More: First Look: Minnesota
After every game, Jeff Brohm and his coaching staff chart all Purdue's plays and analyze the results.
Which calls worked? Which didn't? Why did or didn't they?
And then they discuss the findings as a staff.
Often, those sessions of studying themselves, as Brohm called it, reiterate what the coaches initially thought as the game was happening.
Take Michigan, for example. Brohm, the offensive play caller, realized Purdue needed to get back to running the ball better, needed to dial up more completions for the quarterbacks. But they didn't get to either one. On defense, co-coordinator and play caller Nick Holt and co-coordinator Anthony Poindexter realized when they called a man coverage, most often that's when Michigan was breaking free and converting big plays.
But what the bye last week provided was for the coaching staff to really delve into their own team, picking apart what they liked and what they haven't through the season's first four games.
And it'll likely alter their plans going forward, starting with Saturday's game against Minnesota.
"It is important to get an idea of what you’re good at," Brohm said Monday during his weekly press conference, "and the things you’re not, either not do it as much or figure out a way to get better. I think we tried to do that as much as we could this past week, all of our coaches."
On offense, Brohm’s concerns about the passing game were just affirmed against the Wolverines as Purdue’s outside receivers struggled at times against the coverage, the offensive line failed to keep the quarterbacks from getting hit and the line couldn’t combine with the backs to generate many yards on the ground.
In Purdue’s two victories this season against Ohio and Missouri, the line was physical and the running backs benefitted, as the team rushed for 263 and 205 yards. Against Louisville and Michigan — generally speaking, much more stout defenses — Purdue had only 81 yards total. But it also didn’t push it, attempting only 41 rushes, and only 23 of those were by running backs.
Brohm said Monday Purdue simply doesn't have the tools to rely on the passing game to win at this point. That means a potential tweak in approach.
"For us right now, as aggressive as we’d like to be, we’re going to have to run the football and we’re going to have to control it a little bit more and be smart in the way we attack things," Brohm said. "When we did call some play-action shots (against Michigan), if we did get open, we were sacked. I don’t like sacks. And our quarterback doesn’t like them. Any time he gets hit a lot, it’s going to affect him. He got hit too much. That’s on me. We’ve got to be smarter with the passing game.
"We’ve got to find ways to get it out quicker, even when we’ve got press coverage and man and we’ve got guys up on us, which we worked hard at and we’re trying to get more and better ideas to make sure we’re utilizing all of them. But we’ve got to be a little more committed to running the ball. Our runners and our offensive line have to give us some plays. If you’re able to run the ball, you’re going to have a better chance."
Purdue's defense largely has been solid this season, allowing only 21.8 points and 132.0 rushing yards per game. The Boilermakers, in part, have kept that latter number low by playing a one-high safety look to allow another player in the box to stop the run and playing a zone defense. But Holt has mixed up coverages this season, using some man, and it's an important balance to keep.
To stay unpredictable going forward, though, Purdue likely will need to rep more man coverage in practice to keep getting better — and that includes the linebackers in coverage against the tight ends, which is one specific area the Boilermakers struggled against the Wolverines.
"We’ve got to get better in making sure when we do call (man) we’re more disciplined," Brohm said. "I think we bit on some run fakes at times (against Michigan). We’ve got to make sure we have the proper leverage. We allowed some guys to get inside of us and run across the field when we should not have. Really, that’s what hurt us. Man coverage, when we charted plays that were not successful, that’s when they were.
"That’s something we’ve got to work hard at — because you have to run some of it. There’s got to be a balance and a mix, but we’ve got to get better when we do man coverage."
It's likely the starting units that'll need to make the most strides.
Purdue doesn't have much depth and though Brohm said he'd like to rotate in more offensive linemen and keep giving the D-line starters a breather, those are probably the only groups that could see much change. And, already, Purdue has been rotating its guards, using Mike Mendez and Bearooz Yacoobi for Shane Evans and Matt McCann. On the D-line, Keiwan Jones, Antoine Miles, Eddy Wilson and Kai Higgins have gotten snaps, too. Wilson, really, is getting starter-type snaps despite coming off the bench for Lorenzo Neal.
"I like the effort. I don’t think you’ll see a whole lot of different personnel changes, other than some slight mixes here and there," Brohm said.
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