Yes, Purdue opened the season with a tough home loss to Northwestern, but the Boilermakers found a star in true freshman Rondale Moore.
How good was Moore last week? The hold-your-breath true freshman set a program single-game record with 313 all-purpose yards. Heck, he had 192 yards after one quarter and 302 at halftime. Broken down, Moore had 79 yards rushing, 109 receiving and 125 on kickoff returns to eclipse Otis Armstrong's single-game school record of 312 total yards set Nov. 25, 1972.
The play that left fans breathless was a 76-yard TD jaunt on a jet sweep in the second quarter. Once the diminutive speedster got the edge vs. the Northwestern defense, he was gone. Moore also had a 32-yard TD catch. No doubt, the spectacular debut told the world this: The hype surrounding Moore is real. And it will be fun to see what he does next. Hold your breath.
Fans will get their next chance to be awed by Moore on Saturday when the Boilers play host to Eastern Michigan in a noon ET kick off in Ross-Ade Stadium.
Purdue showed it is a work-in-progress in last Thursday's hard fought season-opening loss to Northwestern. The Boilers couldn't overcome three turnovers and nine penalties in falling 31-27 to the Wildcats. Now comes a visit from MAC opponent Eastern Michigan, which opened with a 51-17 victory vs. FCS Monmouth. Purdue is 42-12-1 all-time vs. the MAC. But since 2008, the Boilermakers are just 7-5 vs. the MAC. Purdue dumped Ohio last season at home on a Friday night, the first game under the new Ross-Ade Stadium lights.
The defense showed signs of good things. Yes, the unit had spotty tackling and some missed assignments in the opening half when Purdue fell behind, 31-17. But the young Boilermaker defense pitched a shutout in the second half, allowing the offense to find its groove and get back into the game.
Here is a look at the key matchup, key player and key position for Purdue as it heads into Saturday's clash with Eastern Michigan, which the Boilers last played in 2012 (54-16 win) and are 2-0 against all-time. For what it's worth: EMU won at Rutgers last year, its first victory ever vs. a Big Ten club.
Key matchup: Purdue defensive line vs. Eastern Michigan offensive line. The Boilermaker front is still developing. It was inconsistent in the opener, when Northwestern ran for 166 yards. But Purdue's front tightened in the second half, limiting NU to 47 yards rushing. The front needs to get better at generating negative plays. The Boilermakers had no sacks and only three TFLs (all by Cornel Jones) vs. the Wildcats. Purdue also needs to get a rush vs. an Eagles o-line that has four starters back and is protecting a dangerous QB in Tyler Wiegers a graduate transfer from Iowa who last Saturday hit 18-of-21 passes for 238 yards in an opening 51-17 win vs. Monmouth.
Key player: Running back D.J. Knox. Honestly, it could be most any Purdue running back ... Markell Jones ... Tario Fuller. The Boilermakers need to show oomph in the rushing attack vs. a scrappy MAC opponent to build the confidence of the line. Yes, Purdue ran for 202 yards last week. But that number is a bit deceiving, as 121 of those yards came on two runs (Moore's 76-yarder and Knox's 45-yarder). A strong rushing game would allow the Boilermakers to pass on their own terms ... and set up some big attempts downfield to wideouts like Jared Sparks, Isaac Zico, Terry Wright and of course Rondale Moore.
Key position: Quarterback. Jeff Brohm has said both Elijah Sindelar and David Blough will play this Saturday. Sindelar got the call in Week One but threw three picks in the opening half. It was uncharacteristic of Sindelar, who finished 2017 on fire in leading the Boilermakers to three wins in a row while playing on an injured knee. Blough came on late in the first half and hit 12-of-16 passes, but was limited downfield, totaling 4.6 yards per attempt. It also is key to get the tight ends involved after the tandem of Cole Herdman and Brycen Hopkins was rationed one catch for seven yards.