BOZICH | Brohm gives Louisville fits -- and gives Purdue football fans hope
Jeff Brohm gave Louisville fits Saturday night in Indianapolis before the Cards won, 35-28, but he also gave Purdue football fans hope again.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WDRB) — Of course Jeff Brohm was going for two.
If the Purdue football team covered the necessary yards for a touchdown on either of the Boilermakers’ final two possessions against the University of Louisville Saturday night, Brohm was keeping his placekicker parked on the sidelines.
No playing for a 35-35 tie. No playing for overtime and risking any disadvantages created by a coin flip. No coming close as a 25-point underdog.
“I love to play to win,” Brohm said.
That’s the way Howard Schnellenberger did it when U of L was a full-sized underdog at Ohio State in 1992. Brohm was the quarterback for that Cardinal team.
He nearly hit the two-point conversion pass to topple the Buckeyes. Cards lost, 20-19.
Jeff Brohm pass failed at 0:33 is how the box score reads from that game in Columbus. That’s fine. Played to win.
That’s the way Brohm was determined to do it in Lucas Oil Stadium in his career opener as the Purdue coach. Show your fans, show your alma mater, show the Big Ten, show everybody how you operate — with quiet grit, determination and confidence.
Brohm even knew which play the Boilermakers were going to run.
He never got to make that call.
Purdue blasted out from its 10-yard line to the Louisville 48 on its next to last possession Went for it twice on fourth down even though Brohm sensed that several of his assistants were against it. Even his brother, Greg, thought a punt was the proper play on one of the fourth downs, even though Purdue got both of them.
An interception stopped that drive. Purdue had one more chance and whiffed on four downs.
Louisville won the game, 35-28.
Purdue (and Brohm) won something else — the appreciation and attention of the sagging Boilermakers’ fan base. There were only 37,394 fans in a building that seats 70,000 and the consensus of the WDRB Sports staff was the turnout was at least 60 percent Louisville fans.
Purdue fans need hope. They need to believe they finally have a coach who can do what Joe Tiller, Jim Young, Jack Mollenkopf and several others have done at Purdue. Compete. Win more than the nine games over the last four seasons. They want to win nine game in one season, not four. Why not?
Brohm and his team gave them plenty against Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and Bobby Petrino’s team, a squad ranked 16th in America. Heck, Brohm got Drew Brees, Purdue’s last great quarterback, to fly from New Orleans to Indianapolis to talk to his players in the locker room before the game.
Purdue gave its fans reasons to turn out Friday night when the Boilermakers will play their first game under the new permanent lights at Ross-Ade Stadium against Ohio University.
“Tremendous performance,” Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski said after leaving his team’s locker room.
“We thought we were going to win the game and we could have won the game,” said linebacker T.J. McCollum, who followed Brohm from Western Kentucky to West Lafayette.
“Louisville made the plays they needed to make. We have to fix our mistakes, put it behind us and get ready for the next one.”
Purdue played three ranked teams last season. Lost by 13, 38 and 29. The Boilermakers also lost by 43 to Maryland and by 18 to Cincinnati. They did not have the DNA of a squad that could play within a possession of Louisville.
“We played hard the entire game, which is the first thing you want to see from your players,” Brohm said. “I didn’t see that (on video) in some of the games I watched last season.”
Brohm saw it against the Cardinals and saw it with a roster that he scrambled to put together after leaving Western Kentucky to begin fixing the Purdue program last December.
Brohm wasn’t thrilled by the three interceptions his quarterbacks threw, turnovers that negated the three Louisville fumbles that Purdue recovered. But Elijah Sindelar, a former Kentucky Mr. Football, made several nice throws, including two for touchdowns. David Blaugh also had two scoring throws, after missing more than two weeks of solid preparation to play with a tender shoulder.
The Boilermakers need work on the offensive line. Their backs and receivers are OK but not the kind of runners that NFL scouts track. Their defensive front is solid, but not good enough to overcome the ejection of tackle Lorenzo Neal after a targeting call in the third quarter. There’s not a Rod Woodson in the defensive backfield.
But there Purdue was, ahead for considerable chunks of the game — 7-0, 14-10, 21-13 and 28-25. That was with less than 11 minutes to play.
Louisville scored twice — a touchdown and field goal.
Purdue did not score again.
Louisville outgained the Boilermakers by more than 180 yards but stopped itself with two red zone turnovers and a flurry of penalties. A year ago that would not have mattered. Purdue would have lost by more than a touchdown.
This time Purdue played the entire 60 minutes, and Jeff Brohm was primed to play for the victory if the Boilermakers had made one more play.
“It would have been nice to have the chance,” Brohm said.
Chances are Jeff Brohm will have plenty.
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