Wisconsin and Michigan ran all over Purdue’s defense for 703 yards, but the run defense recovered against Ohio State by holding its run-based offense to its lowest output of the season to gain confidence entering Saturday‘s game against Iowa.
Purdue head coach Danny Hope said the defensive line played significantly better against Ohio State than it has at any point throughout the course of the season.
“I thought that made a difference in the game,” Hope said. “When they play well, that means the guys right behind them, the linebackers, can play well.”
Hope said the defensive line’s ability to overcome the slew of injuries has the unit playing its best football of the season.
“We had to have a half-dozen big, bad, burly tough guys show up on Saturday on the defensive line position and really get it on,” Hope said. “I thought our defensive line did that this past Saturday.”
Hope said defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, who battled back issues early in the season, has come on strong for the middle of the defense to help take pressure off of Kawann Short.
“Bruce is gaining some momentum in his game,” Hope said. “The last couple games he’s made real progress. The last game I think was the best he played all year long.”
Purdue’s run defense will be challenged this week from
Marcus Coker, who ranks second in the conference in yards per game. Unlike most teams that use a multiple running back system, Coker is the Hawkeyes’ workhorse, receiving 81 percent of the offense’s carries from the running back spot.
“He’s a physical back,” Hope said. “He can make you miss, but he can drop his shoulder and run you over. He’s an excellent football player. He is a Jerome Bettis-type physical back in some ways that has some flash about him.”
While Herron was limited to 67 yards last week, quarterback Braxton Miller ran for 63 yards, picking up three third-down conversions with his legs on one possession.
Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg has run for only 62 yards all season, marking the first time since non-conference play that Purdue will not have to prepare for a dual-threat quarterback.
Defensive end Gerald Gooden said it will be a nice change of pace to be able to solely focus on a quarterback’s passing
“It’s different,” Gooden said. “I like it. I can just go attack the quarterback now rather than focus on containing him.”
Gaston emphasized the importance of not underestimating Vandenberg’s ability as playmaker.
“If you give any quarterback a little hole, they will make something with it,” Gaston said. “He is good at keeping plays alive, but we just have to play with intensity.”