The Boilermakers earned their first victory of the season Saturday afternoon after their game with Vanderbilt University 42-24.
Both teams entered the contest 0-1 after their respective first games of the season and both schools were in search of a much-needed win. Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Nevada, Purdue was desperate to get back on track.
An interesting change from last game has been the placement of co-defensive coordinator Nick Holt. During the Nevada game, Holt was asked to call plays from the press box in order to have a better vantage point. For Saturday’s game, he was back on the sidelines.
“Nick’s strength is his fire and his ability to get around the team and motivate them,” head coach Jeff Brohm said in his postgame press conference.
Brohm indicated that he was pleased with the way the defense played for most of the game.
“While we weren’t perfect, we did get stops quite a few times,” Brohm said. “We’re just not as consistent as we’d like it to be.”
The Boilermaker defense held Vanderbilt to 24 points but allowed 491 total offensive yards. Purdue’s sophomore cornerback Dedrick Mackey secured his first career interception, which was also the first takeaway by the Boilermaker defense this season.
On the offensive side of the ball, Purdue looked more comfortable compared to the first game against Nevada. Fifth-year quarterback Elijah Sindelar filled the stat sheet, throwing for 509 yards and six total touchdowns. With Saturday’s performance, Sindelar became the first Purdue player since Drew Brees to have two consecutive games throwing for 400 yards or more.
“His strength is throwing the ball a lot,” Brohm said. “He is really good at chuckin’ it deep.”
Brohm said that this game was a step forward for Sindelar after a multi-interception game against Nevada. Though Sindelar did throw one interception on Saturday, Brohm wasn’t too worried about it.
“When you throw it that many times you’re going to have a few,” Brohm said.
The Boilermakers threw the ball 52 times against Vanderbilt compared to just 18 rushing attempts.
“In a perfect world, I’d love to have great balance,” Brohm said. “But for this team, right now, it’s not our strength.”
Brohm said that for now he would rather stay on the side of throwing the ball too much, as that is what the team is best suited for. That being said, Brohm mentioned his displeasure with the amount of passing attempts.
Purdue had 541 total yards of offense, but only 31 of those came from the run game. The three different ball carriers for the Boilers — sophomore Zander Horvath, freshman King Doerue and Sindelar — averaged only 1.7 yards per carry.
Through the air, Purdue averaged 15 yards per completed pass. Nine different Boilermakers caught a pass in Saturday’s game, but none saw more action than sophomore wide receiver Rondale Moore. Moore was targeted over four times as much as any other receiver on the team.
He finished the day with 220 yards and a touchdown on 13 receptions, which set a new personal record. Saturday marked Moore’s ninth game at Purdue with over 100 yards receiving, putting him at fourth on the Purdue all-time yards receiving list.
“I thought he was tremendous today,” Brohm said. “When we needed to make big plays in the passing game, he got open.”
While Moore’s performance was eye-catching, other receivers like freshman David Bell and junior Jared Sparks as well as fifth-year tight end Brycen Hopkins had impact plays throughout the game. Bell racked up 82 yards on four catches, Sparks had two catches for 62 yards and added a touchdown while Hopkins hauled in three catches for 41 yards and two touchdowns.
Hopkins now has three touchdowns this season and has the fourth most touchdowns by a tight end in Purdue history with 12.
As he is from Nashville, Hopkins was very familiar with Vanderbilt.
“I used to be a Vanderbilt fan, but it feels good beating my hometown team like that,” Hopkins said. “They’re a good team and they have some really good players ... some of which are my friends.”
Hopkins said that being in front of a home crowd really helped the team stay motivated and energized throughout the game.
“Having all our fans really yelling at us, supporting us, really gives us that fuel.”
The attendance at Saturday’s home opener was totaled at 50,506, the highest since 2008 against University of Northern Colorado.