The Journal Gazette
Saturday, November 27, 2021 5:30 pm

Halftime: Purdue 17, Indiana 7

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – The 123rd meeting in the series between Indiana and Purdue is a choppy, penalty-heavy affair in the first quarter and Indiana held its own as it tries to snap an 8-game losing streak. The Hoosiers still demonstrated some of the reasons why they've lost eight in a row during the half, especially when All-Big Ten corner Jaylin Williams committed a completely unnecessary pass interference penalty on fourth-and-inches throw into the back of the end zone that would not have been caught regardless. The Boilermakers ended up scoring the game's first touchdown following the penalty and the automatic first down that went with it and they lead 17-7 at halftime.

The teams have combined for nine penalties for 96 yards, with another handful of flags declined. Neither team has played the type of clean, error-free game coaches dream about.

Maybe the biggest swing play of the game came early in the second quarter, when Williams stepped in front of an Aidan O'Connell pass and returned it 75 yards the other way for a touchdown. The play was called back because the Hoosiers interfered with the receiver as Williams cut in front of the pass. It was the right call, but it was yet another example of Indiana shooting itself in the foot in a big moment. The Boilermakers really made that miscue hurt when O'Connell found tight end – and former quarterback – Paul Piferi wide open down the sideline for a 33-yard touchdown on the next play. It was a beautiful play design from Purdue coach Jeff Brohm, springing the second tight end free on the left side as everyone else flowed to the right.

The good news for Indiana is it seems as though it might have something in walk-on quarterback Grant Gremel. On the Hoosiers' first possession, Gremel, the fourth-stringer at his position prior to the season, led them down the field with a series of strong, on time throws over the middle of the field. Once Indiana was inside the Purdue 5, the Hoosiers inserted true freshman Donaven McCulley in Gremel's place and the Indianapolis native went up the middle for a 2-yard score. McCulley is Indiana's future at the position and could probably use every rep he can get, so it says something about how important Indiana considers this game that it did not go with him from the beginning. Gremel is probably the better passer right now and the Hoosiers are still trying to maximize their chances at victory today, rather than focus on the future.

Still, Gremel remains a walk-on and after the first (likely scripted) possession, Indiana has had very little going on offense. The Boilermakers, after getting almost no pressure on the quarterback on the opening possession, were consistently in his face most of the rest of the half, sacking him three times. The quarterback also missed on a few makeable throws that could have gotten Indiana moving. After gaining 75 yards on its first possession, Indiana had only 33 on its next four combined, which included three punts and a missed field goal to end the half. Purdue got a break late in the second quarter when the Hoosiers, who had driven into Boilers territory, lost 21 yards on a bad snap that bounced past Gremel. It's been that time of season for Indiana.

The biggest problem for the Hoosiers is Purdue's passing offense. Outside of the touchdown to Piferi, the Boilermakers haven't hit any huge gains through the air, but they've been ultra-efficient. I wrote before the game Indiana's cornerback situation was up in the air and Williams and Reese Taylor actually did a decent job of keeping the Boilers from getting over the top. The only problem is that strategy – the corners playing very deep and trying to limit the deep ball – means the Purdue receivers have plenty of room to work underneath. David Bell and Milton Wright have combined for nine catches for 88 yards and TJ Sheffield added an outstanding diving catch over the middle for an 18-yard gain. All told, O'Connell is 18 for 20 for 189 yards and the touchdown. For Indiana, it has been death by 1,000 cuts. The Hoosiers are probably going to need to get more aggressive in the second half and risk giving up some big plays if they're going to win this game.

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