WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Making the jump from being a transfer from UNLV to helping a Big Ten program win football games as a walk-on is no small feat.
Purdue's Dylan Downing was thrust into that position when starting running back Zander Horvath suffered an injury in the team's 49-0 victory against UConn last week.
Horvath will miss between four and eight weeks with a broken fibula, but Downing is ready for his opportunity to play alongside junior running back King Doerue and carry the load in the upcoming weeks.
"I feel like we're prepared because we come out here every day and we practice," Downing said. "This is why we practice. I feel like I'm just gonna go out there and do what the coaches need me to do and be productive when I can be productive and do everything I can do to help the team."
Downing said there was a big learning curve upon arriving on campus in January. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm has a hefty offensive playbook, but the transfer used spring practices as a cushion to learn as much as he could.
All that was left was to earn game action with the start of the 2021 college football season. Downing got his feet wet with a handful of plays in the team's season opener against Oregon State.
However, with Horvath going down against UConn, Downing carried the football 14 times for 72 yards while splitting time with Doerue. He also caught two passes for 19 yards.
"I feel like I really got acclimated a little bit last weekend at UConn," Downing said. "It's just nice to get situated a little bit."
Purdue will go on the road to face No. 12 Notre Dame this Saturday, its first real test of the season. Downing will look to serve as a complement to Doerue's set of skills against a defensive front that has allowed 198 yards per game on the ground.
Doerue led the team in rushing as a freshman with 451 yards and five touchdowns. He recorded 12 carries for 74 yards and a score against the Huskies last Saturday. Downing described himself and Doerue as being similar to thunder and lightning.
"I feel like he's faster and he's quick, and he can do all that," Downing said of Doerue. "I'm just kind of like straight-line power, just stuff like that. So I feel like that'll tire a defense out pretty well."
With Downing and Doerue on the field, the Boilermakers won't have to adjust their run schemes in the slightest. Every call in the playbook will be an option against the Fighting Irish on Saturday.
"We feel confident in what those kids can do," Purdue running back coach Chris Barclay said. "They've all been in practice, and they're able to do the same plays that Zander was able to do. It's just a matter of them playing their style of play. They can execute the same scheme but put their own flavor on it. Those kids, they've done a good job to this point. We're excited about where they're headed."
- BRIAN KELLY HAS HIGH PRAISE FOR DAVID BELL, PURDUE OFFENSE: Purdue's star wide receiver David Bell has 14 catches for 255 yards and three touchdowns after the first two weeks of college football. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is aware of his talents ahead of Saturday's game. CLICK HERE
- FORMER PURDUE RB RAHEEM MOSTERT HAS SURGERY: San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert left the team's season opener against the Detroit Lions with a knee injury. After seeking multiple opinions on the injury, he announced he will have surgery. CLICK HERE
- GAME TIME, TV SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED FOR PURDUE VS. ILLINOIS: Purdue and Illinois will play for the 97th time on Saturday, Sept. 25 at 3:30 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. Last season, the Boilermakers earned a 31-24 victory on the road in Champaign, Illinois. CLICK HERE
- PURDUE FOOTBALL 2021 SCHEDULE: Purdue's 2021 college football schedule includes nine Big Ten games and three nonconference matchups. The team will travel to South Bend, Indiana, next week to play Notre Dame for the first time since 2014. CLICK HERE
- DREW BREES ON THE CALL FOR PURDUE-NOTRE DAME: Former Boilermaker legend Drew Brees will be a game analyst for NBC Sports when Purdue football takes on Notre Dame on Saturday in South Bend, Indiana. He is the program's all-time leader is completions, passing yards and touchdown passes. CLICK HERE
- HORVATH TO HAVE SURGERY: Fifth-year senior running back Zander Horvath will undergo surgery Tuesday and will miss anywhere from four to eight weeks. Junior King Doerue and redshirt freshman Dylan Downing will be the team's top two options in the backfield. CLICK HERE
- PURDUE-UCONN REPORT CARD: Purdue football earned its first road victory of the season Saturday against UConn. In a blowout win, multiple backup players saw playing time and still managed to execute at a high level. A look at the Boilermakers' second report card of the year. CLICK HERE
- DOERUE, DOWNING STEP UP IN THE BACKFIELD: Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said Zander Horvath is going to miss time after suffering a lower leg injury against UConn on Saturday. In his place, King Doerue and Dylan Downing combined for 146 yards on the ground during the team's 49-0 victory. CLICK HERE
- PURDUE-UCONN GAME STORY: David Bell caught just six passes for Purdue in a shutout against UConn on Saturday, but he put up 121 yards and three touchdowns. Starting quarterback Jack Plummer completed 19 passes for 273 yards and four scores in just one half of play. CLICK HERE