobe Lewis: Hangs around third or fourth on the running back depth chart and tries to capitalize on every opportunity. But as space shrank, first with the departure of King Doerue and then the loss of Devin Mockobee in the first quarter on Saturday, the Central Michigan transfer jumped at their chance. The numbers were not remarkable, but stable. Lewis gained 42 rushing yards, averaging 3.8 yards per carry, but added 26 receiving yards on two catches and contributed 29 yards on kickoff returns. His 97 all-purpose yards were needed as the offensive struggled with the elements for the second straight home game. Showed tremendous speed in the open field and wasn’t afraid to put his head down and fight for extra yards. Lewis and Dylan Downing could be key running backs against Indiana depending on Mockobee’s status.
Jack Sullivan: Sealed the win with a 5-yard sack from Freeman in fourth near midfield. Also forced a fumble in the same game, causing more chaos. Purdue needed a game in this situation and the defensive end delivered. It was his team-best fifth sack and added a quarterback rush early in the game. Sullivan is part of a line of defense that keeps improving due to depth across the board. The Boilermakers didn’t need to attack Branson Deen but still came through with big plays.
Gus Hartwig: Must acknowledge starting center done for the season after suffering a leg injury. Brohm said Hartwig will be out “for quite a while” keeping him away from the Old Oaken Bucket and the bowl matchup. He’s a leader on offense – and on the team. Saturday was his 27th consecutive start. He’s played with two broken hands this season, bypassing practice to be ready for every Saturday. A big part of the ongoing game’s success and almost irreplaceable, but the Boilermakers need to march forward.
4 KEY GAME
Sullivan’s sack. After 10 straight games, the Wildcats attempted a pass on their penultimate drive. It only left Freeman’s when Sullivan blew up the play. Game over.
Fourth and 1: Fourth quarter where the Boilermakers lead 14-9 and need points to extend the lead after the Wildcats just scored. With the ball at the 11 yard line, Downing carries 2 yards and a first down. Brohm could have kicked a field goal but chose to keep the offense on the field. The drive faltered and Mitchell Fineran added a 26-yard field to extend the lead to eight.
Purdue 17, Northwest 9Classification of boilers
non-pick-six. All Jalen Graham had to do was sprint into the end zone with his interception, and Purdue would have easily won that game. But Graham strides over the goal line, prompting officials to throw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. Like it or not, it’s the norm and has been for more than a decade. Erase the TD and a 21-3 lead. Instead, the offense goes nowhere and Fineran misses a 47-yard field goal to the wind and Purdue goes empty handed. The Boilermakers must lead the nation on unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Durham’s 27-yard catch. Second quarter facing the third and eleventh of his own 29, O’Connell connects with Durham down the middle for 27 yards. The quarterback-tight-end combo struggled to get going early, but this one lit the duo. It resulted in a 3-yard TD pass to Durham and a 14-3 lead for the Boilermakers with 4:12 before halftime.
0: Interceptions from O’Connell, who snapped a streak of seven straight games with at least one.
2007: The last time Purdue defeated Northwestern at Ross Ade Stadium, a span of five consecutive games.
299: Fewest yards the Boilermakers have mustered in a win against Iowa (294) since 2018.
▶ Is there enough on the roster to see Purdue through the rest of the season?
▶ Are Boilermaker fans eager for Nebraska to beat Iowa, or will they be content to share the Big Ten West title and focus on the bowl game?
1 FINAL THOUGHTS
On Saturday, Purdue played a one-score game for the seventh time this season. To its credit, it has won five times and lost twice. Both losses went to Penn State and Syracuse in their first three games. Since then, Boilermakers Florida have beaten Atlantic, Maryland, Nebraska, Illinois and Northwestern by a combined 25 points. However, the win over the Wildcats was more of a reflection of what Purdue did to get themselves into another tight game. Graham’s penalty was the biggest factor, but only 34 yards of offense in the third quarter played a part in the Wildcats not putting down. The defense played well enough not to be in the position they ended up in and had to make a play to prevent Northwestern from potentially leveling the score. Get ready for another down-to-the-wire finish in Bloomington, where the battle-hardened Boilermakers will once again find themselves in a fight for survival and a share of the Big Ten West.
Mike Carmin reports on Purdue Sports for the Journal & Courier and the USA Today Sports Network. Email [email protected] and follow @carmin_jc on Twitter and Instagram