WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue survived a couple of late scares from visiting Oregon State and opened the season with a victory for just the second time in five seasons under coach Jeff Brohm, winning 30-21 behind a 313-yard passing performance from quarterback Jack Plummer and some stellar defense.
- The Brad Lambert Effect is real: When a new coordinator comes in, on either side of the ball, there is always a lot of talk about how players feel much more comfortable and things are going to be different. Well, Purdue's defense this season under new DC Brad Lambert might be one of the rare instances of all of that hype being true. The Boilermakers are not perfect on that side of the ball and they likely won't be a dominant defense this season, but they were very good most tonight, holding Oregon State scoreless for stretch from early in the first quarter to early in the fourth. The key was Purdue's newfound aggressiveness, which contrasts significantly – as the Boilers promised it would – with the more passive defense of departed coordinator Bob Diaco, which gave up close to 30 points per game last season. The Boilermakers had linebackers and defensive backs making plays at the line of scrimmage repeatedly and they looked faster to the ball. George Karlaftis, of course, remains an absolute terror off the edge and Oregon State quarterback Sam Noyer will be seeing the Purdue defensive end in his dreams tonight.
- The run game is still absent: Outside of being more aggressive on defense, Purdue's point of emphasis for the start of the season was to be more balanced on offense and make its run game more dangerous. That did not happen tonight. At all. The Boilers did not get very good push on the offensive line and it felt as though their running backs were charging headlong into brick walls most of the evening. On 32 carries, Purdue gained 90 yards (2.8 per carry, right in line with the 2020 mark of 3.3). Much like last season, if the Boilermakers are going to mix things up to open the field for their passing game, it will probably have to be with screens, swing passes to the running backs and trick plays rather than traditional runs. One of Purdue's best run plays came on a wildcat snap to Zander Horvath, who took it 11 yards for a touchdown. Even on that play, however, he had to shake a would-be tackler that got a clean shot at him in the backfield after breezing through the Purdue line.
- There is work to do: Purdue won the game. That's important to note and it's a significant victory as the Boilermakers had lost the season-opener in three of coach Jeff Brohm's first four seasons at the helm, including a dispiriting loss to Nevada to start the 2019 season. But this was not a particularly impressive performance, especially offensively. There is a foundation to build upon on defense, but Purdue left something like 18 points on the board because of the following miscues: an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a coach that took the Boilers out of field goal range, a dropped touchdown from Milton Wright on a perfectly-placed pass, an underthrown pass that led to the receiver needing to dive to make a catch in the end zone and dropping it, and a botched a pitch on third-and-goal from the 1 that forced a field goal attempt. A better team than Oregon State would have made the Boilers pay for those mistakes and Purdue faces many better teams this season.
Player of the Game: Payne Durham
Durham caught two late touchdowns that helped keep the Boilermakers in front. On one fourth-quarter drive, he hauled in three catches for 26 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, he broke free behind the defense on a terrific play-fake from the Boilers and Plummer hit him in stride for a 50-yard touchdown. Durham had seven catches for 120 yards in all, his first career 100-yard performance.
The game was the 500th ever played at Ross-Ade Stadium, which opened in 1924. This is the start of the 134th season of Purdue football. ... The Boilers have only faced the Beavers one other time, a 22-14 loss in 1967 when Oregon State pulled a huge upset of then-No. 2 Purdue. ... The defeat is only Purdue's third in its last 24 openers at home./Purdue is 22-2 in its last 24 home openers. ... Snider graduate Lawrence Johnson started at defensive tackle for the Boilermakers. He had one tackle, including 0.5 for loss, and a quarterback hurry. ... Running back Sampson James, a transfer from Indiana who arrived in West Lafayette in August, was not active. It is unclear whether he has received an NCAA waiver to play immediately after transferring too late for the July deadline that would have given him automatic eligibility. ... Receivers TJ Sheffield and Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen were also inactive for the Boilers. Sheffield, expected to receive plenty of snaps in the slot receiver spot vacated by Rondale Moore, was arrested on battery charges during an incident in May. It is unclear if that was related to his status tonight. ... Purdue held the ball for 34:34. ... Boilers kicker Mitchell Fineran went 3 for 3 on field goals with a long of 48 yards. That 48-yarder was straight through and good by plenty. ... Purdue linebacker Jalen Graham had a sack, three pass breakups and a forced fumble. ... Purdue's David Bell finished with eight catches for 134 yards. It was his 11th career 100-yard performance. The former Warren Central star moved past DeAngelo Yancey and Bart Burrell for 16th on Purdue's all-time receptions list and past Isaac Jones for 20th on the receiving yards list.
Purdue will be back in action Sept. 11 when it travels to Hartford, Connecticut to take on UConn for the Boilermakers' first road game of the season. The game will kick off at 3 p.m. and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. The Huskies (0-2) dropped their season-opener to Fresno State on Aug. 28, 45-0 and then lost to FCS Holy Cross 38-28 on Saturday. It will be the first-ever matchup between the teams.