Jeff Brohm | Purdue football
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Passionate Brohm will battle Nebraska with roster compromised by opt outs

It was a simple question. And it drew a passionate response from Jeff Brohm.

Riding a three-game losing streak amid a season rife with the challenges of a pandemic and with just a handful of game remaining, does the fourth-year Purdue coach think his team is still hungry?

“Well, I hope so,” said Brohm after practice on Thursday. “And I think they are. Without question, when you lose, when you lose some tough games, you take a hit. You're gonna temporarily lose some confidence. There’s nothing not natural about that. Like I told our team, that's going to linger for a day or two. And then you've got to get back to going to work. And it's not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be something you can just snap your fingers and show up on the field. You don't want to take the field and just keep looking at the scoreboard, hoping that the clock runs out and you win. No, you want to actually play the game and when the clock runs out, you want to play more. And that's the attitude we got to have."

Purdue (2-3) is looking for something, anything, to spark it on to a strong finish beginning with Saturday’s visit from Nebraska (1-4). As Brohm spoke on Thursday, the fire and passion was apparent in his voice.

“We got to back to just wanting to compete, wanting to play football, not worrying about the scoreboard, not looking up there and wondering how we're going to keep this lead or can we come back,” said Brohm. “But that's not how you play. So, there's sometimes those thoughts will linger in your head, that's without question. So, it's not unnatural. But you got to be mentally tough enough to understand. This is how you have to go about it in order to have a chance to win. And I'm hopeful our team will go out there and compete, fight, play hard and really want to win.”

If the Boilermakers are going to beat the Cornhuskers for a third time in a row, they will have to do it with a compromised roster. Brohm confirmed a report earlier this week that sophomore wideout Amad Anderson, Jr., is in the transfer portal. This after Brohm said on Monday that fifth-year senior wideout Jared Sparks has opted out.

“Normally when guys opt out, it's for personal reasons,” said Brohm. “It means they've opted out for the season, but they're still on scholarship. Beyond that, we’ll have conversations with those guys and all of our players moving forward. That’s all I take it as of right now.

“I would guess Jared, he’s a graduate. I would not anticipate him coming back … “

The Boilermakers have had players beyond Anderson and Sparks who have left.

“There’s been a handful of guys opt out that we’ll be missing on Saturday,” said Brohm.

Are they COVID-related?

“Well, you know, it's all personal reasons and there's always a little of this and a little of that to it, so I don't wanna get into the specifics,” said Brohm. “But, yeah, we've had multiple people.”

Has one position been impacted more than another?

“Well, I'd rather not be as specific,” said Brohm. “I think you can probably look at the depth chart and figure it out. … “

For the second week in a row, junior quarterback Aidan O’Connell won’t be dressed. Brohm said he will be out the rest of the year and have surgery. UCLA grad transfer Austin Burton is No. 2 behind Jack Plummer.

MORE INVOLVED WITH SPECIAL TEAMS AND DEFENSE

The struggles on defense and special teams were obvious in recent weeks.

Last week, Purdue allowed a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The week before, two field goals were missed. The punting and return games have been spotty. The defense has had issues getting off the field on third downs the last three weeks. And the defense has just one takeaway and one sack in that span.

To that end, Brohm says he was more involved with both areas this week.

"Yes, that's correct," he said.

"I don't want to give too many specifics. I know it's important to allow your coaches to coach. I've always been that way. I want our coaches to feel like they can be comfortable doing what they believe in and what we've worked.

"At the same time, you've got to evaluate everything and make sure that, you know, you're doing right by all, right by the players. Without question, it's always going to be important that the head coach stays on top of everything. But I know our coaches work hard, and it's important that every week, including this past week, we make corrections. And we're willing to figure things out and just put our players in the best position to succeed."

NO DERRICK BARNES IN FIRST HALF. WHO STEPS IN?

Purdue will be without arguably its best defensive player in the first half, as senior linebacker Derrick Barnes is out after being flagged for targeting in the second half of last week's loss to Rutgers.

With Barnes out, look for Semisi Fakasiieiki and Kieren Douglas to step in, according to Brohm.

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