Welcome to Countdown to Kickoff prior to Saturday’s matchup between Purdue and Indiana at Memorial Stadium:
What you need to know – and it’s not all game related.
With Nebraska's win at Iowa, the Boilermakers are back in control of the Big Ten West. A win at Indiana gives Purdue the outright Big Ten West title and a spot in the conference championship game against either Michigan or Ohio State on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.
A Big Ten West title is worth $90,000 to Jeff Brohm
Jeff Brohm wasn’t available Thursday for an injury update but here goes:
Game-time decision: Running back Devin Mockobee (concussion). Attended Wednesday’s practice and did some work.
Out: Defensive tackle Branson Deen (leg), center Gus Hartwig (leg).
Defensive line coach Mark Hagen has experienced each side of the in-state rivalry.
He played at Indiana, scoring a touchdown against the Boilermakers in 1989. Coached at Purdue during two different stops, including the last two seasons. And coached with the Hoosiers.
“I’m 17-10,” Hagen said.
Charlie Jones and Purdue'It’s been the best move for me'
Before last week, Josh Kaltenberger was just another name on the roster to most fans.
Now the redshirt sophomore becomes one of the most important players in Saturday’s matchup and the rest of the season. Kaltenberger moves into the starting center role, replacing Hartwig, who is out for the rest of the season after suffering a leg injury against Northwestern.
Hartwig is currently wearing a cast and will undergo surgery in a couple of weeks.
Kaltenberger did play against the Wildcats, earning some valuable game experience.
“Josh is up to the task so far,” tackle Eric Miller said. “I don’t know if he’s left the building since Sunday. Every time I see him here, ‘Hey, let’s go watch some film. Let’s go watch some IU stuff together.’ He wants to do well, he wants to succeed and he’s putting in the time.”
Miller called the Pennsylvania native “very cerebral” and one of the strongest players in the weight room.
“He’s a smart kid who understands football and it’s time for him to apply it and we’re all ready for him to do it,” Miller said.
Jeff Brohm said Kalterberger attended one of Purdue’s camps where the coaching staff first noticed the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder. He was ranked the No. 8 center in the 2020 recruiting class by ESPN and No. 29 by 247sports.com
“What you weren't sure of was maybe how great of an athlete is he going to be and the potential that he has, but he's smart,” Brohm said. “He can really snap the football effectively, which is very important. We want to continue to see him get better at playing fast, making calls, and reacting to movement up front.
“He knows we need him. He's got to get it done for us. I think he'll take pride in that.”
Tracking Purdue's offense: Dylan Downing, Kobe Lewis keep rushing attack going
Hartwig, though, will be missed. He’s a veteran, an anchor on the offensive line with plenty of experience and not only a leader of the group but of the team. Last week was the Zionsville native’s 27th consecutive start.
“He’s been really good this year,” co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Brohm said. “He’s been really good his career here. He’s a big-time center. He does a great job making the calls and he’s been good at blocking.
“His leadership, his steady hand, his guidance up front will be missed. He’s hard to replace. He’s one of the best players on the team.”
Hartwig also battled through two broken hands this season, sitting out practices during the week.
“He’s the rock in our room,” Miller said. “He’s one of my best friends. It was tough to see him go down. He’s one of the toughest guys on our team. He’s battled through more stuff than anybody ever knew and more than what coach (Jeff) Brohm said the other day.”
One more year
Miller was one of nearly 25 seniors who were honored during Senior Day. Not all of the seniors are eligible to return for another season, but Miller is considering coming back.
“I went through Senior Day just in case,” Miller said. “Having those conversations and making that decision. This place means a lot to me. I could absolutely see myself coming back here and see myself coming back and playing here again.”
When receiver Charlie Jones joined the program, one area where the Boilermakers thought the Iowa transfer would help was with punt returns.
It hasn’t fully materialized through 11 games as Jones is averaging 6.71 yards on 17 returns. Maybe a big play is coming Saturday.
“It’s still an emphasis,” Jones said. “Hopefully, this week I can do something in the return game to help the team out. Every week I’m coming out with the same mindset and hopefully, this is the week I break one.”
If not football
Jones has enough athletic ability to play any sport but stayed with football throughout most of his career. He didn’t really consider another sport.
“I’m happy I don’t have to think about that right now,” Jones said. “I played baseball for a little bit but I wasn’t in love with it. This has always been something that I’ve loved doing and I’m excited to get to do this every day.”
The first two months featured ideal conditions each Saturday, but November has turned ugly with the weather for the Boilermakers and the rest of the Big Ten.
Windy, cold, rain and a few snow showers have been the norm during the last three weeks. The conditions have impacted Purdue’s passing game and made it a challenge to call plays.
“The wind, definitely the Iowa game, was the most windy, and Northwestern was right behind it and then Illinois,” Brian Brohm said. “Three games that had some wind differing miles per hour, differing which direction. This past game (Northwestern), it kind of switched directions at halftime but yeah, it makes it more difficult when you want to throw the ball.”
The Boilermakers fell behind Iowa 17-0 in the second quarter and were forced to lean more on the passing game but built a lead against the Wildcats and were able to feature more of a rushing attack.
“Our strength is being precise in the passing game and the wind makes it harder to do that,” he said. “You need to run the football and sometimes the wind, you want those guys to be a little bit more open and have some room for error when you throw the ball down the field. There were three throws that Aidan normally makes but he didn't. Whether it’s the wind or not, I’m not sure.”
Aidan O'Connell has 63 touchdown passes and is tied with Kyle Orton for fifth in program history. ... Purdue has won seven games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2006 and 2007. ... Payne Durham ranks second in program history with 20 career touchdowns. Dave Young is No. 1 with 27. ... Mockobee is 126 rushing yards from setting the program record for a freshman. It's currently held by Markell Jones, who totaled 875 in 2015.
Mike Carmin covers Purdue sports for the Journal & Courier and USA Today Sports Network. Email email@example.com and follow on Twitter and Instagram @carmin_jc
Purdue (7-4, 5-3) at Indiana (4-7, 2-6)
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Radio: WAZY (96.5)
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Purdue football at Indiana: What you need to know about Old Oaken Bucket rivalry Big Ten West