Purdue didn't actually practice in the rain this week — the showers missed their afternoon sessions. But Coach Jeff Brohm still made sure to prepare in case the Boilermakers play in the rain that's expected to continue into Saturday.
On Thursday, Brohm said he had the skill position players, among others, work on drills with wet footballs.
Brohm joked he'd prefer it not rain, but without any control over the weather, he had to make sure his team was prepared.
"It’s unfortunate, but we’re going to have to deal with it," he said. "So our skill guys worked with the wet ball drill at the beginning of practice, receivers, center-quarterback exchange, the people where it really matters the most. We’ve got to make sure we take care of it. It could easily happen on a grass field, it could be even more wet. Those type of games, you really have to do the small things and those things, turnovers and ball security, will get you beat.
"So we worked it (Thursday), and hopefully we’re ready in case it happens on Saturday."
Purdue's most recent experience playing in a consistent downpour — depending on the forecast, there's a consistent chance of rain through Saturday afternoon, with kickoff at 3:30 p.m., into early evening — was last season at Maryland. Purdue’s offense struggled to protect David Blough in that game, losing in a blowout.
Two years ago at Michigan State in a heavy rain, Markell Jones delivered his breakout game, so to speak, as the then-freshman rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns in a narrow loss to the ranked Spartans. Blough completed 15-of-31 passes for 136 yards and a TD in that game.
One of Brohm’s most iconic games as a quarterback came in a December game with rain and sleet. In the 1993 Liberty Bowl, Brohm played with a plate and pins in an injured index finger on his throwing hand and yet still was the game’s MVP, leading Louisville to a victory over Michigan State. Brohm completed 19-of-29 passes and threw the go-ahead touchdown.
“In those type of games, it really is about finding a way to make some plays, not turning the ball over, playing tough, finding a way to just hang in there ’til the end,” Brohm said. “Sometimes a few more crazy things will happen with the football, on both sides of the ball, you’ve just got to try to minimize it as much as you can. But it’ll be a tough, physical football game, and that’s how Minnesota is going to want to play it. We’re going to have to match that intensity and try to even do more in order to win. I’m sure it’ll be a fourth-quarter game.”
Running back update
On Monday, Brohm seemed optimistic that Markell Jones would return to the field but considered Tario Fuller a "long shot."
Turns out his early-week indications were right on.
Brohm said this season's leading rusher Fuller, who has an ankle injury, is out. Jones, who led the team in rushing the past two seasons, is not.
"Markell is healthy and ready to go, and we’re looking forward to getting him out there," Brohm said.
It's unclear whether Jones would slip back into the starting lineup. In the season opener — the last game Jones played — Purdue started two backs, Jones and Fuller. Last week without either player, Purdue opened the game against Michigan with a trick play and no running back on the field. It's possible Richie Worship could get the start Saturday — he got the most snaps among backs against the Wolverines — but regardless of who starts, it's likely to expect Jones, D.J. Knox and Brian Lankford-Johnson to be factors in the backfield, too.
Brohm was asked about the health of his team in general for Saturday, and he was pleased at the progress the team has made since entering last week's bye.
"I feel like a lot of our guys have gotten healthier. Eighty to 90 percent of them, I think, are fully ready to go and looking forward to getting out there," he said. "The others may take a little longer but, in general, quite a few people have gotten back. I think it’s important we start with a bang this game, come out and play physical for four quarters. But it’s good to have some of those guys healthy."
Brohm said Fuller's ankle "could take a little while." It's likely defensive end Austin Larkin, who also is nursing an ankle injury, will miss the game, too.
Both teams will wear helmet stickers honoring former Purdue coach Joe Tiller, who died last weekend.
The Boilermakers will tweak the gold helmets — they got rid of any white outlines to the motion P this year — and go back with more of what Brohm called a traditional Tiller helmet. They also will potentially offer a change-up to the uniforms.
"Black jerseys," Brohm said when asked of the uniform combination, "and I think we’re trying to get a little bit more of the throwback feel for when Coach Tiller coached."
But honoring Tiller isn't just about what the Boilermakers will wear — or about all the tributes that are planned.
"We’ve got to honor him by playing the game he would want us to play, playing to win, overachieving, figuring out ways to score points and make it fun and exciting like he did," Brohm said. "That’s the best way we can honor him as players and coaches is figure out a way to win this football game."
Brohm's 12-year-old son Brady is 2-for-2 heading into Big Ten matchups of getting mentions by opposing coaches.
Brady Brohm met most of them at the conference's media day this summer, but he'd had established previous contact with then-Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck, now the Gophers' head coach, Fleck said earlier this week.
Brady Brohm is a "football lover," his dad said, so he's always seeking out knowledge about the game.
"We give Brady some heck for it," Jeff Brohm joked about Brady's admiration for Fleck. "He’s a football fanatic. (But) he’ll have his gold and black on on Saturday."
Before Purdue's Big Ten opener against Michigan, Jim Harbaugh mentioned Brady Brohm when asked about Jeff Brohm and complimented the youngster.
"I think all of the Big Ten coaches, other than myself, rank higher than me on his list," Jeff Brohm joked of Brady. "That’s OK. He always makes me prove myself every year, so we’ll see if we can do something about that."
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