Purdue coach Jeff Brohm offered a simple explanation for the Boilermakers’ struggles on the offensive line last week against No. 10 Penn State.
“We got beat,” Brohm said. “You know what, some guys do a good job, and it just seems on every play there’s one guy that’s having a hard time, and that’s the thing that’s getting exposed.”
Purdue got beat plenty — to the tune of 10 sacks allowed – in its 35-7 loss to the Nittany Lions. Somehow, redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Plummer survived. Protecting Plummer will be a priority when the Boilermakers (1-4, 0-2 Big Ten) return home to face Maryland on Saturday in their homecoming game at Ross-Ade Stadium (noon, BTN).
While senior Matt McCann at right guard and junior Grant Hermanns at left tackle have been the most experienced, stable starters on the offensive line, Purdue has rotated several other players into the remaining three spots up front.
“We want to try to still have some competition but definitely try to maybe start to settle on some guys we feel good about,” Brohm said.
Purdue’s offensive line depth suffered a blow when sophomore tackle D.J. Washington went down for the season after suffering a broken ankle against Minnesota. Redshirt freshmen Eric Miller and Will Bramel have split time at right tackle, with Bramel also filling in at center behind Sam Garvin. Redshirt sophomore Mark Stickford and senior Alex Criddle have filled in at left guard. Redshirt sophomore center Viktor Beach has also tried to contribute while playing through injury.
“Viktor has been injured all year,” Brohm said. “He hasn’t practiced hardly at all, and I think he gives us his all during the game, but he can’t function the way he normally would if he was healthy, and it’s hurt us.”
Brohm said the circumstances of the Penn State game, falling behind 28-0 in the second quarter, also allowed pass rushers to pin back their ears and go after the quarterback.
“When we got down 28-0, you have to truly pass protect and drop back more than you like to, which we went into the game not wanting to go do that because we knew these guys were good up front,” Brohm said.
Brohm still thinks Purdue’s offensive line can jell into a stronger unit between now and the end of the season.
“They are working hard and got to figure out ways to put them in better positions to succeed,” Brohm said. “We thought we had a decent plan going into the (Penn State) game of not dropping back and pass protecting the whole game and mixing in a lot of screens and moving the pocket and play-action, but when you’re down that fast, the play-action kind of goes out the window to a certain degree. We still hit a couple of them, but it was a long day, and it was not a good day up front.”