Final Grades: Inexperienced Passing Defense Took Its Lumps All Season
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue’s pass defense, like most other areas on the team, had its fair share of struggles throughout the season.
Unlike the other groups though, their problems didn’t stem from injuries, but more from a lack of experience. Outside of veterans Brennan Thieneman, Simeon Smiley, and Navon Mosley, the secondary was filled with freshmen and sophomores.
Dedrick Mackey and Kenneth Major, both sophomores, handled the cornerback positions with freshman Cory Trice seeing playing time as well. Two other freshmen played key roles for the group, with Cam Allen playing safety and Jalen Graham playing the nickel position.
With all of the inexperience in that area of the defense, opposing teams had an easy go of it throwing against Purdue. On average, the Boilermakers allowed 243 yards per game, ranking them 13th out of 14 teams in the Big Ten. The 20 touchdowns and 130.4 opposing quarterback rating were also near the bottom of the conference, proving the struggles that Purdue had stopping the pass.
Nearly every team that Purdue played had success throwing the football. Purdue’s best performance in terms of yards allowed came against Illinois, where they gave up just 26, but that can't really count because of the horrible weather conditions that day that turned it into a total running game.
The best game for the secondary came midway through the season in a win over Maryland. The Terrapins threw for just 208 yards and were intercepted twice, with one being returned for a touchdown.
Their other two good showings came near the end of the season. In two November games against Wisconsin and Northwestern, the Boilermakers allowed just 203 and 184 yards, respectively. That streak ended in the season finale when they allowed Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey to throw for 337 yards.
The one area that did thrive for the Purdue pass defense was the pass rush. Defensive ends George Karlaftis and Derrick Barnes did a great job of disrupting opposing quarterbacks. Both finished tied for the team lead in sacks with 7.5 and stepped up for a defense that was injured and young.
Those two return next season and should be able to bother offenses once again, opening up room for the secondary to hopefully make some plays.