10/31/20 Illinois, Jalen Graham

Purdue’s defense celebrates after an Illinois fumble that was recovered by sophomore Jalen Graham for a touchdown on Oct. 31.

Purdue looks to tie up its series against Northwestern University at 2-2 in the Jeff Brohm–era this weekend.

Coming off a 3-9 season, the Wildcats (3-0) have bounced back with the help of transfers and a new offensive coordinator in former Boston College coach Mike Bajakian, winning their first three games and taking the No. 23 spot in the Week 10 AP poll. The Boilermakers (2-0) are also rebounding after a disappointing 2019 season, and aim to earn their second straight win over the Wildcats.

“(Northwestern) knows what they’re doing,” cornerbacks coach Greg Brown said. “(Bajakian) has come in and done a great job, and the culture that (head coach Pat Fitzgerald) has got in place at Northwestern is big time. They do a great job. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge to prepare for their offense.”

Brown discussed the aggressiveness of the Boiler secondary, which has allowed it to recover all four fumbles the defense has forced this season.

“Like all defenses, we’re going to put an emphasis on the ball,” he said. “We’re going to feel like we have an equal right to the ball. Whether it’s in the air or on the ground, we’re going to go after it and try our best to get it out. It’s a team effort.”

Sophomore linebacker Jalen Graham echoed the emphasis on aggressive defense when describing his fumble recovery for a touchdown against the University of Illinois.

“It was just a read-option with the quarterback, and (freshman safety Marvin Grant) had the quarterback,” he said. “I was on the outside, and he came down fast and hard. I was lucky to be right there when the ball came out.”

Despite maintaining a positive turnover differential through its first two games, Brown thinks this experienced secondary still has room to grow throughout the season, calling his unit a “work-in-progress” that needs to continue down the right path each day.

“It’s one step at a time, one day at a time, one practice at a time, and even one period at a time,” Brown said. “The more times you can get on the field, play and experience what offense they’re trying to do, the better you’re going to be. We’re striving to put together enough plays to where we can get our mistakes down to a bare minimum and do things that contribute to a good defense.”

Purdue kicks off against Northwestern on Saturday at 5 p.m. in Ross-Ade Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

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