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Purdue University Football Media Conference
Monday September 23, 2019
Jeff Brohm Press Conference
JEFF BROHM: I think our guys are looking forward to getting back on the practice field for this upcoming opponent. I think we had a good week of practice last week, went back to working on fundamentals and techniques and doing all the small things we need to get better at, and I think we had a good week, and it continued on Sunday, and then our players will be off today and we’ll be back at it tomorrow.

As far as injuries at this point, we’re trying hard to get everybody back, and we’ll see towards the end of the week where we’re at, but I think everyone has put in the time to get better, but it’s just going to be a matter of where we’re at come Thursday and Friday.

Q. Do you feel like you got what you wanted out of the open week, seeing who you wanted to see out there and just their performance in practice?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I know we’ve had a good week of practice. It was more physical. It was in full pads. We got a lot of good contact work. I think both sides of the ball need to get better at being more physical and trying to dominate the line of scrimmage and trying to win football games in that manner before we get into all the cute stuff that we like to run.

I think we did see some improvement. We’ve got to continue to see more, but we’re going to make sure we continue to harp on being physical, trying to be as dominant as we can at the point of attack, and coming off the ball, striking people and making sure we’re getting better each and every day. But I do think this past week was good, and we got a lot of good repetitions in, and we’re going to need to do that because we’ve got to get better.

Q. What did you see out of your second offensive line group? They seemed to take the majority of the snaps Tuesday and Wednesday.
JEFF BROHM: Right now I think we feel like we have some good young players that — some of them are young and they need some seasoning, and in our opinion they’re not quite ready right now for the speed of the game and for what we’re asking them to do and the physicality. But they’re getting better and they’re getting closer, and I do think the difference between our ones and twos are not very much, so we’ve got to make sure we continue to add competition, play more guys, be smart with it. I mean, if somebody has a hot hand, I don’t think you want to take them out too much, but I think you’ll see more young men with opportunities to play. We’re hopeful that they come in and play and play well and show us that they want to compete and want to be a starter.

Q. You mentioned the injuries and you hope to get guys back. But with Matt McCann, how close is he do you think to getting back this week?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think he’s getting closer, but it’s still going to be a matter of what they can do this week, and there are numerous guys that were not able to practice last week because we want to get them healthy, but there were a lot of guys that did. So some guys that need to get mended. We want to try to get that done, so we’ll tell by the end of the week where they’re at.

Q. Is Elijah still in the concussion protocol?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we’re still doing exactly what the doctors say. I think he’s making progress. We’ll see how this week goes. Really last week we thought he was making progress Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. It wasn’t until Thursday where some things popped up again, and that’s where we had to start the process over.

Q. What do you hope to get out of Jackson Anthrop in the run game? What does he give you that maybe you’re not getting from your current backs right now?
JEFF BROHM: I’m not going to put it all on our running backs. I think we’ve had some problems up front of creating holes and knocking people back and being physical at the line of scrimmage. The running backs need to run better, yes, but sometimes there’s not some big holes to run in. But I do think Jackson is a guy we want to get more touches. Even on special teams he gives great effort, he goes hard, he wants to win, he works hard, he competes, and he’s a guy we want to get in the mix, so you’ll see him playing both running back and the receiver position, and he is someone that we want to try our best to get the ball in his hands more.

Q. You start Big Ten play Saturday, and most of the conference is getting more conference match-ups coming up. Where do you think you stack up in the Big Ten West right now going into your conference year?
JEFF BROHM: Well, right now we don’t stack up where we need to be. I think there’s a lot of good teams in our conference. They’re playing well. There’s a lot of parity. There’s a lot of teams that are winning. Look at Minnesota, our upcoming opponent; they finished the year strong last year. They beat us handily, and that’s being nice. They beat Wisconsin, I think, at Wisconsin. They won their bowl game, and then now they’ve won three in a row, and they’ve got some leadership on their team. They find a way to win the close games, they fight and compete to the end, and obviously they’ve gained experience over the last couple years, so this is going to be a tough contest for us, and we’re going to have to improve a great deal in order to compete and play to win.

I do think I’m hopeful that our guys will have some fight in them and understand that we’ve got to do all the small things correctly and as hard as we can and give great effort and cut it loose to have a chance to win, and that includes coaches and players, as well. We have to make sure we’re all doing our part, and when you start with a game against Minnesota at home, you have to try to find a way to win.

Q. Do you reference last year’s game with this group, what happened and how it happened?
JEFF BROHM: I think we have. I think our players know that we’re in a little bit of a rut now. We’ve had some games that haven’t gone the way we want. Minnesota is one of them. It just shows that we have improvement to make, and I think that’s why we took this past week and tried to work hard at improving ourselves before we got fully on to Minnesota and making sure that each and every day we’re trying to get better on the things that we feel like we’re not very good at, and I do think progress has been made, but we’ve got to make more. We’ve got to do it come game day. We’ve got to see more guys show up and compete and play hard and finish and want to find a way to win, and I’m hopeful that we can see improvement as we get going.

Q. Minnesota, they’re 3-0, but they won by a total of 13 points. What has made the difference in your opinion why they’re 3-0, why they’ve won those close games?
JEFF BROHM: Well, like I said before, I think they finished strong last year, they gained confidence with a lot of big wins, and I guess from putting it to us at their place to beating Wisconsin to winning their bowl game to starting off 3-0 and finding a way to win, and one of those was on the road at Fresno. When you can win the close games and you’ve got a group of guys that compete and find a way to win, whether it’s by three points or 30, it shows you’ve got some leadership on the team. It shows you’ve got some guys that like football, that like to compete, that want to do their part.

Obviously things are going in the right direction for them. We have to find a way ourselves to step up to the plate and take on this match head-on and have some courage and toughness, go out there and compete and see if we can find a way to win.

Q. Do you think the bye or the off week is too early for you? Would you prefer to have it later in the year? Do you think this is an ideal time for it?
JEFF BROHM: Well, for us it was probably a good time considering how the season has gone. We need to do a lot of work, and we need to improve a lot, and we need to go back to the basics and fundamentals, which is what we tried to do. So I do think it’s been beneficial. We tried to use it in that manner. Getting guys healthy is important but also getting better. I think hopefully we got both of those things done to a certain degree and we’ll continue on that this week and see how it stacks up come Saturday.

Q. I know you talked about some injured players. Just real quick on Sparks and Bell, obviously you’re going to wait and see how they are later in the week?
JEFF BROHM: We will. They didn’t practice this past week, and we’ll see how they come around this upcoming week.

Q. Do you have any relationship with PJ Fleck?
JEFF BROHM: Just like we have with all the other coaches. I think right now he’s got his team playing at a high level and got some experience and some guys that have played and done a very good job. I know he relies on their leadership skills, and when you find a way to win close games, that means you’ve got a tough hard nosed competitive football team. I think he understands that, and we have to step up to that challenge and see if our guys want to find a way to win and do some special things. You can turn at any point if you want to, so we’ve got to come back in front of our fans who were tremendous the last game and put out a better product, and I think when you — if you commit to wanting to compete and play hard, that’s the first step.

Q. I know you obviously were at practice this week; did you get a chance to watch any football over the weekend? Check out any college football games? How did you spend your off week away from the office?
JEFF BROHM: Well, you know, sometimes when you have an off week and things are going good, it’s relaxing. This has not been super relaxing. I think it’s important that we understand where we’re at, and we’ve got a ways to go. So I think our coaches have worked hard with their own guys at getting them better. I think we’ve studied a lot of tape this past weekend on ourselves and even some other opponents we want to look at, figure out ways to improve and do some things better and maybe what are some other teams doing that’s working. So I think the ability to sit back and do that and spend some time trying to improve and make sure some of the things we’re doing are correct or maybe some of the things maybe need to be adjusted, that all took place, and now we’ve got to go back and get our plan down today and tomorrow and then just try to go out and execute.

I think every team is a little different in what they do and how they do it, and we’ve got to try to play to our strengths but also be physical at the point of attack on offense and defense. I think we need to get better on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the interior of coming off the football and striking, getting in the backfield, and our linebackers need to play downhill and be aggressive and we need to be able to tackle better in space.

Q. The past two years you’d said you liked playing two quarterbacks just so you’d have two ready when you need the second one. How can this kind of experience the last couple weeks help Plummer long-term?
JEFF BROHM: I think the game Jack played was great experience for him. Things didn’t go our way, wasn’t a great contest. He hung in there and played to the end. Are there things we’ve got to improve upon? Yes. I think he wants to win, he wants to work hard. He’s the quarterback, the guys around him have to play well, also, for him to succeed and look good, and that’s kind of with most quarterback positions. But yes, throughout the course of the year you’re going to need more than one, and luckily for us the last couple years we purposely played two, but both years it came in handy that the other guys was ready.

While Elijah is our starter, at the same time you have to have more guys ready to compete, and you saw that really in game 3. It’s not all on Jack, but we lost our starting quarterback, didn’t play well on offense. It’s important you have two quarterbacks, it’s important you have multiple guys at other positions because you never know when they’re going to be down, and that’s what we’ve got to build. There’s some youth right now that we think has good promise, but we have to get all of our guys to play harder and compete harder and understand that it takes everybody giving everything they have in order to win, and that’s kind of been our strength the past two years is I think we’ve played with great effort and great fight, and I think that needs to improve.

Q. Did last week give you and Brian a chance to maybe spend a little bit more time with him looking back at the TCU game than you would have otherwise or anything like that?
JEFF BROHM: We’ve worked hard with Jack and all of our quarterbacks. I know Jack was disappointed in the outcome. We all were. It was not a good performance by us all, including coaches. For whatever reason, there were not a whole lot of open guys in that game, which we normally find a better job of getting guys open.

You know, it gives us the ability to go back and see what we did wrong, which there were plenty of things. I think he’s had a good week of practice. I think he’s going to be a very good quarterback, and sometimes you have to go through a few struggles to improve. Like I said, the quarterback position is going to get a lot more credit when things go well, and it’s going to get a lot more blame when it doesn’t go well. We have to improve as a team, there’s no question about that, and we’re going to need to show that this Saturday, and I don’t think we’ve been getting the performance out of everyone that we need in order to win, so I think every position has to play better.

Q. Bye weeks like these, do you really search for that depth? Obviously you’re working some of the twos and the threes to get more reps and see if they can really contribute on Saturdays, especially with the conference season coming up here?
JEFF BROHM: That’s what we have done. We’ve got a lot of good work in this past week, full pads every day, coming off the football, hitting people, a lot of inside run, a lot of run play action. A lot of ways for our guys to be put in physical situations where they’ve got to show us that they want to compete and knock people back, and that’s on both sides of the line. That’s where most games are going to be won is in the trenches, and we’ve got to get better, and we’ve got to improve, and more guys have to be able to play and more guys have to show us that they’re ready to go, and we’ve got to try more guys and put them in there in the game and see if they will step up and rise to the challenge.