Purdue University Football Media Conference
Monday, November 30, 2020
COACH JEFF BROHM: We’re excited to get back to work. We understand there’s a lot of work to be done, and losing’s not fun, and it shouldn’t be fun. So I think all of our coaches know that we’ve got to do our part, our players have to get back to work and try to correct some of the mistakes we made in the past game and now it’s moving on to the next opponent, which is going to be another good opponent just like it is every week. We just have to find ways to play better, be consistent, make plays, and find a way to win these close games.
- After reviewing the film and looking over that game, can you talk about the overall performance specifically in the defense in the second half, what kind of — what were the struggles and what kind of went wrong for you guys down the stretch on the defensive side of the ball?
COACH JEFF BROHM: I think everyone can see we had a hard time stopping the run and putting the nail in that. Those are things we have to do much better at. You know, should we be a little more aggressive and make sure we attacked a little bit more, yes, but we need guys to step up that can make plays when they are there.
So I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. Any time you’re not good at something, we’ve got to evaluate exactly what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, and put the best package we can together, and then our players got to go out and play tough and physical. And there’s got to be times where people man up and say I’m going to get a stop.
But yes, we recognize the issues and we’re going to work hard this week to fix it.
- Offensively, do you feel you’re like where you need to be at? Jack had 237 yards, Zander 107 yards on the ground. You put up 30 points. Do you feel like that’s enough to win football games in this conference?
COACH JEFF BROHM: I think our offense was doing pretty well early on. We had some good drives. We made some plays. We were able to run the football. We had some big chunks. We punted once during the first half. We had scramble on a second down, and a third down they all-out blitzed us and we had to get the ball out quick.
And really, end of the second half we took the ball down and scored the first drive and I think as we got going, we didn’t get the ball very much, especially in the fourth quarter, we were driving at one point and through an interception on third down which was costly. Then the next time we were on the plus-38 with third down and we had David deep, we had Rondale on a 12-yard out on third and 12. And we had Jackson on a little under at five yards. And we wanted to complete the under and get in field goal range and we threw it high, so we misfired on a couple there.
But you know, being efficient, making plays, finding ways to score points, is always going to be critical and taking care of the ball. But really, it’s a team sport and what has to happen for us is all three segments of our team need to play better and we need to play together and we all need to do our part in order to win these close games. And that means, you know, like I said, our coaches got to coach our tail off all week and put the best plan together, and our players got to want to go out there and play aggressive and physical and try to find a way to win these games.
- What have you seen out of Nebraska? What are the challenges that they are going to present on Saturday?
COACH JEFF BROHM: Nebraska has been in a lot of their games, as well. They are going to spread the field on offense and the ability for the quarterback to run makes it dangerous, and that’s going to be a challenge for us. We’re going to have to find ways to get off the field and get the ball back for the offense and create stops and we’re going to have to contain the running back around the edge, and the quarterback holding the ball and running it. And those are things they have been pretty good at every game.
That means you’re going to have to designate some resources to get that done and on offense, it’s about being efficient. It’s about getting it to our play-makers. It’s about not turning the ball over and special teams, that segment has to win for us. Really like I said, all three segments need to play better, and we need to play together and we need to find a way to get a win.
- So how big of a role did confidence or the loss of confidence at any point in the game, how did that have a role in the game?
COACH JEFF BROHM: I think the momentum definitely went in their favor. You know, we wanted to stop this many to start the second half, went down and scored, but our offense responded and scored. And so then they returned a kickoff for a touchdown and they got a little momentum there, and I think from there it was hard to get off the field on defense and that kind of sparked them quite a bit in being able to run the football and just get chunks of yards when they needed to.
So all that is a part of winning and losing and we got to create our own momentum and that’s up to us. We’ve got to do a better job of it.
- Zander got a lot of touches on the ball last week, more than in past games. So is there going to be more of an effort on Saturday to give Rondale the ball more, give David Bell the ball more, or are we going to see Jack throwing more on Saturday?
COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, there’s one ball on every play, so we are going to try to give it to all of our play maker as much as we can. Sometimes the way the defense plays is going to dictate how that happens. These guys had a good plan; we knew they would. They played a lot of two-high safety look and they had nickel man right over the top of Rondale running with him wherever he went with the safety over the top, and the same thing with David Bell. So when that happens you can’t force the ball to them. We’ve got to be able to run the ball. We’ve got to be able move the ball that way, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that, especially early on.
And then when you get in passing situations, then it’s a little tougher. So we have to create ways make sure we still get those guys open and get them away from the double teams as much as we can. But whatever it takes to win, that’s what we want to do.
- You started off saying you have a lot of work to do. Defensively, what’s at the top of the list defensively that needs to get corrected before Saturday?
COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I think this week, I need to do the best job I can of being involved in all aspects of our game. So that’s going to happen this week.
You know, we want to make sure that we put a plan together that has the resources available to stop the run to get penetration, to put pressure on the quarterback and to challenge the offense and not let them sit back there and do what they want. So I think we need to do a better job of that.
At the same time, you got to have a little bit of cautiousness as well. Make that sure you’re smart with it and that you understand that there’s got to be a little give-and-take; there’s got to be a little cat-and-mouse. But we want to be aggressive and do the things necessary to stop what the other team is doing, and that’s going to be important that we do that and I think on special teams, we all want to be sound in what we’re doing.
We don’t want to give up big plays. I think other than our punting game, we did a better job in the return game and we made some progress there. We just did a bad job on the one kickoff return for a touchdown. That hurt us.
- Was there a breakdown on the kickoff return?
COACH JEFF BROHM: We had two starters on it that had to come out because of injury and we had a couple backups come in and didn’t do exactly what they were supposed to do, and when that happened, it was able to allow the ball to bounce and once it bounced to the outside, you know, we were stuck.
And so we’ve got to do a better job of making sure everyone understands their role, everyone understands that special teams is the most important part of our team. And if you can’t play on special teams, you can’t play on offense and defense. Every play is vital and we have to have our best foot forward every time.
- How much did the lack of sacks or lack of pressure on the quarterback is contributing to the third down woes as far as getting off the field?
COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, it’s contributing to it. We want to try to create some more pressure and get off the quarterback more and we have to be committed to doing that. So, yes — you know, making the quarterback feel uncomfortable and being aggressive in our approach is going to be important for us.
- You did dial up a few more pressures last week, just had the one sack, but did you feel like you at least hit the quarterback a little bit more last week against Rutgers?
COACH JEFF BROHM: I think any time we had some type of pressure, it was mostly effective, so that was good. I think that shows us that we’ve got to be aggressive and we’ve got to do things to keep the offense off balance and that’s the way I want to be, so that needs to get done.
- I’m sure you’ve had a chance to review the targeting play on Derrick. What was your conclusion of that and is that anything that if it was not right call that it be appealed or anything like that?
COACH JEFF BROHM: I don’t think so. We’ve tried that before. But you know, they reviewed it. They said it was targeting. We’ll abide by the call. You know, I could see how they called it targeting. I wouldn’t, but I can see how they called it targeting. It’s just one of those things that Derrick tried to make a hard play and a hard tackle, and you know, maybe his helmet hit before the rest of his other body did.
- Just the game he was having up until then, he seemed to be all over the field, running sideline-to-sideline, was this one of his better games this season?
COACH JEFF BROHM: Yeah, I think Derrick’s gotten better every week, playing the inside linebacker position, he plays hard. Mentally, you know, just got to continue to be in the right spot at the right time, but he gives us great leadership and he’s aggressive and he’s improving every week. Missing him in the first half will be something we have to adjust to.
- What was the key to getting the running game going last week?
COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, we knew these guys played a lot two-high safety look and didn’t want to give up the big play in the passing game and that’s exactly what they did and of course they make some blitzes off of it and they disguised it very good, till the last minute. Third down, that’s when they gave you some more complicated things. But they did a good job. When we checked, they checked out of it and that gave us a few problems in the few possessions we had there in the second half.
The way the defense was designed, you have to be able to run the ball and I think we did pretty effective and we had some big chunks and we created a couple new runs as well to get out on the perimeter that were effective. But once again, you know, it’s got to be team efficiency for us to win and I think, I don’t know, eight of the last nine or nine of our last games have been one-possession games. We’ve got to win those games and we’ve got to become more efficient, all three segments, each week, have to do their part in order for us to win.
I think our guys are starting to understand that, you know, we can’t have a miscue here or miscue there that’s going to cost us. We’ve got to be on the same page and we’ve got to be playing hard and we all have to be trying to make as many plays as we can to help us win.
- Is King Doerue rounding back into form?
COACH JEFF BROHM: I think so. I think he ran hard. Good to see him back on the field. He was injured there for awhile. He’s back healthy. He did a pretty good job for us, and I think he’s just got to continue to work and improve and we’ve got to continue to get him some touches.
- What kind of complement can he be to Zander, kind of got different running styles, but what one-, two-combination can that be for you in the running game?
COACH JEFF BROHM: I think it was effective for us in this past game. So we’ll continue to build on that and both guys have played for us and they have some experience. They run hard. That’s one of the better things they do. They play hard and run hard and they are physical players.
- Is Jared Sparks still with the program?
COACH JEFF BROHM: Jared Sparks has opted out.
- And there were some other guys didn’t dress, like Marvin Grant and Semisi. Were they injured?
COACH JEFF BROHM: They were injured.
- You’ve played a lot of close games this year, I think your five games have been decided by 28 total points. Talk about the perils of playing close games and what you need to do to win those close games.
COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, the positives are is we have had a chance to win every game, and I think our guys have played hard and that’s been the positive. And I think they want to win and I think they are committed to doing that and that’s a positive. So we’ve got to build on that.
But we haven’t been able to win quite a few of these close games lately. So when that happens, we all have to dive into what we’re doing and as a former player, you know, the first thing that has to happen is each coach has to figure out a way to put our players in the best positions to succeed, and how can we get better and how can we create an environment where they can make a few of those plays if they are not, so we have to do that. Our players have to dig deeper, as well, and understand that when these games get tight, we’ve got to maintain our composure and our confidence and we’ve got to find ways to make plays.
I tell our players all the time the story of, you know, I played behind Steve Young for three years. And you know, I remember coming to the sideline on a key drive to win the game; and Steve was one of the smartest quarterbacks I’ve been around and that was back in the age where quarterbacks called the plays. And the coach was kind of asked to see, hey, what do you want to run here, what do you like. For a guy as smart as him, he specifically looked at him and said, “Coach, you call the play. We’ll make it work. You do your job, all right, we’ll make it work. So whatever call you got, we’ll make it work.”
So that’s got to be the mentality. We have to do the best job we can to put them in position to succeed, and then when that call is made, our players got to say, we’re going to make it work. So we just got to get everybody to understand that the difference in winning and losing is this much (indicating inches) and we’ve all got to do the small things.
- Do you think the special teams struggles are a function in any way of the turnover in that position? You’ve had four special teams coaches in four years.
COACH JEFF BROHM: I think really we had a decent day on special teams other than the one return for a touchdown. With he had some backups in and we all didn’t do our job and when that happens, we’re going to get a big play. That was disappointing and that can’t happen. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen.
And our punting game, you know, it didn’t hurt us, but we have to get better at punting the football and that’s been a little bit of an issue. But we just got to continue to work through it.
- Is this a tough team? Is this a team that can deal with adversity?
COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, we’ve got to be a team that can deal with adversity. That’s part of football. We’re going to have it every year. Every year since I’ve been here, we’ve had — first year we were 4-6 and we find a way to win at the end. The next we’re we start 0-3 and found a way to win against an undefeated Boston College team, against Iowa, against Ohio State and get to a Bowl game. Past year we didn’t find a way to win.
And this year we’ve got our work cut out for us without question. We’ve lost three in a row. We have a tough opponent coming in that’s going to be very hungry and they have been in a lot of close games as well and we have a lot of tough football yet to be played.
Yeah, it’s going to be to see what we are made of and it’s going to test our toughness and mental attitude, and yeah, we are going to have to step up and rise to the occasion.
- The offensive line two weeks in a row just played five guys, I know you said last week that was probably a function of some injuries, I know a couple guys were still out. I didn’t see Jornigan or Bramel, but is that still the case, or do you think these are the five guys you like?
COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, those guys are out and that’s made it a little bit easier, so the substitution pattern, there’s not as much options right now. But, we have a few there are ready to go in. We feel good that Grant Hermanns and Greg Long have done a pretty good job for us to tackle. They have got to continue to get better but they have been pretty steady. Sam Garvin is a steady player that can snap the ball, and he knows our calls and gives us great effort, and our young guards are playing hard, Spencer and Gus.
Now we made some mistakes this past game and we had many some costly penalties that hurt us that we can’t have. There were a few times that we’re not getting off on the count together, and so we’ve got to get the snap count corrected and make sure we’re all in the same page there.
But I think that, I’m not for sure, I don’t think we’ve given up any sacks the last two games. Our guys are playing hard and we have been able to run the football at times. Just once again, the margin for error is small.
So we have to be as consistent as we possibly can on every play, and we have to find ways to take it down and score every time we touch it.
- That fourth quarter was one of the most bizarre scenes I’ve ever seen in my life. Have you been involved in a quarter of football where you just had the ball for one minute and 43 seconds, and ran just three plays — it was surreal.
COACH JEFF BROHM: Yeah, it was fun and as you guys know, they got the momentum and they were able to control the football and we didn’t get it back, and then the one time we did, we didn’t take advantage of it. Things didn’t go our way. We didn’t make them go our way, and we didn’t finish the game the way we needed to. And when you don’t to that you’re going to lose of the those things happen. We have to find ways to fight through that.
We have to find ways to play hard the entire game regardless of the circumstance. We have to find ways to get out of a funk when it happens and I think that’s got to be a component of every unit of our team, offense, defense and special teams, rising to the occasion and understanding that, no, we have got to make plays. You know, if we do that, then we’ll have more opportunities, but yeah, it was a disappointing end to the game.
- Just to follow up about the guys were out, was Geovonte’ Howard a part of that, too? Was he available this weekend?
COACH JEFF BROHM: Yes, he was available.
- One other totally random kind of question for you. At what point do you talk to your seniors about who may want to come back next year or who you might want to see if they want to come back next year? I understand that’s probably not your priority during the season but because this dovetails with recruiting, curious as to when that process begins.
COACH JEFF BROHM: We have constant communication with our guys and there’s been conversation before with some of them on some of those natures.
But when it gets to the season, we’re focused on winning the game. Our players are focused on winning the game. There’s been no talk from players on that. They want to work hard to win, and I think that we’re focused on the now and we’re focused on trying to win against the next opponent. I think all of our players are. So I think when the season is over, we’ll deal with that.
- Regarding this being the last home game, will there be a Senior Day?
COACH JEFF BROHM: Yes, we will.