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Two for One: Purdue suffers multiple losses vs Minnesota

An inspired late effort made things interesting, but the story of Purdue’s 38-31 loss to Minnesota came on one play late in the first quarter that may severely impact the remaining course of this season. Injuries are beginning to cripple the Boilermakers.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Elijah Sindelar returned under center after suffering a concussion during Purdue’s (1-3, 0-1) week two win over Vanderbilt, but left Saturday’s ballgame against the Golden Gophers (4-0, 1-0) after landing hard on his left shoulder. On the same play, sophomore wideout Rondale Moore was chipped off the line of scrimmage and looked to have hyperextended his left leg. They both did not return.

Entering merely his 17th career game, Moore was ascending several Purdue all-time rankings. The sophomore ranked in the top-20 in career receptions (141) as well as receiving touchdowns (14), while also sharing a tie for fourth in career 100-yard receiving games. The preseason Heisman Trophy candidate is considered by many as a first round draft talent, but the extent of his injury could create an issue in his competitive future.

Sindelar, meanwhile, in his third year under head coach Jeff Brohm’s system, offered plenty of optimism following his 932 yards and nine touchdowns through Purdue’s first two games. He is the first Boilermaker to pass for 400-plus yards in back-to-back games since Drew Brees did it in 1998. The quarterback was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Vanderbilt where he threw for 509 yards and five touchdowns.

The losses of the two aforementioned key players comes on the heels of a week three performance against TCU in which five starters, who totaled over 100 games of combined experience, were kept out due to injury. Following a much-needed bye week, Purdue returned to West Lafayette mostly healthy, but could not figure out a way to stop a Golden Gophers offense that torched the Boilermakers secondary for 396 yards through the air and four touchdowns.

Minnesota redshirt sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan tossed an incompletion in the waning seconds of the second quarter, which turned out to be his only misfire of the day. Morgan finished 21-of-22 and benefitted from a 70-yard, a 45-yard and 47-yard touchdown on plays wide open over the middle.

The Gophers managed five touchdowns, one field goal and a missed 51-yard field goal attempt across their initial nine possessions. Minnesota finished with 488 total yards of offense. It was the fourth consecutive game in which Purdue has allowed over 400 yards of total offense.

Credit the Boilermakers for fighting to the finish, though. Redshirt freshman Jack Plummer took over late in the first half and provided plenty of life. In his second career collegiate appearance, Plummer threw for 245 yards on 23-of-41 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

The numbers do a poor job of telling the whole story of Plummer’s performance. He showcased his elusiveness throughout by avoiding sacks, rolling out of the pocket and keeping plays alive. Even his incompletions were quality throws either out of bounds or away from the defender where his receiver is absolutely the only player to have a chance at the ball.  

Plummer’s most impressive drive came in the fourth quarter down 38-17. Backed up on his own one yard-line, Plummer marched downfield in 15 plays, completed four passes totaling 61 yards and watched his running back bruise his way into the end zone to complete the 99-yard scoring drive.

Then, following a successful Purdue onside kick, the young signal-caller led an eight-play, 53-yard drive that ended in a 13-yard pitch and catch to cut the Boilermaker deficit to seven with 3:59 remaining.

After trailing by 21 about halfway through the fourth quarter, Purdue clawed their way back and needed a defensive stop for a chance at a game-tying or winning offensive series. On third-down-and-six on the Minnesota 29, a controversial pass interference penalty against the Boilers gave the Gophers an automatic first down. Minnesota managed two more first downs to effectively seal the victory.

On top of Plummer’s positive offensive performance, Purdue got big-time production from freshman running back King Doerue and freshman wide receiver David Bell.

Brohm noted postgame that he wanted to make a “concerted effort” to establish the running game, as his program is ranked among the bottom in the FCS in total rushing. Doerue had a career day scoring three total touchdowns and rushing for 94 yards on 20 carries on top of his four catches for 32 yards receiving. What made Doerue’s effort even more impressive is the fact Purdue was forced to use nine offensive linemen in the contest due to injury.

With junior wideout Jared Sparks inactive, Bell stepped in and had a career day himself. Following Moore’s injury, Bell was the feature receiver in the Boilermaker offense, totaling 14 targets and reeling in eight catches for 114 yards, which are both career-highs. The freshman was held out of the end zone, but the 6-2, 210 lb receiver showcased several aspects of his skill set that should encourage Purdue’s coaching staff moving forward.

Junior wideout Jackson Anthrop provided some value by catching seven passes for 66 yards. Defensively, George Karlaftis finished his day with five tackles and 1.5 sacks. The Purdue defense did not force a turnover. The Boilermakers finished with 123 rushing yards, which is a season-high.

Of course, the immediate concerns surround the health of Sindelar and Moore, but something just as pressing includes Purdue’s ability to limit the big plays and getting off the field defensively. Minnesota totaled 21 first downs and 38 points on just 56 plays – 26 fewer than Purdue.

Positive signs include optimism surrounding a young running back who established some credibility to the program on Saturday, as well as a quarterback who may very well have to take over the position for the foreseeable future, barring the severity of Sindelar’s shoulder.

The schedule does not get any easier, as the Boilermakers travel to No. 12 Penn State on Saturday, October 5 at 12:00p ET. The undefeated Nittany Lions are coming off a 59-0 road win over Maryland.

Let it Fly: Sindelar, Moore and the Boilers Earn Home-Opening Win

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN — The Purdue Boilermakers soared to their first win of the season thanks in large part to Elijah Sindelar’s performance, as the fifth-year quarterback accounted for six total touchdowns and threw for 509 yards in a 42-24 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores in front of 50,506 – the largest home-opening crowd since 2008.

Purdue QB Elijah Sindelar looks for a receiver against Vanderbilt (Clinton Cole/DeepDishWL)

Sindelar found nine different receivers in the winning effort and finished his afternoon 34-for-52 with five touchdown passes, one interception and one rushing score. His favorite target was sophomore wideout and Heisman Trophy candidate Rondale Moore, who led all receivers with 220 yards on 13 catches, both career-highs. Moore completed his effort with 279 all-purpose yards, which were 34 shy of the program’s record that he set last year on August 30 v. Northwestern.

Purdue WR Rondale Moore lines up against Vanderbilt (Clinton Cole/DeepDishWL)

“When we needed to make big plays in the passing game, he got open,” head coach Jeff Brohm said.

On top of his lightning quickness and sharp cuts throughout the contest, Moore demonstrated an elite ability to adjust to the ball mid-flight on a 70-yard pitch and catch.  

Moore deservedly garnered just about all the attention, but David Bell turned some heads as the true-freshman receiver was much more involved in the offense compared to last week. After scoring a touchdown on his lone catch against Nevada, the 6-2, 210-pound Bell snatched four out of the air for 82 yards in the home opener.

Inside the red zone, however, Sindelar was able to hit his tight ends for scores the majority of the time. Fifth-year senior Brycen Hopkins caught a 12 and 20-yard pass for touchdowns, while redshirt freshman Payne Durham found the end zone for the first time in his career.

Brycen Hopkins scores the first of his two touchdowns against Vanderbilt (Clinton Cole/DeepDishWL)

“They’ve done a great job for us,” Brohm said. “It’s been an emphasis for us to get our tight ends more involved. Our tight ends really stepped up, made tough catches and controlled the middle of the field. It was great to see them play well.”

Purdue Head Coach Jeff Brohm (Clinton Cole/DeepDishWL)

The run game, by the way, was nowhere to be found. Purdue (1-1) totaled 540 yards in the win, but 509 came from the right wing of Sindelar. Zander Horvath led all Boilermaker rushers with eight attempts for 15 yards, good for 1.9 yards per carry.

“I would rather have some balance and run the football,” Brohm said. “It seemed like the week before, whenever we worked in a run, it was a waste of a series. So, we do need to get better.”

The team’s 31 total rushing yards were the fewest in a victory since October 28, 2000, when they defeated Ohio State with an identical 31.

The efficiency of the offense – especially in the second half – took a lot of pressure off the defense, which looked much improved than the effort from last week. Leading 14-10 at halftime, the Boilermakers outscored Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1), 21-7 through the subsequent 20:33 of game time.

Sophomore cornerback Dedrick Mackey tallied Purdue’s first takeaway of 2019 with an interception, while fifth-year senior linebacker Ben Holt owned a game-high 11 tackles and finished second on the team in solo tackles behind Mackey.

Mackey returns the interception for Purdue (Clinton Cole/DeepDishWL)

Anthony Watts, Markus Bailey and Derrick Barnes each registered a sack, to their credit. With the score 28-10 and under a minute remaining in the third quarter, five-star freshman recruit George Karlaftis swatted a 4th-and-1 pass attempt away from Vandy quarterback Riley Neal deep into Purdue territory, which essentially put the game away. Karlaftis finished with four tackles, three of which were solo.

“I thought that was an outstanding win for our football team,” Brohm said. “Our offense made a lot of big plays in the passing game. We battled to the end.”

Vanderbilt managed to climb within 11 twice in the second half, but both times Purdue pulled away. It was all good until about 3:30 left in the fourth quarter.

In an effort to run out the clock up 42-24, Sindelar tucked and ran on a 3rd-and-14 and took a shot to what appeared to be his shoulder. The Boilermakers would not touch the ball again on offense, but Sindelar was removed from the game and took to the medical tent. Brohm did not provide an update on his injury postgame but mentioned redshirt freshman backup Jack Plummer would be ready if necessary.

Purdue students showing off the Tyler Trent commemorative towels (Clinton Cole/DeepDishWL)

With his performance, Sindelar became the 18th player in school history with over 3,000 career passing yards. He is the first Purdue quarterback with five or more touchdown passes and 500 yards in a game since Kyle Orton in 2004. He also becomes the first player since Drew Brees in 1998 to throw for 400 yards in consecutive games.

Moore, meanwhile, in 15 career games is ranked 15th in program history for reception touchdowns (14) and is tied for 18th in career receptions (138). His nine 100-yard receiving games are fourth-most in Purdue history.

The week two win came on the “Hammer Down Cancer” game. The program coupled the event by unveiling the new “T-Squared Student Gate” in honor of alumni Tyler Trent, who passed away this year due to a rare bone disease called Osteosarcoma.

September 7, 2019, was Trent’s 21st birthday.

Tyler Trent Student Gate Ceremony (Clinton Cole/DeepDishWL)

The Boilermakers will prepare for a TCU Horned Frogs program that is enjoying an off week after defeating Arkansas-Pine Bluff 39-7 last week. TCU will invade West Lafayette Saturday, September 14 with kickoff set for 7:30 pm Eastern.