The first-half offensive struggles against the Indiana Hoosiers for the Purdue Boilermakers were obvious to even the most casual of football fans. Some of these struggles likely stem from the news that Aidan O’Connell’s family is mourning the death of his older brother. However, some of the play calls were just really bad and Jeff Brohm admitted that speaking to reporters after the game, he said: “There was pressure to find a way to end this thing. The first half wasn’t nice. They did a good job for us and messed things up. We had to get out in the second half and adjust some things on offense.” Brohm later mentioned that the focus in the second half was getting the ball into Devin Mockobee’s hands, which was something she inexplicably lost after the first Drive where Mockobee landed 38 yards on 4 total touches. He had just 2 touches for the rest of the first half and went for 10 total yards.
Adjustments had clearly been made early in the second half and the first two drives of the half showed Purdue going down the field with relative ease, getting into the end zone three times in his first four possessions. Here, Mockobee was used almost exclusively to open up passing lanes for Durham and Jones, whether in the run game or with Mockobee in the passing game.
Let’s go back and take a look at the big plays of those first two rides, highlighting what Brohm was able to accomplish after making adjustments in the second half.
Second Half | Drive 1 | 8 games | 82 meters | 2:47
That first game of the second half was definitely something Brohm and his attacking side saw from the first half. Purdue comes out in a double tight end set, with Durham and Piferi to the right of the formation while Charlie Jones is split to the wide side of the field. Mockobee is split to the left of AOC while another wide receiver is split to the left of the formation.
What’s crucial here is that the tight ends are bunched together with about 15 meters between them. This gives Durham and Piferi plenty of room on the wide side of the field while also removing cornerback help and forcing safety to play wider and deeper. On the snap, Piferi runs for 3 yards, which equates to a quick out, which puts the OLB/NB outside, which is key to opening the deeper out that Durham will run for 5 yards. This is a tough play for the IU defense as Durham reads that the linebacker is inside leverage and needs to go out. This leaves plenty of room for an easy throw from AOC and a good 11-yard pickup on the 2nd play of the drive.
The second big play from that drive comes on the next first down from the Purdue 39. It was clear that Brohm felt he had an outside advantage with Mockobee in the passing game because IU was covering him late on that play. Mockobee is to the right of AOC and Charlie Jones is split wide again. Durham comes in right-to-left movement, showing AOC that IU will be in a man concept and the free OLB/NB will blitz from the right. This is clearly a tendency Purdue saw in IU’s defense and one they exploited perfectly several times in the second half.
In this concept, AOC is looking for two options: Charlie Jones with an oblique pass or Devin Mockobee with a swing pass from the backfield. Due to the flashing NB, AOC sees Devin has a huge advantage from the backfield and throws him a dart (not thrown well, but Mockobee does an excellent job of catching it and getting into the field). If you pause the video after 6 seconds you will see how open Mockobee is, and also how open Jones is (which Purdue uses to their advantage to counteract a change in IU made due to this drive).
Mockobee is able to ditch the tackle and step up to IU territory for a big win, and at this point it’s clear that Purdue has made some changes to their game plan.
This is the next game of the ride and Brohm sees Purdue again having a numerical advantage over the broad side of the field. IU again shows a possible blitz from that OLB/NB and to cover that potential Purdue pulls her right guard. The IU defender doesn’t blitz, which still gives Purdue a shot at a good play here if the tight end and wide receiver can make their blocks.
On the snap, Mockobee sprints left for a screen pass and both Purdue players execute their blocks in space to free Devin for another long backfield win as receiver. This is a good play because if IU had gone to their tendency to blitz that OLB/NB, the tight end would have either picked up the ILB (who actually makes the tackle) or backed up for a block at the third level of defense more moves above .
These quick swing passes from the backfield act like an extension of the game in progress, forcing the IU defense closer to the line of scrimmage and having to defend larger portions of the field. Here Brohm knows he has angles for Jones and Durham to throw into.
It’s now 2nd down and 10th from the Indiana 32 and Purdue will capitalize on that earlier success with Mockobee from the backfield against the IU defense. AOC moves Mockobee to the right to manipulate defense and give Jones more room on his dig route. The IU defense has switched to a zone concept and backfield Mockobee mans the cornerback while Durham’s route is used to man the linebacker and prevent him from going further for cover. This leaves Jones in the cushion with an easy throw from the safeties and AOC to set up a Purdue first down.
Finally, the drive culminates in a 15-yard strike from AOC to Durham on a post route from the tight end. Although a different formation, the concept is the same as the first piece highlighted first in this discussion. The tight ends are stacked, but this time there’s no wide receiver to split wide. Instead, Jones is put in the slot to man security because Purdue knows there is a tendency to have that OLB/NB blitz when presented with that look. That’s what many college football insiders see when they say Brohm has one of the best offensive concepts and minds in the game.
On the snap, Mockobee coming through the line of scrimmage to man one of the linebackers gets a token play action. Coming through the line as a receiver, the other linebacker is now in charge of Piferi, who is the inside tight end. This leaves Durham the widest receiver and thus covered by the cornerback, with safety playing over the top. Piferi’s job is to man the linebacker and safety, and so he struggles to face the linebacker who then mans the safety, forcing him to stay in center field. Durham’s route goes outside for inside leverage, then back inside for an easy throw from AOC.
First Half | 2nd quarter | 2:48 | Drive 4 | 58 yard pass AOC to Charlie Jones
This game just before halftime is probably where the postponement of the game call and plan took place. Getting to the flats with quick passes and screens forced IU to make adjustments and this play call is a great blueprint.
Purdue starts with a trips look to the right, with Durham hidden, making him an ineligible receiver to field. This likely indicates that IU thinks Purdue will head towards the overloaded right side of the field. Jones is set in motion, forcing the linebackers to switch and pushing IU into their blitz tendency when that look is provided. It also brings safety further down to cover Jones, giving Purdue a huge advantage on that side for the tunnel screen.
It’s also important to note that because of his athleticism, this piece ran alongside Mahamane Moussa to go into space for a piece like this. You can see him let the defensive end through so he can get out on the edge in front of Jones and lead the block. The same goes for left-back Spencer Holstege. Blocks from the offensive linemen and overload on the right side give Purdue the advantage and allow for the 58-yard pass to Jones.
That first drive of the second half is a culmination of the type of scheme Jeff Brohm employs at Purdue to gain an advantage with the player skills he has. I still feel like these adjustments can be made earlier in the game if Brohm wasn’t saddled by calling the game himself and getting engrossed that way. If his brother Brian were given responsibilities and Jeff could intervene in key situations and make adjustments from ride to ride, the offense as a whole would likely benefit more. What gives Purdue a chance against Michigan, however, are the kinds of adjustments Brohm can make to quickly place points on the board before a defense can make their adjustments. The key, however, is a defense that can also come quickly off the field by keeping opposing offense on short drives.