9/18/21 Football, George Karlaftis

The Purdue football team’s defense is focused on its communication to retain possession of the Purdue Cannon this weekend against Illinois.

Both teams have historically been evenly matched. In fact, this game will break their all time series tie standing at 45-45-6 against each other.

Defensively, the Boilermakers will have to shut down a below-average Fighting Illini offense which ranks 10th in points per game — 22.7 — out of all Big Ten teams, according to the conference website.

Senior quarterback Brandon Peters took over the offense in the Illini’s latest game against Maryland. He ended the game with a 38% completion percentage and an interception. That was due to the Terrapin pass rush constantly getting pressure.

Junior defensive end George Karlaftis will take advantage of those opportunities, feasting on Illinois’ tackles in the trenches. He utilizes techniques known as “swim moves” — lifting an arm over a defender’s shoulder pad in a swimming motion — and “spin moves” in order to get past lineman and generate pressure on the opposing quarterback.

Even though he has no sacks on the season, he has four quarterback hits. His stats don’t do justice to the impact he has on film.

Despite Illinois giving up six sacks to Maryland, junior linebacker Jalen Graham said they still have a good offensive line.

That line will be blocking for an Illini running back committee with several options. Against the Terrapins, freshman running back Josh McCray stood out with 60 yards and a 38-yard touchdown run. Shutting him down will be a focus for a Boilermaker defense that has given up big runs in the past.

“Going through with our game plan and listening to our coaches will lead us in the right direction,” Graham said.

The Boiler’s game plan worked well last week versus the Irish, but they still let up one explosive run.

“We had a great game going last week and we let that (51 yard touchdown) run out,” secondary coach Ron English said. “They had 53 yards on 27 carries against a really good back.”

Purdue’s goal will lie in not giving up the type of run that McCray has shown he can do. Sophomore running back Chase Brown is returning from injury as well, Illini offensive coordinator Tony Peterson said Monday.

On the sidelines, junior cornerback Cory Trice will still watch in street clothes as he recovers from an ankle injury, but keep an eye out for him mentoring fellow junior corner Jamari Brown.

“We were on the sideline, he’d tell me ‘keep doin that, keep doin that,’” Brown said. “He’s a big help. He shows major love.”

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