There’s no sugar coating it: Purdue’s offense – even with some decent play makers - just hasn’t been very good. The Boilermakers have played a relatively soft schedule this year, compared to some of the other programs in the Big Ten, and still have only managed to win three games. Purdue could only scrape up seven points in a loss to Maryland and 14 in a loss to Northwestern. Purdue has had its chances on offense, but have immense difficulty in finishing drives and avoiding turnovers.
Sophomore David Blough quarterbacks an offense that is averaging 309.2 passing yards per game to lead the Big Ten conference and rank 18th nationally. Blough has completed 257 of his 442 pass attempts, which amounts to an average 58.1 percent completion percentage. Blough ranks fifth in the country with an average of 25.7 completions per game, has thrown 21 touchdowns and is the only quarterback to have a 400-yard passing game in conference this season. But Blough has thrown 16 interceptions, including five against Cincinnati and at least one in the last six games.
On the ground, sophomore tailback Markell Jones holds team-best numbers in carries (123) and yards (551). With the amount Purdue throws the football, however, the running game averages only 104.1 yards per game, 124th out of 128 division 1 teams. Blough actually leads the team in rushing scores this season with four, one better than Jones’ three scores on the year.
Meanwhile, senior receiver DeAngelo Yancey is Purdue’s main threat in the air and has proven to be tough to handle. Yancey leads the team in catches (37), yards (718) and touchdowns (seven). Top 20 in receptions and top 10 in receiving yards in Purdue history, eight of Yancey’s 17 touchdowns have been at least 45 yards, while seven have been at least 50 yards.
Bilal Marshall had his first career 100-yard receiving game, hauling in seven catches for 102 yards and a score in last week’s loss to Northwestern. Purdue has six players with at least 29 receptions on the season, so the Boilermakers have the ability to stretch the field.
Purdue’s season has been loaded with defensive woes once again. Saturday’s match-up may be one of the most lopsided you’ll see when comparing defenses. While Wisconsin’s defense has done an excellent job at being consistent and disciplined, the Boilermakers have given up at least 30 points in seven games. Many like to say that the stats don’t lie, but Purdue ranks 100th in pass efficiency defense, 113th in total defense and 124th in rushing defense.
No defense is without a bright spot or two and one key contributor for Purdue is redshirt freshman linebacker Markus Bailey. Bailey, who is listed as starting at the Will spot in Purdue’s linebacker corps, leads the team with 80 tackles while having a team-best two interceptions on the year. With the status of middle linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (40 tackles, 8 TFLs) unknown for Saturday, Bailey might have to shoulder a bigger load.
Junior defensive end Gelen Robinson is a hard-hitting player that could pose a problem if overlooked. Robinson has three sacks on the year and 47 total tackles. Senior defensive end Evan Panfil is a physical specimen at 6-5, 270 pounds and has shown that he is more than capable of wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines in the past. Panfil leads the Boilermakers with five sacks on the year, but has only recorded 26 total tackles. Purdue should also get a boost with senior Jake Replogle (head) expected to return after a one-week absence. Replogle has amassed 143 career tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, three PBUs, a blocked field goal and a fumble recovery in his career but has been limited to six games this year due to injuries.
Purdue’s secondary has struggled mightily and fails to make many big plays on the ball. The Boilermakers have been outscored by a combined 118-17 in the second half of the last four games – all losses.