It's likely sophomore Elijah Sindelar will make his third start of the season Saturday, and this one will be in the most challenging environment the young QB has faced.
Though Coach Jeff Brohm wouldn't announce the starter Thursday — he hasn't all season — Sindelar directed a game-winning drive last week against Minnesota and threw for a season-high 248 yards in relief of David Blough. Sindelar's first two starts were a neutral site game in Indianapolis and a home game: Nothing like Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium, which seats 80,000-plus.
Brohm said he's not hesitant to put a young QB in that environment.
"He’s done a very good job. He did an excellent job for us this past game. He’s definitely showed some signs and making some big throws," Brohm said. "Really, it was good to see him step up."
Purdue didn't pipe crowd noise into practice this week, though it has this season, but it spent time working its silent cadence, Brohm said. That'll likely need to be used Saturday.
By multiple quarterbacks.
Brohm said the plan is to play more than one quarterback against the Badgers but made sure to say, as he usually does when talking about the QB rotation, the plan can change. Unprompted, Brohm mentioned Jared Sparks, whose snaps came exclusively at receiver last week against Minnesota.
"It was good to see Jared Sparks be able to get in there and do some things at receiver because I know he can probably do some things at quarterback," Brohm said, "and depending on how the weather is, all three of them will be available."
Sparks hasn't lined up at quarterback since Week 3 at Missouri.
Purdue likely will be without a key piece to the defense at Wisconsin.
Brohm said he's "not optimistic" about leading tackler and starting linebacker T.J. McCollum, who was injured on the final play against Minnesota. McCollum said Wednesday, "I think I'll be able to come back."
McCollum will at least make the trip to Madison, Brohm said, which leaves the possibility of a gametime decision. If McCollum can't play, true freshman Derrick Barnes is the likely replacement.
Backup slot receiver Terry Wright, who re-injured his right shoulder against the Gophers, likely won't be available Saturday, Brohm said. Nor will running back Tario Fuller (ankle), who hasn't played since Week 3.
The most serious injury news from Thursday, though, is Brohm's revelation of a season-ending knee injury for backup defensive tackle Keiwan Jones. Jones was hurt against Minnesota.
Without Jones, Purdue's interior line depth takes a serious hit. Purdue had been using primarily four defensive tackles, including Jones. Depending on defensive end Austin Larkin's availability — he's nursing an ankle and tried to play last week but didn't last — starting tackle Gelen Robinson could be called to play some end, which means Lorenzo Neal and Eddy Wilson are the only other DTs with experience. Purdue has played only two other tackles this season — Anthony Watts and Raymond Ellis — and they have, unofficially, only four snaps apiece.
• Storms are expected Saturday in Madison, and that could limit Purdue's offensive game plan. Or at least have it be similar to last week when QBs threw mostly short passes in the wind and rain.
Brohm said after the Minnesota game he was "kind of disappointed" Purdue hadn't completed any passes up the field before the delay, but he backed off that Thursday.
"If I said that, it was wishful thinking. Looking back on it, I don’t think we would have been as efficient, even without the wind," Brohm said. "It’s just not our strength to this point. When it got a little windy, then it definitely wasn’t. I think we definitely did a better job of trying to get some completions, move the chains, finding a few ways to win vs. man coverage. I think our quarterbacks did a good job of tucking it and running it early when we got man coverage, that kind of took them off it a little bit. We gave a couple different looks and a couple different motions that kind of confused them, especially for the first easy touchdown. That one scared them from man a little bit, so you’ve got to make sure you do those things.
"We’re working hard at improving the vertical passing game, but we’ve just got to stick with it and still find ways to move the chains."
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