So far this season, Purdue running game 'not going anywhere'
WEST LAFAYETTE – On the Purdue side, most of the rushing Saturday night was by students out of Ross-Ade Stadium.
In a 34-13 loss to TCU, the Boilermakers rushed for 23 yards in 25 attempts —or the fewest since gaining 23 yard against Minnesota in 2016. Their eight first downs were the fewest since eight against Wisconsin in 2009.
Really, it was worse than that. Until two late possessions, Purdue had a net of three rushing yards. Purdue had third-and-1 three times and fourth-and-1 once, and was stuffed every time.
The Boilermakers came into the game last in the Big Ten in rushing yards and average per carry, and three-game figures of 50.0 per game and a 2.08 average will cement that standing.
“We’ve got to be able to knock people back off the ball, be able to get some runs,” coach Jeff Brohm said. “Even on short yardage, first down, I mean, we’re not going anywhere. And that’s disappointing.
“So yes, I think the makeup of our team now is the passing game has to work to set up the run. We know what we have. We have to get them better.”
Yet Brohm said he did not want to “put it on one thing.”
The running game did matter when quarterback Elijah Sindelar was slinging the football for 509 yards, as he did a week ago in a 42-24 victory over Vanderbilt. With Sindelar sidelined by a concussion, it was up to freshman Jack Plummer to find the formula on offense.
Plummer could not. Not against a stout defense that seemingly knew every Purdue play. TCU was third in the Big 12 in rushing defense last season (138.6 yards) and second in yards allowed per attempt (3.61).
“We’ve got to find out a way to get some runs, or creative runs, to get us going,” Brohm said. “It was a tough matchup, and we played poorly. It all comes down to on me and us.”
The Boilermakers' shortcomings are not wholly unexpected.
They began the game with four offensive linemen — guards Alex Criddle and Mark Stickford, center Viktor Beach and tackle Will Bramel — who had never started a college game until this season. Stickford was in for right guard Matt McCann, a 38-game starter who was out with an ankle injury.
Nor does it help that Tario Fuller is sidelined with a fractured jaw. With 67 carries in his career and one 142-yard game, the fifth-year senior is the most experienced running back Purdue has.
Tight end Brycen Hopkins conceded the offensive line is inexperienced.
“I’m not calling anybody out. But I just think we need to bring some more physicality to that aspect of the team,” Hopkins said.
As much as smash-mouth blocking, Purdue needs completed passes. Plummer finished 13-of-29 for 181 yards — but just 96 yards through three quarters. By then, TCU led 27-6.
“Obviously, completing passes downfield helps get guys out of the box,” Plummer said. “Run game, we’ve got to work on it. We’ve got to practice. We’ve got to get better.
“It just wasn’t our day today. We’ll get better. I know we will.”
Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 317-444-6195. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.