Purdue University Football Media Conference
Monday, November 9, 2020
West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
JEFF BROHM: Looking forward to getting back on the field. We got a great opponent in Northwestern that we get an opportunity to play at home. They’re 3-0 and they’re ranked in the top-25 and they played some really good football and not one team has scored a touchdown on them in the second half. Nebraska scored one touchdown on them last week and that was one that started on the three-yard line. So they’re physical, they’re tough, they play sound football, they’re well coached and they play hard. So once again, we’re going to have to really do a lot of things well, eliminate the penalties, eliminate the turnovers, play as hard and as tough as we can, and just find a way to make enough plays and figure out a way to get a few stops and turnovers on the defensive side of the ball. So I know our guys are excited about this opportunity and we’re looking forward to getting out on the back on the game field and getting back in a rhythm.
Q. How disappointed were you at last week’s game got called off?
JEFF BROHM: I think we were all actually disappointed not being able to play a highly ranked team of Wisconsin, with a lot riding on the game, a team that we hadn’t beat here in a while. And we were excited about the opportunity, about the opportunity to go out there. Our guys were hungry to get back on the field. I actually, bye weeks can be an advantage but sometimes I don’t like taking them. I think we had a decent rhythm going and we just got to make sure we’re back in that rhythm. We understand that it’s back to a normal game week. We have to have a great week of practice and preparation to get ready for the next opponent.
Q. 3-0 Northwestern, 2-0 Purdue, prime time television. Jeff, save to say this is a big game, right?
JEFF BROHM: No, it’s a great opportunity for us and Coach Fitzgerald and Northwestern, they play a sound, physical type of brand of football and it’s going to be a challenge for us. There’s a lot of things that we worked hard in the off-season to be ready for these type of games, trying to be physical up front more, trying to find ways to run the football more consistently, try and find ways to put pressure on the other team’s quarterback. All the things that we worked on we have got to put into play and we have got to execute and I think this will be a great opportunity for us to see how we stack up and measure up against the top team in our division and go from there.
Q. Can you give us any update on any of the injured players, the offensive linemen Craig and Garvin, the wideouts, Carr and Rice, King Doerue, Big George, and maybe if we see No. 4, Rondale on Saturday.
JEFF BROHM: Well, what I can tell you once again is we’re going to try to get all those guys back as fast as we can. They’re all working hard. The only one that will be out the remainder of the season is Cam Craig. He had to have surgery and he’ll be back in time for spring ball and all that stuff once we get back or at least around that vicinity. So he’s out for the rest of the year, but all the others, like always, we’re hopeful to get back as fast as we can.
Q. What about the punting situation, are we going to see a new No. 1 punter on Saturday?
JEFF BROHM: Well the competition is open and we worked both of our punters that are vying for that competition right now this past week. They have split reps and Brooks Cormier and Zach Collins, and I would anticipate seeing both those guys on the field. And really they’re going to have to prove to us that they’re ready to play and if for some reason somebody’s hot we’ll ride with that. But we want to have consequences if someone’s not producing and being consistent. And that’s really kind of what we want to get. We want to get Brooks to be more consistent, but we want Zach to be ready to go and there’s a lot of things that we can do with Zach in there that we have up and ready.
Q. You guys are doing a lot better job getting takeaways this year. Can you just talk to that a little bit, maybe if Bob Diaco stressed that more in practice, if you guys are doing more to emphasize getting takeaways in 2020.
JEFF BROHM: I think it’s a combination of a lot of things because obviously I think our defensive staff and our guys have had a good plan. It is something we work a lot. It is something that we preach. It is something that we’re not only having drills, separate drills we’re doing, but we’re preaching it in our team settings to strip and rip and get the ball out and get it on the ground and turnovers are critical in this game. So we worked on it a lot. It’s come into play. We have done an outstanding job to this point. Now, there’s always a little bit of luck that goes into it, where you got to have the ball bounce your way a little bit and you hope to do your part, but I think the combination of all those things, our defense has done a good job to this point. We got to figure out a way against some good sound, fundamental teams to continue that and then we got to figure out a way to not continue our turnovers on the offensive side of the ball, which a few of those have been costly.
Q. Do you like night games, or would you rather play at 1:00 or 2:30?
JEFF BROHM: 9 a.m. works for me well. The sooner the better. Actually, you know what, as a coach and player you’re ready to get on the field right away when you get up. So that’s the issue with playing late. But anytime you can get a late game as well under the lights, that’s a special time to play as well. So I know our guys are looking forward to it. And while we can’t have the full fans in our stands, under the lights, we’re looking forward to playing a good opponent in that atmosphere.
Q. On that point I got to ask, you probably watched Clemson-Notre Dame. What did you think of that field rush?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it was a good game to watch and I think two really good opponents and obviously the Fighting Irish were excited and they displayed that after the game. Hopefully they all had their masks on.
Q. One guy that we haven’t asked you about is what’s the status of Jackson Anthrop? Any chance he gets back soon?
JEFF BROHM: Jackson has healed about as fast as we can imagine. He’s worked extremely hard at it. He’s been able to practice basically with an orange jersey on where we can’t contact him or can’t do anything where he gets to the ground. But he’s still a little ways off with the full healing of his shoulder. So I think as soon as we get the all clear from the doctor that the shoulder’s fully healed, he’ll be in great physical condition shape due to the fact that he’s been able to work out and actually practice on a limited basis. So we’re hopeful in the near future that will happen.
Q. Without Rondale and Jackson, just how do you evaluate how the slot receiver position has performed through your first two games?
JEFF BROHM: Well that position’s been a work in progress and we have worked a lot of guys there early in the year. Maliq Carr had the ability to work outside and inside and he showed some really good things in practice from that slot area, didn’t see as much of it carryover to the game, but when he got in there before he got injured he did some good things. We have had to move Amad to the slot, which he’s actually in my opinion better on the outside. He’s made some good plays for us. And learning all those positions is a challenge, so he’s continued to get better there. TJ, we would like to get him more in the mix, he’s somebody early on that was nicked up himself. Now he’s back healthy and hopefully we can see him more getting in the mix at that slot receiver this past bye week, myself and Coach Shephard, we kind of challenged him to raise his level of play and he did a very good job and he definitely did raise his level of play. So hopefully that can continue. We can get him out there on the field and let him showcase what he’s all about.
Q. From a practice standpoint last week, how much did you prepare for Northwestern, but also what things did you feel like you needed to work on, and now that you had a little bit of extra time do you feel like that was beneficial?
JEFF BROHM: We used it very wisely, in my opinion. I think you want to get all your guys that are injured and possibly out for a limited time back as fast as you can, so that has been stressed fully and I think they have done a good job. We have gotten some good work in. We have gone some good on good to continue to improve at full speed pace with our guys that are out there healthy. I think we have made some improvements. There’s a lot of small things we continue to work on on both sides of the ball and a lot of times they’re mistakes that you made the first two games of the year or maybe even mistakes you made in the past that you’re still trying to correct and we worked hard at doing that. So now, yesterday was a good long practice, basically an extra practice getting ready for Northwestern and today’s their day off and then we will be back at it tomorrow.
Q. Without Cam Craig, I assume Spencer Holstege moves into that starting spot?
JEFF BROHM: Yes, Spencer, you know what, really is still a young offensive linemen and he’s one of those guys that really has exceeded our expectations to this point because he’s kind of hungry, he loves football, he has questions of, why am I not starting, what can I do more, which is what you want to see out of any player on your team. And he’s got some toughness and he wants to be on the field and that matters as much as anything. So while he’s going to continue to improve, he’s done some good things. He’s been able to snap as well when we need him and he’s going to have to do that some to spell Gus, so we worked him at both positions this past week. But he will start at the left guard position. He’s going to play a lot. And we still want to try to keep a rotation going to keep guys fresh and healthy and to increase the competition level, but Spencer has really done a pretty good job to this point.
Q. Your offensive line has played well in the first two games, but you mentioned Northwestern and the physicality they bring from the defensive front. What have you seen out of your offensive line that you feel like they’re ready to take on that challenge Saturday?
JEFF BROHM: We have improved quite a bit and it’s been an emphasis ever since the end of last year in the off-season, spring practice, summer, fall camp, to become more physical, to run the ball better, to be able to come off the ball and strike people. And I think they have worked hard and I think they have improved. And at the same time, myself and as coaches, we got to take care of our guys and make sure that we’re not drop back and passing every single play, that we’re mixing in the run, that we’re coming downhill, that we have some misdirection, that we’re throwing some screens in there, that we’re throwing some run pass options in there where they’re not having to pass block. And then when it’s time to pass, we got to pass block and do our work. So I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. We have got a lot of resources used to coach our offensive line right now. Our guys have put in the time and the work. It’s never going to be perfect by any means, but we have gotten better, we have got to continue to make strides. And, yes, without question, these guys are big up front. They have got a lot of beef. They got a lot of mass and strength. That’s kind what have they do. They come off the football, they strike, they get off blocks, the linebackers play downhill, safeties play downhill on the run and they do a good job. Their defense has always been their strong point. This year is no exception. They’re very, very good on defense and the stats and the points show that. But they have been better on offense. So when you put the combination of those two things together, that’s why they have had great success. So this will be a true test for us to see exactly how we stack up against the best.
Q. How much has Peyton Ramsey improved their offense?
JEFF BROHM: Well he gives them a lot of experience at that position, and that quarterback position’s very important. You need a guy that can not only manage the game, but make plays, can make good decisions, that can extend the play with his feet. He’s played a lot of football. He’s a coach’s son. And he’s definitely really helped that offense function at a higher level and he’s really done a good job of executing and doing the small things that even when they’re not scoring, I know they have had a turnover here and there, but try to and take care of the ball, make sure that they allow their defense to go out and play.
Q. Different system he played in with at IU, but do you take anything out of the game last year when he played for IU as far as picking up trends or anything like that from him?
JEFF BROHM: Well we have seen him a lot and he’s one of those guys that, like I said, he has a lot of experience, he has a lot of savvy, and that’s because of his background. And you got to find ways to cover receivers. You got to find ways to get a pass rush. You got to find ways to able to hit the quarterback and get in his vision. You got find ways to make him throw in third and long situations instead of third medium and short. There’s a lot of things that we have to do execution-wise, but, yes, we have got to account for him. He can make plays with his feet. He can run to get yards. He can run the zone read and pull it and get around the edge, and he can also scramble and make plays. So he’s got a good, very good mix of ability to throw the football, but yet athleticism to make plays with his feet and those are hard to defend.
Q. With Jack Sullivan, what things do you like about him that he can bring to that position? And what other guys could you potentially rotate in there if George isn’t ready to go on Saturday?
JEFF BROHM: Well, Jack, he’s got some toughness to him. I think he’s hungry. I think he wants to go out there and prove himself. He’s got good length. He’s improved in our system here. Now it’s time to go out there and showcase what he’s about. I think that the desire and the want to is there, and he’s got a great opportunity against a good football team. So he needs to play well. We need to spell him some, you can see Paca in there a little bit and we hope that he can, even though he’s had limited experience, can do some good things when he’s out there, but he hasn’t played a whole lot, so Jack really needs to step up and really do a good job this week.
Q. Obviously the win, the last win you guys had against Northwestern, it came down to special teams. Do you kind of see that playing another factor again? I know we’ve talked about the punt game now, you won on a field goal the last time you guys played. Does it kind of seem like that usually happens against a Pat Fitzgerald team?
JEFF BROHM: Well you got to get an edge somehow and fortunately we have got J.D. Dellinger. He’s been very consistent, especially the last couple years, on his kicks. He’s done a great job for us. Our long snapper has been very solid. You never hear about him because he just does everything right. We got to get our punting game in order. That’s going to be important. We got to punt the football well. And then of course if we can get some return yardage here and there and find a way to do something in that manner or whether it’s a fake or something, something that can give us an advantage, we have got to make sure that we’re always on top of it. So, yes, in these type of games you hope to execute as well as you can, but somehow, some way, you got to get an advantage, and if special teams can do it, even better.
Q. Is your offense kind of at an advantage? Obviously Aidan was in for this game last year. He played pretty well in one of his early starts in his college career. How much does that help scheme-wise for you having a quarterback that’s had experience against this defense?
JEFF BROHM: I don’t know if it helps in that manner. I think it helps that he has experience and he’s been out there and played and he’s done a good job. I think, as you guys can see, he’s got great poise and composure and can stand in there and make throws. We got to do things to execute well. He’s not going to make a ton of plays on his feet, but we got to make sure that we run a balanced attack, we find a way to get some big plays. They did a good job in the second half after we scored the first two times of the ball, mixing things up quite a bit more for Aidan to try to confuse him. So we have got to be able to run the football. We have got to be able to do some things to help him, but Aidan’s got to use that experience and what happened there and use it more wisely. And it’s going to be a combination of things. They’re well coached. They have always done a very good job on defense. This year is no exception. They might even be better than what they have been. And they haven’t given up hardly any points. I think zero in the second half. And you got to work to score on them. It’s tough to get a big play by how they play, and then you got to work it down. And to do that, you can’t make mistakes and have penalties. And Nebraska unfortunately had some false starts and holdings that really hurt them. And we have got to do a job of finding ways to eliminate that or at least minimize it as much as we can.
Q. A question just about Zander. He had another good game a couple weeks ago. A guy of his size, he’s pretty good about getting out there and it takes more than one person to bring him down. You’ve talked about the physicality of Northwestern. So how do you think he’s going to, what have you been working on with him, how have you been, what has been his focus, especially during the bye week to prepare for Northwestern?
JEFF BROHM: Zander’s done a very good job for us and he’s our running back right now and he’s got to carry the load. I think he works extremely hard, he’s strong, he’s physical, he’s got good hands. We want him to run downhill as much as we can. We want him to, as he makes a cut or two and he’s making guys miss, it’s downhill, he’s lowering his pads, he’s going forward, minimize the spin moves and the dancing that is done sometimes by running backs. I think in the last game there was a ball security issue. We’ve worked hard at that and sometimes that can happen. But we have got to minimize it and try to take it away really, and he’s got to really focus hard, and we have had numerous drills with not only his position, but all of them, on the ball security. It’s quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, all the guys that have it in their hands. The small things matter. So I think he’s worked hard at it. He knows where he’s made his mistakes and we need him to go out there and play a really good game.