Purdue has a chance to really put its opening-week loss at Nevada on the back burner when it hosts TCU on Saturday night in West Lafayette.
The Boilermakers used a career night from star sophomore wide receiver Rondale Moore (154 fourth-quarter yards) to pull away from Vanderbilt and claim a 42-24 victory in their home opener last Saturday.
It was a much-needed win after they blew a 17-point lead and committed five turnovers at Nevada the week before. Jeff Brohm’s team bounced back and was able to close out a game against an SEC squad, and it will have to be ready to play another strong final 15 minutes this week when Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs arrive for a non-conference tilt at Ross-Ade.
If Purdue is going to be in position to close TCU out late, Moore needs to continue to be used even more in a variety of ways in this offense.
Vandy did a good job of limiting his effectiveness through 45 minutes of play. When the Commodores cut their deficit to 12 points, quarterback Elijah Sindelar connected with Moore on three passes totaling 75 yards to complete a touchdown drive that gave the Boilers a 19-point lead once again. Those 75 yards accounted for the entire scoring drive.
After the ‘Dores cut their deficit to 11 with under 10 minutes to play, Sindelar went back to Moore and connected on a 70-yard completion to set up another score and ice the victory.
Yes, Moore is a one-man show at times. His 220 receiving yards against Vandy was the third-most in Purdue history. Brohm can line him up anywhere on the field to create mismatches as he has shown in the team’s first two games this year.
The 2018 All-American caught 114 passes for 1,258 yards with 12 touchdowns and two rushing scores last season. It’s very early, of course, but he is on pace for a 2,000-yard campaign through two games this year.
We have seen Moore move all over the field, and that needs to continue no matter who is under center. He can line up on the outside, in the slot and in the backfield. Don’t be surprised to see the Boilers use more stacked formations with Moore on the outside as well as jet sweeps and anything else involving Moore going in motion from the backfield. Moving him around is also beneficial because it forces the defense to take their eyes off of other options, potentially opening up the offense for more explosive plays downfield.
Moore gives you an additional bonus because there is also the possibility of a big play on special teams. With an opponent as difficult as TCU, a big return by Moore may be needed and could be an X-factor.
The major issue facing Purdue right now is the health of Sindelar, who was diagnosed with what Brohm termed a “slight concussion.” The quarterback went to the medical tent after his 7-yard run late in the Vandy game and must now go through the concussion protocol before team doctors allow him back on the field. In two games this season, the Big Ten’s offensive player of the week has thrown nine touchdowns and three interceptions, and he leads the country with 932 yards through the air. He is coming off of a career-high 509 yards and five passing touchdowns against the Commodores.
Sindelar has a chance to improve this week and get cleared to play. If he does, it certainly increases Purdue’s chances of beating a Big 12 opponent and taking some of the sting away from blowing that big lead against Nevada in Week 1. If he is unable to go, though, redshirt freshman Jack Plummer would start. The highly-touted recruit from Arizona has not yet thrown a college pass. That’s a tough ask of a signal-caller facing a Horned Frogs defense that will have had two weeks of prep under Gary Patterson and his staff as TCU had a bye last week.
On the other side of the ball, Purdue will have to be ready for TCU’s two-quarterback system featuring senior Alex Delton and freshman Max Duggan. The Horned Frogs want to spread opposing defenses out and take advantage of mismatches in space. There’s a good chance this contest will turn into a bit of a shootout, making Sindelar’s health even more of an issue.
Still, if Purdue is going to beat TCU and gather momentum for the Big Ten season, No. 4 has to have another big night. That’s become sort of the expectation each week Moore and his Purdue teammates take the field, but a big performance by the star receiver would be even more essential if the Boilermakers are without their prolific quarterback on Saturday.