One week, you're winning 59-0 and the next, you're losing by 23 points to Purdue.
Yes, that Purdue, the one that has been stuck in the basement of the Big Ten for nearly the entire 2010s decade. But it was evident after a close battle with Louisville that 2017 Purdue would be a major improvement over the Darrell Hazell era.
Jeff Brohm's program dominated at home, under the lights, in front of a packed crowd to beat Ohio 44-21. The Bobcats were hardly ever within reach and failed to continue Purdue's three-game losing skid against the MAC. Here are several takeaways from the lopsided contest at Ross-Ade Stadium:
Both quarterback battles are settled
And neither winner earned the start on Friday night. Sophomore Elijah Sindelar started in favor of David Blough for Purdue. While Sindelar performed fine (4-of-10, 60 yards, one touchdown) by leading Purdue to a 10-0 advantage, it was Blough who shredded Ohio's secondary in West Lafayette.
Blough didn't miss on his passes. He completed 11-of-13 throws, good for 253 yards and three touchdowns. After throwing two picks into Louisville defenders' hands Week 1, Blough remained turnover free at home. He looked comfortable in the pocket and showed great vision, constantly finding the most open receiver on the turf. He completed a flea-flicker, screens, crossing patterns, and almost everything Jeff Brohm called on Friday night. Brohm developed Brandon Doughty and Mike White into star passers at Western Kentucky, so Blough could be the next to board Brohm's train of star gunslingers.
Quinton Maxwell started for Frank Solich's Bobcats. Maxwell played two possessions, finishing 1-of-6 for 12 yards. His throws were inaccurate during his brief appearance and he was unable to gain any semblance of rhythm for the offense. Maxwell didn't exactly star in the running game either, just rushing for three yards on one attempt.
Sophomore Nathan Rourke took over. While Rourke didn't post an outstanding performance, he was solid and remained turnover free. Rourke threw 23 passes, completing 16 for 224 yards and a touchdown. He also added 36 rushing yards on nine carries and frequently ran option plays to the outside bounds of the field. Although possessing less experience, Rourke appears to have won the starting job for Ohio's home game against Kansas for Week 3.
Purdue's offensive line was spectacular
Purdue rushed for 51 yards against Louisville. Knowing Jeff Brohm and his air attack tendencies, I didn't expect Purdue to expand its offense with a deadly running game. But the offensive line paved way for Tario Fuller, who had a career day on the ground. His personal-best 142 yards on just 16 carries led Purdue's unstoppable rushing attack. The Boilermakers out-gained the Bobcats by over 100 yards: 263-160.
The offensive line enhanced the passing game as well. Blough and Sindelar were gifted with plenty of time in the pocket, and they often made great decisions as a result. Ohio, a sack-heavy program in 2016, tallied one sack in the 23-point loss. Purdue's offensive line looked like the typical Big Ten, Wisconsin-esque front-five on Friday night. They were bigger, stronger, and created holes and gaps on the field to make life easier for the Boilermakers' skill position players.
Ohio's defense was exposed
Ohio defeated Hampton 59-0 to open the season. Any time a team forces an opponent to enter the locker room with a donut after a game, that team's defense is usually in great shape. But Ohio could not build upon its stellar opener.
Purdue ball carriers broke numerous tackles. Receivers were as open as an IHOP at 1 a.m. They started off dropping passes, but once they captured their quarterbacks' darts, Purdue's offense became deadly. The two tight ends, Brycen Hopkins and Cole Herdman, especially dominated by drawing mismatches, or in some cases, no defenders. The duo combined for 172 receiving yards and two touchdowns, especially succeeding on racking up yards after the catch.
There was no specific player Ohio's secondary had to key on, because Blough and Sindelar spread the wealth throughout the entire receiving corps. Four different players recorded touchdowns and five Boilermakers caught multiple passes, and no player received more than four.
The Bobcats could not stop the pass nor the run. Purdue could call nearly any play in its playbook and it would be effective. Ohio's defense must recover in time for its second Power Five matchup, against an improved Kansas team — a similar storyline.
The Bobcats collapsed after the fumbles
Without these turnovers, Ohio probably would have lost the game. But yielding 10 quick points to the Boilermakers before the half set the game out of reach.
The Bobcats lost the turnover battle 2-0 after running backs Dorian Brown and A.J. Ouellette fumbled in the late second quarter. Purdue quickly capitalized on both turnovers to transform a 24-7 lead into a 34-7 lead.
But before Ouellette's first fumble, Ohio theoretically had the power to cut the lead to 10 and enter halftime down 24-14. Instead, the Bobcats experienced a 10-point swing, even before fumbling away their ensuing possession. Ouellette's fumble could have been called a horse collar, as the Purdue defender tugged the collar of his jersey before punching the ball out. However, it was not and Ohio suffered a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty immediately after.
Brown's follow-up fumble ended any hope of a comeback. Purdue scored on the very next play with Blough finding a wide open receiver in the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown.
These plays serve as the game's turning point, and Ohio's mistakes were unforgivable. The Bobcats won an entire second half of "garbage time" but this sequence to close the second quarter ultimately handed Ohio its first loss of 2017.
Jeff Brohm is bringing Purdue back to relevance
After a 1-1 start with the program, it is clear that Purdue is a solid football team now. The Boilermakers used to be an easy Power Five win for MAC schools, but the tables have turned with the former WKU coach at the helm in West Lafayette. Brohm led the Hilltoppers to a 30-10 (1-0 in bowl game without him last season) record in three seasons in Bowling Green, KY. In the playoff era, WKU ranks eighth in win percentage and is tied for sixth in total wins. Brohm successfully turned the Hilltoppers from a program struggling to fit in the FBS ranks into a C-USA and Group of Five power.
His next task is transforming Purdue. Brohm's play-calling was fantastic on Friday night. He utilized every player on the offense and wasn't afraid to call trick plays. The flea-flicker worked according to plan and resulted in a wide open Cole Herdman for a 62-yard touchdown. Brohm understands how to run an offense and Purdue's offensive unit performed like a well-functioning machine.
Based on the team's performance against Louisville and the manner in which they annihilated the reigning MAC East champions, the Boilermakers look bound to finally reach the six-win mark. Welcome back, Purdue.