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PURDUE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 4, 2019
West Lafayette, Indiana
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Once again, we're ready to get back and play another conference game against an opponent that has had our number since I've been here. I think Coach Fitzgerald does a great job. They are very stout and physical on defense and always giving us problems on defensive line and linebacker core and front core seven, and this year is no different.
I think that it was good to see our team fight and find a way to win in the last game, and a close game. Definitely not everything went perfect throughout the game, but we played to the end, and numerous guys stepped up when they had to, and that's good to see. That's kind of how we're going to have to find a way to win this year is just playing hard, playing together playing.
But we're definitely looking forward to going up to Northwestern, and in an environment in which we have not had success and seeing if we can improve and have a good day.
Q. Can you update us on Jack Plummer?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Jack Plummer probably be out for the year. He's on his way to the doctor today just to see whether he will require surgery or not on the broken ankle.
Q. What about Elijah? Do you have any sense for him whether you might get him back at some point?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: I'm not optimistic that Elijah will be back this year, but I don't want to rule it out completely.
Q. How much do you have to, if at all, change -- everything you wanted to run before with him?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I think we're at a point where we really can't lose another one, so we do want to somewhat protect him to a certain degree. You know, he's not as good a runner as Jack, or even Elijah. That's not his strength.
So we've got to do what he does best. It will be an adjustment and also keeping him healthy will be an adjustment, as well, because like I said, really, we're at a point where we want to keep him healthy or, you know, we could have a rough go.
Q. Is there anything this season that's taught you personally about coaching? You've had to adjust so much stuff been the fly, anything like that?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, yeah, I think every year you learn a little something, and you do some things wrong that you wish you could take back and do some things you know you can improve upon. Some years you're going to have a little luck on your side, without question, and some years you're not.
With the scenario we're in, I think it's important, which we tried to do last week, that you've got to let your guys play and you've got to let them fight through their mistakes, and you can't just forcefully correct everything all the time.
And I think we were at a point a little bit where we really were trying hard to win, which is good, which is what you want, but I think our guys were feeling the pressure a little bit, and last week we tried to pull the reins back a little bit, let them play, let them play through their mistakes and hope that we can find a way to win.
Fortunately it worked for us. You know, we've got who we have out on the field, and a lot of them are young and you have to let them play and practice is great, and you can do a lot of good things in practice, you can work hard, but really not until you get into the game in a real setting when things are on the line, you see how guys react.
We've got to push hard in practice, but yet allow our guys to play during the game and let them play through their mistakes.
Q. What brought you to the point before you decided that was the way you wanted to handle last week?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I think that as you look at where you're at and where you're trying to go, you know, I probably was a little too demanding on the quarterbacks during the game. Tried to kind of give us a spark two games ago before the game and get you go going before we took the field to make sure we were ready to play. Probably got me going too much.
And really, in the end, quarterbacks, all the other positions that are new, as well, they have to feel that you're behind them and they have to feel that you're going to be with them, even when things are not going the way they want and sometimes that's hard to do but you've got to consciously get that done.
I think that's just part of coaching. I think for those of us that have played before, you don't want a coach that's letting you know everything you screw up all the time. You want to see a guy that's positive, trying to pick you up, trying to encourage you to just stay with it and continue to fight, and I think as a coaching staff, we did a better job.
Q. Is that something that's happened during your playing career, where there was a coach or coaches that were taking the approach that you were taking, and maybe you needed something else at that time?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, every coaching staff is different. I know probably my high school coach is one I take the most from because he was a guy that while he knew football, his love for his players were definitely his strength, and I think his players played for him because of that.
We probably won quite a bit, so maybe there wasn't those tense moments where you had to find of kick somebody in the rear or when to pick them up.
I think in general, the most -- the best coaches I've been around are ones that, you know, coach you during the week, educate you, teach you, motivate you, but yet when it's time to play the game, they are behind you and they are trying to find ways to pick you up, and even though they can correct you sometimes, it's in a way that you're trying to get them to maximize their potential and you want them to go out there and improve.
But you know, game day, there's a lot of pressure on these young guys and you've got to do your part to make sure you at least try to take some of it off.
Q. What does your quarterback depth chart look like now?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: You know, Aidan will start the game. Paul Piferi is a freshman that we brought in that will be the next guy up. After that, we'll have to get an emergency third-string quarterback.
Q. Any candidates for that emergency third-string quarterback?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, Jared Sparks has been out, so he's not up for it. You know, some other guys that we probably could play, but they are not ready, as well. So we've got to put some thought into it and you know, we have a few candidates but we're still trying to weed our way through it.
Q. Carollo one of those?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Oh, yeah -- correct. Danny Carollo will be third on the depth chart. He's had an injury all last year that kept him out and he's back, but you know, really, he has not worked a ton at quarterback. Kind of been more of our red zone punter, so to speak, or plus-50 punter a little bit and has been a good holder for us, but yes, he will be available, as well.
Q. The weekly Rondale Moore question.
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, we'll see how that goes. It's got to the point where I'm not optimistic until I see what we need to do see. At this point, I'm not optimistic about this week, but we'll see how it progresses.
Q. With Aidan, what do you see as his strengths, and how can you devise a game plan to highlight that as you go into Northwestern?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: I think Aidan is a great young man who works extremely hard, and has came here and earned everything he's got. He puts in the time. He's a great teammate. His players love him. He's very unassuming. But you know what, he's real improved and he's taken great strides; and I'll give credit to my brother, Brian, for helping develop him, but he's really done a good job.
You guys have heard me say all year long, we were not hesitant to put him in, even though he hasn't played before. And I think getting a little bit of experience in the Illinois game helped him and when he came in this last game, he had his feet wet a little bit and he did a very good job.
He's a guy that I think can execute the offense. You know, the plays there, I think he'll stand there and try to make the throw and sit in that pocket and do the best job that he can. I think he is an accurate passer that has good fundamental form -- fundamentals, and technique and form, and has worked hard to perfect his throwing mechanics and craft.
We've got to play to his strengths and help him get into rhythm and get completions. I think extending the play and getting yards with his feet is not his strength, but you know what, he still has to be able to do it at times.
Q. You talked all year about the players around your quarterback having to step up and play better. Is that even more so now this week?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Without question. I think that our offensive line has improved, and they are getting better and they are working hard. That I know for sure. They put in extra time before, during, after practice each week. I think they have to continue to get better.
This front will be one of the better ones we're going to face. They are big. They are strong. They are physical and they have done a good job two years in a row against us creating pressure, and even more so this year, it's concerning.
So we have got to do a good job. We've got to be able to run the ball effectively. We've got to be able to get some completions and throw some play-actions and take some shots off of that, and I think their play will be critical in this game, and then, you know, our tight ends have stepped up and done a decent job and our receivers, the ones that we have available, are playing hard.
I think we saw some progress from Milton Wright, which was good to see. Amad Anderson; you know, Jackson got a little nicked up, had to play both inside and out, and I think you'll see them do more of that.
And really the four receivers that have played, that are left, are the ones we are kind of riding with and they have to be able to go quite a bit, and if not, the next guy has to be ready to go.
Q. Why is King Doerue hitting his stride right now?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: I think he works hard. He runs hard. He's got some physicality to him. I think we've been a little more committed to trying to get the running game going, which we still will do that, if not more.
So you know, got a bright future. Came in here with a lot of confidence. Has made some big plays for us. If you give him some space, he'll run hard. That's what he's got to continue to do, making sure he trusts the hole, trusting there's going to be one; if not, occasionally you have to ram it up in there. A couple times we may have bounced some things out a little too much yet a few times did he and he made some plays.
He'll just continue to get better. I think Zander was a good complement for him this past game. Like to see him continue to improve and do some good things, but he plays hard, but yes, King, we're happy with the way he works.
Q. After looking at the film, what stood out about what your defense did overall in the Nebraska game?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I liked the way our defense came ready to play. I think playing hard and playing to the end and just finding a way at times was their strength. We gave up a couple big plays, a couple big plays on third down, but we held them into check. For the most part, their big play-makers, when they got into scoring territory, that's when we were really good and we kept them out of the end zone.
We had a turnover and we gave them the ball on the 4-yard line, and they held them to three points, which was huge. They got in the red zone, and Cory Trice made a great interception on a post wheel route that last year they hit us on like three times and he came off of his receiver and trusted he had another safety over there, and read the throw and was right there to make the pick. That was great progress.
They tried to run a little pick play down inside the five-yard line that, you know, we do have man coverage, but we switched it off and got the Sacramento push them back another seven yards.
So a couple little subtle things really helped us. I think just playing hard was the best thing we did, but they kept us in the game early and the one turnover we got was crucial.
Q. What happened on the two punt blocks?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, it's a combination of a few things. We blocked the wrong person one time. Really, both in general, Allen (ph) took too long to punt the ball, and we do have the rugby punt that we've been using, but he has to be alert of what is coming, and if something's coming, he's got to catch it and get it out.
And only if we feel like we got some room can he kind of buy some extra time, and they got us, but it wasn't all his fault. We blocked the wrong guy once. We went the wrong direction with one of our guys up front and allowed a guy to sneak in on the back side. A combination of things we definitely have to clean up. Having two turnovers in the blame and two blocked punts, you're not going to win many games like that. There's numerous things we have to clean up.
And special teams being efficient; we didn't win the field position battle at all and two turnovers on offense, we have to get that fixed.
Q. Can you talk about the recruitment of Aidan O'Connell and how he got to campus?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I know Aidan and his family came down on a trip. I'm trying to think back, I have a friend of mine who is kind of a quarterback coach up in that area, Jeff Christianson, who works out some guys and kind of, you know, told me about Aidan, and that he had worked with him and thought he had some good tools.
We brought him down and showed him around and you know, invited him to walk on and I think he may have had a few other small opportunities, maybe, but I'm not for sure, I'm really not. He may not have. I know -- I know he took us up on the offer, and we had to convince him a little bit, but he took us up on the offer.
Ever since, he just kind of came down and really been a great teammate that just kind of works hard and puts in the time and all the players love him. He's got a great personality. Super, super person.
You know what, he just kind of continued to get better and better, and throughout the course of the last two years, his throwing ability, his ability to kind of pick up the offense and make plays when he got in practice, he has done a good job, and that's kind of -- when we got him in some scrimmage settings, decision-making, even when it wasn't live tackle on the quarterback, but close to live, needed to improve. Those are subtle things that you just need to work on and that's what game experience will get you.
He's a great worker, and I'm very proud of the improvement he's made to this point.
Q. We talked to Aidan after the game and he said the reverse by David Bell was a play you just put in this week. I'm curious, and I don't want you to reveal any trade secrets, but how many new plays do you typically put in a week?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, we carry quite a bit. That play, we may have put in before, but was kind of off the shelf, and then we brought it back for this week and had it down in the plus-20 area as a reverse off the power and the speed sweep motion.
You know, we liked it in practice. We only repped it a couple times, but you know, those type of plays, we make sure always rep ton the Thursday practice before we play. We were comfortable with it. We worked with it quite a bit and they executed it appropriately.
Q. Typically when you start a game, do you script the first ten, 11 plays?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Yeah, we will. We'll script the first -- you know, always have at least eight. Sometimes we have more. Some games they work. Some games they don't. We're not afraid to go off of it. We're not afraid to continue on it. Normally we'll have the next 20 plays that we like, as well. Doesn't mean we stay strictly to it.
But from the first eight to the next 20, we kind of have those of what we like, and then based on kind of what we're seeing and how things are going and who is hot, we will adjust it.
Q. They said on the broadcast that your parents talked to you after -- and they were looking at, you know, I guess you said you want to have more fun this last week and they said hey, Jeff, maybe you want to be calmer and gentler Jeff Brohm. Can you talk about what they said to you at all?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I think that your parents always have wise advice. They know that I love to compete and like to win and that's kind of how I played. Sometimes that's how I coach.
But they wanted to make sure that I understood that when I was a player, you want a coach that's coaching you, but also motivating you in the right way and picking you up and being positive, and, you know, boosting your confidence and coaching you up.
I think they just stressed to me that, you know, coach your quarterbacks the way you would want to be coached.
Q. The Drew Brees pregame speech has been seen by a zillion people already. You're standing back there and taking it all in like the players. What was going through your mind?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, Drew Brees came in and the speech was outstanding. He did a tremendous job. We always know he's a tremendous advocate for this program and this university and represent in the best way possible.
We were thankful he came in on this bye week, which he's done before, to support us. I know he had a lot of things going on and a lot of people to see, but him coming in the locker room before the came, which really, it wasn't even just a speech. He was in there and he wanted to be in there the entire time. He said, hey, I want to absorb it and see how you guys do it. That goes to tell you, he's always wanting to learn, I guess and get better and see how other people do things.
No, his speech was outstanding. I think it really hit to the heart of what our team needed to hear. It's one thing when you hear it from coaches but it's another thing when you hear it from a legendary Hall of Fame NFL player from this university. I think it was outstanding. We appreciate him saying those words to our team and it meant a lot.
Q. Northwestern obviously is a well-coached program; some similarities to yours in terms of injury. Just an overview of the Wildcats, and what you expect to see from them on Saturday, and also the quarterback situation because they have some injuries?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I'm 0-2 since I have been here against them, and I know they are well-coached and I know they don't beat themselves and that's kind of what we have to be cautious of: We cannot make critical mistakes, because they will capitalize on it, and it will be a long day for us.
So we have to try to beat them at their own game, which is playing harder, which is playing tougher and smarter and taking care of the football and not giving them, you know, turnovers that they can convert to points. I think if you do that, you'll have a chance.
They are big, they are physical up front, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, you know what, like everywhere, they have had some spurts here and there. You know, played a couple different quarterbacks. They have had a good running back. They try to be physical and control the football.
So that always makes it tough because you know, against a team like this, and in general, it's always beneficial if you can get a lead and make them do things they are not the most comfortable doing.
But this is a disciplined team. They have been there and done that. They have been in hard times before and they have fought out of it.
So without question, we know it's going to be a very, very difficult game for us to go on their home turf and find a way to win against a team that we have not beat the last couple years.
Q. Going back to Aidan real quick, after the game he said he never took a physical rep on that last play of the game, the reverse, but he took a mental one. How often do you expect your quarterbacks to kind of be able to do something -- he wasn't the starter in the game, but how often do you expect them to perform a play or sequence of play off mental reps in your offense?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, normally in general for our starter, he's probably going to get 75 percent of the reps throughout the week and our backup will get 25 percent and that's really with the ones and twos and sometimes more, at some of the lineman positions or receiver positions, but for your quarterback, you like your starter to get most of the reps.
It's a play we kind of either repped or walked through quite a bit. I think they all understood it. We had it called and we had a time out and we kept it up. We talked about it. It really wasn't a difficult play for the quarterback. He kind of put a guy in motion, you fake the hand off and toss it to the receiver. But all the elements of the motion and the blocking up front and the running back rolling over the ball and the receiver lining up on the line of scrimmage and he's going to run the reverse, all that played into it.
He's smart young man. I don't think he would have an issue with it whether we called timeout or not. He would have executed it perfectly, and he pays great attention and studies and has a great grasp of what we are doing.
Q. Continuing on with that, besides that last play, does that happen quite a bit in your offenses, whether it's just a regular trap play up the middle or regular passing play in your scheme, does that happen quite a bit during a game or is that something that you try to stray away from throughout the week?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Which part is that?
Q. Just taking mental reps. Like if the quarterback had not taken a physical rep on a certain play?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: You know what, as we get into the game and he gets in there, you're really trying to call what works. Whether he actually took that rep in practice or not, as long as we repped it -- we keep track of all the plays we rep in practice.
Those are the plays that we are trying to run and that they need to know, because we've ran them in practice. We've watched the video. We've talked about it. You know, sometimes we need to make adjustments, we can pull out of the library some things we have worked before.
But in general, all the plays we run in practice, we expect all of our starters and back-ups to know because we've ran them and we've watched the video on them and we've talked about it, and I think Aidan can do that very easily.
Q. No depth chart this week?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, you know, it's more than likely going to be what we left it as, and then we'll see. There are some guys nicked up this week and we have to figure out, will they be ready by Thursday. The goal is to get them ready as fast as you can, hopefully if not Tuesday to Wednesday. If not Wednesday, really by Thursday they need to try to be out there.
And then there are a few exceptions, that if they are not ready by Thursday, if they have played before and they have got experience, then they could still go on Saturday. That's kind of where it's at. We did have quite a few guys; it was a physical game, get nicked up this past week, and you know, some key guys that have played for us. That's going to be the challenging part,.
But in general, I think other than Jack, we have a chance for most of the others to come back.
Q. You talked earlier about Sparks. Have you ruled him out for this week?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: I'm not optimistic about Jared, unfortunately.
Q. Cornel Jones?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: He won't be ready this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports