Final Grades for Purdue, Starting With Rushing Offense

Brady Extin

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — It was a tough season for Purdue when it came to running the ball this year.

To pinpoint the troubles, you have to go all the way back to the offseason. With senior Richie Worship still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in 2017, Purdue lost its next running back, senior Tario Fuller, to a broken jaw just before the season even started. 

With those two expected to split time in the backfield, Purdue coach Jeff Brohm was forced to turn to some inexperienced guys this season, sophomore Zander Horvath and true freshman King Doerue.

Behind an offensive line that seemingly rotated new guys in constantly throughout the first half of the season, the Boilermakers failed to gain traction on the ground, finishing nearly dead last in the NCAA in every major rushing statistics. 

As a team, Purdue failed to break the 1,000-yard mark for the first since 2013 with their 999 yards on the season. Only four other teams in the country failed to rush for 1,000 yards, putting Purdue at No. 126 out of 130 teams in the national rankings. 

Purdue finished ranked No. 126 in yards per carry (2.9) and touchdowns (9) as well. Being ranked that low in the nation, it’s no surprise that the Boilermakers were last in every category in the Big Ten, too.

For the majority of the season, Doerue handled the bulk of the work out of the backfield. As a true freshman — and someone not expected to have a big role in his first season —Doerue struggled at times. His 451 yards and five rushing touchdowns both led the team, but overall, the production just wasn’t there. 

Doerue averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and his biggest flaw came in creating big plays. His longest run on the season was just 26 yards, and his lack of success at breaking off big gains hurt Purdue. It wasn’t a great season for Doerue, but he showed signs of promise in his first year. With added experience under his belt, next year should be better.

The other running back who got plenty of carries was Zander Horvath, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound bulldozer from Mishawaka, Ind. In his time playing, Horvath seemed to run harder  than Doerue but, for some reason, Brohm stuck with Doerue, giving him 130 carries to Horvath’s 79. 

On those 79 carries, Horvath managed 377 yards and two touchdowns, and the majority of that came in the final game last Saturday against Indiana, where it seemed as though Brohm finally gave him the bulk of the workload. 

In that game alone, Horvath ran 23 times for 164 yards and scored his two touchdowns. It was the most yards in a game for Purdue, the best average yards per carry from a Purdue running back all season (7.1) and Horvath also broke off Purdue’s longest run of the season (48 yards).

Between the flip-flopping on the offensive line and injuries to Worship and Fuller, it was a forgettable season for Purdue’s running game. With Horvath gaining confidence from his final performance and with Doerue now experienced at the college level, things should be different for this group in 2020. 

Even if it’s just a small improvement, it will be something, because this was a historically bad season for the Boilermakers. 

Final Grade for Purdue's Rushing Offense: D-minus