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Ten things you need to know about Purdue's 35-7 loss at Penn State

MORE: Jeff Brohm postgame video | blog | Plummer, Hermanns, Smiley postgame videos | The 3-2-1: Purdue-Penn State | Podcast: Purdue loses to Penn State | Final thoughts: Penn State loss

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Here are 10 things to know from Purdue’s 35-7 loss to Penn State.

1. It could be a long year. No, that isn’t a news flash. Still, we have see enough to know that this is a flawed Boilermaker squad that is too young and too beat up to likely achieve big things. Still, the schedule softens a bit moving forward. So, hope floats. And you don’t want to make any grand assumptions coming off a lopsided loss to a very good Penn State squad. I asked Jeff Brohm if this was the best club he had faced so far in 2019.

“Yes, I think so,” he said. “I think when we watched video of them this week, I knew they were gonna be good. They were better on video than I thought they would be. Just watching and listening, probably one of the best teams they have had in awhile. Loaded on defense with good-looking athletes. Big, run, hit, tackle, look the part. A secondary that plays active. And they mix in a lot of different calls. On offense, they do a good job of executing. Spreading the ball around. It wasn’t until we gave them a bunch of different looks were we able to stop them.”

2. Purdue hasn’t been afraid to try new things in the midst of its struggles. Today, the staff flipped fifth-year senior Matt McCann and redshirt freshman Will Bramel, with McCann moving to right tackle and Bramel to right guard. McCann had played tackle for much of his career but has been exclusively a guard so far in 2019 prior to today. But before the end of the first half, Bramel and McCann were back at their normal spots, and Penn State had seven sacks at intermission. Sophomore walk-on Sam Garvin got some reps at center, with redshirt freshmen Jimmy McKenna (left guard) and Eric Miller (right tackle) also seeing time. Left tackle Grant Hermanns was the only lineman who played the same spot all game.

“We maxed protected,” said Jeff Brohm. “We ran some screens. Tried to throw it deep. Moved the pocket a little bit. Mix in some runs. It was bad execution. Credit goes to them. We knew they were good on defense. Good front, good linebackers. Secondary was active and you can be that way when you have good push up front. So, we have to get a whole lot better. Took too many sacks at quarterback even though we got pressure. Still, we can’t take that many sacks. We got exposed.”

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3. Jack Plummer showed a lot of guts and heart today. Time and again, he came under fire from stalwart Penn State ends Shaka Toney and Yetur Gross-Matos. Toney had three sacks at halftime. Still, Plummer often stood strong and did his best to deliver under very trying circumstances. This whole experience will make him better.

“He hung in there and played hard,” said Jeff Brohm. “I don’t think he played great. Took too many sacks. Now looking at the video, there probably are some times I don’t know what else he can do other than chuck it into the stands right away.”

4. The defense didn’t make much—if any—progress from last week’s debacle vs. Minnesota. The Nittany Lions ripped off myriad big plays, covering 72, 48, 20 and 23 yards and built a 28-7. But then the second half happened, with the D tightening and allowing just seven points.

“I thought we regrouped on defense, got more aggressive in our approach, started to blitz more, started to show blitz more and back out of it and be a little more creative,” said Jeff Brohm. "That is what we are gonna have to do on defense in order to succeed. We can’t play base defense and get away with it. We are gonna get exposed. It was good to see us improve as the game went on."

5. Purdue’s receiving unit is perilously thin. There were no true freshmen TJ Sheffield or Milton Wright for a group that already was without sophomore Rondale Moore. The Boilermakers had to lean on true freshman David Bell, junior Jackson Anthrop and redshirt freshman Amad Anderson. Redshirt freshmen Kory Taylor and Jordan Bonner even took some reps.

“TJ is going to be out a while,” said Jeff Brohm. “And Milton, 50-50 for this week. But TJ will be out a good while. We had Mershawn Rice ready to go and he got hurt on Thursday. Pulled a hamstring, so he was out. Hopefully, he’ll get back in the mix. He had a good week of practice until he did that.”

6. The tight end spot continues to be a non-factor. Fifth-year senior Brycen Hopkins caught four passes vs. TCU, and then was shutout vs. Minnesota. Redshirt freshman Payne Durham last caught a pass vs. Vanderbilt. Hopkins had some issues throwing up in a few games earlier this season. He looked fine today and did make a catch, as did Durham.

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7. That life Purdue showed in the run game last week vs. Minnesota when it gained a season-high 123 yards? It was gone today. The Boilermakers had nowhere to run on this day in State College, Pa. Purdue finished with - 19 yards rushing on 28 carries. Ten sacks crushed that figure.

“On offense, we couldn’t get anything going,” said Jeff Brohm. “Got knocked back quite a bit in the run game. Same thing in the passing game. So, just a bad day of execution against a good football team. We’ll have to learn from it and have to get better.”

8. Purdue entered this game as a 28-point underdog. And, for a while, it looked like this one could get as ugly as Penn State’s last game: A 59-0 win at Maryland. The Boilermakers trailed 28-7 at halftime. But they played well in the second half. The defense showed some life by blanking the Nittany Lions in the third quarter.

"We got more aggressive, we showed some all out blitz looks, cover zero, walk them all up," said Jeff Brohm. "When you do that, it puts the offense on its heels. And that’s what happened. And it was very productive. And unfortunately, the offense couldn’t get anything going. Had a big play early on to set us up. But other than that, couldn’t move the chains. There’s a lot of work to do."

9. The secondary remains an issue. Purdue supplanted sophomores Kenneth Major and Dedrick Mackey as starting corners with redshirt freshmen Cory Trice and Jordan Rucker. But Rucker got hurt right away and was replaced by Mackey. True freshman Jalen Graham was the nickel, a role junior Simeon Smiley typically plays.

10. The season begins now for Purdue. Yes, the Boilermakers are 1-4, having lost three in a row. A visit from Maryland looms next Saturday for Homecoming. The Terrapins are having issues, too. This is a game the Boilermakers need to win—and can win—if they want any shot at reversing the direction of this season. It has to start next Saturday. It’s a must win.

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