Jeff Brohm is doing one heck of a coaching job this season.
Purdue may be under .500 at 4-6, but the last two Saturdays have shown that this team competes week in and week out.
This past weekend in Evanston, the Boilermakers battled back from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit behind 14 catches, 115 yards and a score from David Bell and 271 passing yards from Aidan O’Connell, who made his first career start after Elijah Sindelar (broken left collarbone) and Jack Plummer (broken right ankle) were felled by injuries. The former walk-on led the go-ahead scoring drive late to hand Northwestern its seventh straight loss.
O’Connell was emotional on the sideline after the victory. The Illinois native, who struggled in the first half but rallied over the final 30 minutes against the Wildcats, had family waiting for him outside of Purdue’s locker room after the game.
Meanwhile, Bell earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for the third time after his strong performance. His 14 catches were the most by a Boilers first-year player since at least 1997 and tied for the most by a Big Ten wide receiver this season.
Sure, Purdue hasn’t defeated the strongest of teams over the last two weeks. But the players could have easily packed it in once the season started to go south. But they rallied and battled, showing the resilience that their head coach has been preaching.
Under dire circumstances against Nebraska and Northwestern, the Boilermakers fought back from deficits to notch back-to-back wins. They did so in dramatic fashion as well with late-game finishes despite dealing with numerous injuries, the most notable being Sindelar, who opened the season as the team’s starter; Plummer, who had started the next five games; and All-American receiver Rondale Moore. Meanwhile, the defense has been missing star linebacker Markus Bailey since early in the season and defensive end Lorenzo Neal, who has missed the entire campaign.
Purdue will have a chance to heal up a little bit because the team is off this week before returning to action on November 23. While it’s tough to envision a bowl trip because the closing stretch is difficult (at Wisconsin, vs. Indiana), this is a resilient group that should never be counted out.
The tough season began with a loss at Nevada in the season-opening game and featured an 18-point setback to Illinois. But this is also the same team that hung around with Iowa. Consistency has been an issue, but that will happen to a group dealing with so many injuries.
What hasn’t been an issue is its collective fighting spirit, which has especially been on display in the latter moments of games the past two weeks. That’s coaching. Brohm and his staff have kept the players together through difficult patches this season, and it’s paying off now and will continue to do so into the future.