The Boilermakers are looking to overcome a close 31-34 loss to Minnesota and regain a winning record against Rutgers Saturday afternoon.
The Scarlet Knights (1-4) are coming off a 2-10 2019 season, their final under former head coach Chris Ash, who had an 8-32 record in four seasons. Rutgers hopes to revitalize its football program with the hiring of former Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, a former head coach for the Knights with a 68-67 record in his ten years at New Brunswick.
Despite an opening day win against Michigan State, a game in which the Scarlet Knights forced seven turnovers against a rebuilt Spartan offense, Rutgers is trying to bounce back from a four game losing streak and find an identity once again under Schiano.
After head coach Jeff Brohm said junior quarterback Aidan O’Connell was banged up against Northwestern, he made a gametime decision to give sophomore quarterback Jack Plummer his first start of the year. Plummer, who threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns against the Gophers, talked about some areas he had improved on since his six starts in 2019.
“I think I played some of the best football I’ve played in my whole life,” Plummer said. “I think I did a good job being able to get through all of my progressions, and when opportunities weren’t there, being able to tuck it, run, and get some yards from there.”
While junior grad transfer quarterback Austin Burton was named the second string behind Plummer, freshman Michael Alaimo was brought up as another name in contention for the starting job. Brohm said he has done a great job learning a complex playbook and has a bright future under center for the Boilermakers.
Brohm emphasized the importance of competition in the quarterback room for player development, saying the competition gives players an incentive to keep working hard and develop their game throughout the season.
“We have a good room of quarterbacks that did a great job of competing and getting better every day,” Brohm said. “When our guys see what other guys are doing well and develop that into their game, I think they can make each other better when they compete.”
Sophomore receiver Rondale Moore made his return to the field last Saturday, pairing up with sophomore receiver David Bell for a total of 220 receiving yards and 23 receptions in the duo’s first game of the season together. Plummer had plenty of good things to say about the former All-American, calling him “one of the most electrifying players in the country” that fits well with Bell.
“I think (Bell and Moore) compliment each other really well,” Plummer said. “Rondale’s really good with quick routes and using his legs with the ball in his hand, and David is an exceptional route runner with great hands. It’s great to have both of them.”
While the Boilermakers are in the top-15 for passing yards in the country, Brohm said struggles in the red zone have become a challenge the team’s quarterbacks need to overcome if they want to be successful in the Big Ten.
“When you get in the red zone, things happen faster, windows are tighter, and turnovers are more costly,” Brohm said. “You’ve got to be even more efficient and make quicker decisions at quarterback. If you can get past all of these challenges at the quarterback position, then you’ll have success in the red zone.”
Purdue kicks off against Rutgers Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at Ross-Ade Stadium. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.