Derek Mason and Jeff Brohm built their coaching reputations on different sides of the ball during their respective careers.
Brohm, a former Louisville and NFL quarterback, spring-boarded his offensive wizardry at Western Kentucky into a head coaching job at Purdue.
Mason, the architect of a stingy Stanford 3-4 scheme that ranked third in the nation in rush defense in 2013, wound up at Vanderbilt, where he’s brought a tough-minded, physical brand of football to Nashville’s West End.
It will be a clash of offensive artistry against defensive will when Purdue hosts Vanderbilt in its opener at Ross-Ade Stadium at noon Saturday (Big Ten Network). Brohm’s offense at Purdue ranked 29th in the country in 2018. Though Mason’s defense at Vanderbilt slipped to 99th last season, the Commodores forced 22 turnovers, their most since 2013.
“Coach Brohm is one of the best offensive minds in college football,” Mason said. “He obviously comes from that (Bobby) Petrino tree of coaches, and in his year at Western Kentucky, he was fantastic at being able to create matchups. He’s got a lot of offense, and they are going to take shots.”
The respect between coaches is mutual.
“In general, you're always going to get a very good defense,” Brohm said. “Coach Mason does a good job with that side of the ball. Big, physical, play a good style of football, good brand, kind of a Stanford brand of defense. He's always going to do a very good job.”
Purdue (0-1) is coming off a tough 34-31 loss at Nevada, a game the Boilermakers had in control, up 31-14 before allowing 20 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters. Five turnovers, including a muffed punt, a fumbled punt by Rondale Moore and two interceptions by starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar all played a role in Purdue’s demise.
“The disappointing thing is he did a lot of really good things,” Brohm said of Sindelar. “But the two interceptions were really bad decisions. Those things can't happen.”
Vanderbilt (0-1) is coming off a 30-6 home loss to No. 3 Georgia. The Commodores allowed 481 yards, including 325 yards rushing.
“They played a very talented Georgia team,” Brohm said. “After the first two series, they held them pretty good in check. Offensively, they had their hands full going against the Georgia defense. But they have good, talented players, some experience. Their competition they play every week is very, very good. Top of the line.”
Purdue has familiarity with two prominent offensive players for Vanderbilt. Starting quarterback Riley Neal, from Yorktown, is a transfer from Ball State who passed for 1,917 yards and 11 TDs for the Cardinals last season. Starting running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a transfer from Illinois, rushed for 1,244 yards and 12 TDs for the Commodores last season and 74 yards last week against Georgia.
“They'll be well coached,” Brohm said. “I know that they have some experience on that side of the ball that we've got to contain. We have to be much more physical on defense this week than we ever have been.”