Stopping Boilers offense tough task

Tim May
tmay@dispatch.com

After Purdue coach Jeff Brohm spoke at the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association convention in February, an Ohio State staffer whispered this summary to The Dispatch:

“He knows we’re playing them this year, because all he talked about was their trick plays.”

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Then again, watching the Purdue offense, it seems as if every other play has trickery involved. Under Brohm, a former star quarterback at Louisville, an NFL veteran and for years now a coach respected for fielding prolific offenses, the Boilermakers are steaming because he keeps scheming.

“Very aggressive and creative,” is how Ohio State coach Urban Meyer described Brohm. “Excellent” is how defensive coordinator Greg Schiano rates Brohm on the scale of schemers, and he included Brohm’s brother Brian, the offensive co-coordinator.

“They challenge you in many ways,” Schiano said. “Schematically, they use a ton of different personnel groups. And then schematically they also do a lot of formations, a lot of trick plays. They make you dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’. So we’re going to have to be at our best Saturday night.”

That's when the Buckeyes play the Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Indiana. Dedication to a strong passing game while not forgetting the run can be the great equalizer for a rebuilding program facing one of the bullies in the Big Ten such as Ohio State.

When that bully has proved vulnerable to giving up big plays, such as Ohio State this season, the best approach is to come out swinging. In the last four games, especially after quarterback David Blough re-established himself as the starter, that’s what the Boilermakers have done, rising to No. 7 in the nation in passing offense (330.8 yards per game), second in the Big Ten to Dwayne Haskins Jr. and Ohio State (371.4).

Taking advantage of the emergence of the league’s most electric freshman, receiver Rondale Moore, among other things, Blough has been hot. He has thrown for a combined 1,573 yards and 10 touchdowns the past four games, including 572 in a loss to Missouri before wins over Boston College, Nebraska and Illinois.

Jeff Brohm left no doubt the Boilermakers will take aim at an Ohio State defense whose penchant for man-to-man coverage has offered big-play opportunities.

“What they do sometimes is they’re going to try to take away some of your easier throws and make you throw it over their head, which I don’t blame ‘em, because the chances of completing those is a lot less,” Brohm said. “But with that, every once in a while you’re going to hit some of those, and that’s what has happened to them a few times.”

It has to happen for the Boilermakers to have a shot, he said, and it will depend on whether they “can complete ‘em and get open."

“That’s kind of been the issue: Are we going to be good enough to make those throws?" Brohm said. "Are we going to be good enough to block long enough to throw it vertically up the field? … All those things come into play, but without question we have to find ways to create some big plays.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports

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