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Report Card: Purdue Pulled Away at the Right Time in 30-21 Win Over Oregon State

Purdue football started its 2021 season as a favorite against Oregon State on Saturday. Despite a close contest, the team executed in key moments, especially on the defensive side of the ball. A look at the Boilermakers' first report card of the year.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue football may not have aced all of its assignments leading up to the final of Saturday's season-opening game against Oregon State at Ross-Ade Stadium, but it made the adjustments necessary to come away with a 30-21 victory even when the tests were challenging.

There were moments where the Boilermakers came dangerously close to potentially letting a poor Pac-12 team sneak away with a lead in front of a home crowd.

The defense stifled Oregon State throughout the game, providing consistent effort and aggression despite giving up some big plays. The offense didn't exactly take advantage, with a few missed opportunities costing the team a much bigger lead.

It may not have been the prettiest game Purdue has ever played, and it may have left something to be desired, but the most important thing here is that the team found a way to rally together for the win. After all four of its losses came by 10 points or less last season, it was paramount for coach Jeff Brohm and the program to start 2021 with a victory.

I think the Boilermakers will be happy with their Week 1 report card, but there's still plenty to work on:

Passing Offense

Junior quarterback Jack Plummer got the first season-opening start of his career, and he had no shortage of opportunities to execute Purdue's potent passing offense. He put up all the numbers you would expect of a Boilermaker quarterback, throwing for 313 yards and two touchdowns.

While junior wide receiver David Bell was the leading receiver for Purdue on the night, Plummer did not force the ball to him by any means. Bell led the team with 12 targets, catching eight of them for 134 yards, but Plummer completed passes to seven different receivers against Oregon State.

Purdue was excellent at spreading the football around, giving multiple players opportunities to make plays on Saturday. Plummer was also an efficient 29-of-41 through the air, good for a 70.7% completion rate.

His biggest quarter came when it mattered most, as Plummer completed eight of his nine passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth. Junior tight end Payne Durham was the beneficiary of those passes, reaching the end zone on both occasions to put Purdue ahead for good.

Durham finished the game with seven catches for 120 yards. However, he did put a slight damper on transfer wide receiver Broc Thompson's first game as a Boiler. Thompson caught one pass for 17 yards on the night, but a pass interference penalty by Durham negated a second catch, which would have gone for a big gain.

Overall, it was a solid performance from the passing game. Plummer was accurate, he threw to multiple receivers and the team came away with multiple big plays.

Grade: A

Rushing Offense

Brohm emphasized a commitment to improving the Purdue running game throughout the offseason. The team was last in the Big Ten in 2020 by averaging 81.5 rushing yards per game. Although the Boilermakers tried to balance its passing attack with a bevy of rushing attempts, it didn't prove to be extremely effective on Saturday.

Purdue finished the game with 33 total carries for 88 yards — an abysmal 2.7 yards per attempt. Fifth-year senior running back Zander Horvath was the only Boilermaker to tote the ball more than five times.

While Horvath put up a solid 81 rushing yards on 21 carries, which was highlighted by an 11-yard touchdown scamper, he couldn't muster many big plays on the ground. His score and a 24-yard gain on the first play of the second half were his only runs that went for double-digits.

Junior running back King Doerue added five carries for seven yards, and the two backs were only dropped for negative yardage on three rushes combined.

It was tough for any Purdue runner to turn the corner to pick up yards, leaving the Boilermakers calling several inside rushing attempts. The commitment to the run game was nice, especially in an attempt at a balanced offensive scheme, but the execution will have to improve sooner rather than later.

Grade: C+

Passing Defense

For as many good plays the Purdue secondary had against Oregon State, there were plenty of negatives. The Beavers' passers completed 21 of their 38 combined passes for 285 and no touchdowns, while the Boilermakers managed an interception in the second quarter.

Junior safety Cam Allen snatched a pass away from Oregon State quarterback Sam Noyer, setting up Purdue with a field goal at the end of the first half. As a team, the Boilermakers recorded six total pass breakups, and none were more important than junior cornerback Cory Trice's deflection on fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter.

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However, the secondary was also responsible for multiple huge passing plays down the field. Five different Beaver receivers caught a pass that went for 20 yards or more. Cornerbacks and safeties were quick to bite on pump fakes and double moves, including Trice.

The secondary certainly followed the defensive mantra of aggressiveness, but it's a unit that will have to be more consistent in the future. There are improvements to be made, but it was a good foundation for the rest of the season.

Grade: B

Rushing Defense

The defensive line for the Boilermakers was one of the most dominant groups of the game against the Beavers. They allowed just 78 rushing yards on 25 carries, with Oregon State's longest attempt going for just 11 yards.

Both of Oregon State's touchdowns were on the ground, but they were carries taken inside the 10-yard line after being set up by explosive plays through the air.

There isn't much to say about the rushing defense, other than it did its job with ease. The relentless effort and aggressive pursuit of the football was something we expected to see, and it's exactly what we saw.

Grade: A

Special Teams

A pair of newcomers hit the field on the special teams for Purdue against Oregon State on Saturday, performing their duties to perfection. Samford transfer kicker Mitchell Fineran was 3-for-3 on the night, booting field goals of 22, 39 and 48 yards straight down the middle.

Australian punter Jack Ansell didn't shy away from the lights in his first college football game. He punted five times, averaging just 37 yards per punt, but he did pin the Beavers on the one-yard line in the first quarter.

But where the specialists lose points is in the return game. Purdue was without sophomore wide receiver TJ Sheffield, and the return men for the team failed to field any kicks.

Big plays in the return game are vital to give the offense a chance at a short field. When Sheffield returns, I expect to see more of that. For now, it's only a slight knock on the group's overall score.

Grade: A-

Coaching

There were times throughout the game when Brohm got a bit too conservative on his playcalling, especially in scoring position. Purdue missed out on two huge red zone opportunities Saturday night, which allowed Oregon State to stay in the game for longer than it really should have. 

In the first quarter, the Boilermakers reached the 19-yard line before proceeding to run a two-yard quick screen to Bell, followed by a one-yard dive to Horvath. On third-and-eight, Plummer's pass was incomplete for Bell, forcing a field goal attempt.

The scoring drive faltered thanks to a delay of game penalty that was coupled with an unsportsmanlike conduct call on a Boilermaker coach. It took the team out of field goal range, and Ansell had to punt.

In the third quarter, Plummer completed a 19-yard pass to Bell that brought the team to the five-yard line. Instead of keeping the team's best receiver on the field to threaten with a potential pass, Brohm called three straight runs, including two that failed to reach the end zone from one yard away.

Once again, Purdue settled for a field goal. The Boilermakers must continue to play to its strengths, which include getting the ball to pass-catchers like Bell and Durham. However, the right calls were made down the stretch, helping to secure the 30-21 victory.

Grade: B+ 

  • GAME STORY: Junior tight end Payne Durham caught two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to help lift Purdue over Oregon State. Junior quarterback Jack Plummer threw for 313 yards in his first season-opening start. CLICK HERE
  • GAME STORY: The Purdue defense wreaked havoc on Oregon State in the first half of Saturday's game at Ross-Ade Stadium. Time and time again, it put the offense in a position to take control of a game that ended in a 30-21 victory. CLICK HERE 
  • LIVE BLOG: The Purdue Boilermakers opened their 2021 campaign at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette on Saturday against the Oregon State Beavers. CLICK HERE
  • PURDUE 2021 SCHEDULE: Purdue's 2021 college football schedule includes nine Big Ten games and three nonconference matchups. The team will travel to Hartford, Connecticut to take on UConn next week. CLICK HERE

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