10/26/19 Illinois, Dedrick Mackey, Derric Barnes

Junior defensive end Derrick Barnes and sophomore cornerback Dedrick Mackey tackle the Illinois running back for a short gain during the game on Saturday.

It is no secret that Purdue’s defense has struggled to keep its opponents’ points off the board this season.

The losses of fifth-year linebacker Markus Bailey and junior defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal have been heavy blows to the already inexperienced defense, but the Boilermakers have continued to fight to get better.

Freshman defensive tackle George Karlaftis has been the main weapon on the defensive line, and his breakout freshman season continues. He now has six sacks on the season, which is tied for fifth in the Big Ten.

Besides him, a mix of underclassmen led by senior defensive end Kai Higgins have been used to try and form a disruptive defensive line with little to no results to show from it. They remain 12th in the Big Ten in terms of sacks with only 16 this season.

That number has to get better if they expect to rattle Nebraska’s big play offense.

Freshman Steven Faucheux has practiced well, is physically gifted and could possibly see the field in the near future.

“Well, Steven has the size you want,” head coach Jeff Brohm said. “He has the weight you want, the mass you want.”

The linebacker spot has been the most consistent unit on the defense, but they are still looking to improve. Graduate transfer Ben Holt has done a strong job this season, and he is second in the Big Ten with 79 tackles so far. Sophomore Semisi Fakasiieiki seemingly comes out of nowhere and gets snaps at both the outside linebacker and defensive end position.

Last game, Holt and Fakasiieiki led the team in tackles, and their numbers will likely be called upon once again to make big stops. Sophomore Jaylen Alexander has been a pleasant surprise at the other linebacker spot and it starting to play well.

Purdue is once again playing the nickel formation on defense as junior linebacker Cornel Jones continues to be sidelined by injury and freshman Jalen Graham has filled in nicely at the nickel position.

The nickel is basically a hybrid position that is both a linebacker and a cornerback.

The secondary has been inconsistent as well and a lot of young guys are battling older guys for their spots, but the battle has been inconclusive.

Redshirt freshman cornerback Cory Trice has shown flash, but still continues to battle sophomore Kenneth Major for the starting spot. The same can be said for redshirt freshman cornerback Jordan Rucker as he continues to try and take the starting spot away from sophomore Dedrick Mackey.

Purdue will look to get production out of all four guys if they want to slow down Nebraska’s offense.

Senior Navon Mosley and freshman Cam Allen continue to duel it out for the starting free safety spot while senior Brennan Thieneman has held off junior Simeon Smiley from taking his starting strong safety spot.

Nebraska is a big play offense, and from what the players have seen on film, they are impressed.

“Explosive, big plays, they got weapons on weapons,” Mosley said.

Purdue will need every member of the defense, first and second string, to play their best if they want to limit Nebraska’s big plays.

If Purdue can limit the big plays and get pressure on star sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez, then maybe the Huskers will struggle like they have at times this season, and Purdue can pull off a win.

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