Purdue University Football Media Conference
Monday, October 26, 2020
West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
Coach Jeff Brohm
JEFF BROHM: We’ll get started. I definitely want to congratulate our coaching staff and our players on the game this past Saturday. I thought they did a great job. They came well prepared for the game. They played to the very end, and while things weren’t perfect, we hung in there, we found just enough ways to make plays and enough ways to get some turnovers that definitely were crucial to our success.
Definitely very proud of our staff and our players, and we’re looking forward to moving on to game 2 against Illinois.
Illinois is a team that put it to us last year, pure and simple. They beat us and they beat us bad. They embarrassed us on our home field. They were more physical than us. They played harder than us and they out-coached us. This is a team that had a very good year last year. They’re talented. They’re big and strong. They play downhill, and they’ll be ready to play. It’ll be a tough contest, and this will be a good test for our guys to prepare this week as hard as we can and get ready to play a tough Illinois opponent.
- What do you think your status will be for the week?
JEFF BROHM: I’m looking to get back on Wednesday, so Wednesday will be my first day back, and seems like it’s been a couple months, so to get back, it’s about time, so I’m looking forward to that.
- Is it for sure on Wednesday? Are there any more protocols that you have to go through before that becomes final and official?
JEFF BROHM: No. I think the 10 days will be up and I’ll be able to come out of isolation and report back to work on Wednesday.
- How was it watching the game on Saturday from your house?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it wasn’t a whole lot of fun. The end result definitely was great. My wife and kids and daughter made sure to get out of the house and go to the game, so it was just me here, and I don’t blame them one bit. So it was unique. I haven’t really experienced that before, nor probably do I ever look forward to ever doing it again because it just doesn’t feel like you’re a part of a whole lot and there’s not a whole lot you can do.
You know what, I knew going into the game we had a good week of practice. Our guys had worked hard. Our coaches were preparing very hard, and I thought we had a good plan. I think on offense Brian and our staff did a good job. We were able to at least continue to try to run the ball and keep some balance, even though we still threw it 50 times, I think having some balance was critical to open a few things up. It’s very hard to play against teams that are playing for the pass and that’s all you do, so we’ve got to continue to build upon that.
And then I think on defense, our defensive staff and players played hard. We did give up yards, but we didn’t give up a lot of big plays, and then we were able to get two crucial turnovers and at least stop drives when they were driving the ball that really affected the outcome of the game for them. Without those key stops for our defense, it would have been tough to win.
- What’s Rondale’s availability for this week?
JEFF BROHM: We’re always hopeful and we’ll see what happens during the week.
- Why didn’t he play?
JEFF BROHM: He was out.
- Was that your decision or his decision or somebody else’s decision?
JEFF BROHM: No, he was just out, and we’ll — whenever he’s ready to play, he will play.
- Injury related or something else?
JEFF BROHM: That’s all I can tell you. I apologize.
- David Bell continues to perform at a high level, but in talking to him after the game he feels like he’s ready to take that next step because he really feels like he knows what’s going on now. Did you see that a lot from him in the off-season and in practices? Obviously it came out in the game on Saturday.
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think he’s known what’s going on for a long time now. He’s a very talented receiver. You know, he works extremely hard, and while he was productive in year one, which he for sure was, he had a few injuries that he had to play through. He found a way to get even better as the year went on.
I think this past off-season he wanted to work hard at finding ways to create maybe a little more separation, finding ways to get off the line of scrimmage and gain some more separation from defensive backs when he’s running his routes, and I think he has done a very good job of that.
And then of course as you guys see, the guy makes plays, and he kept just — he catches the ball in traffic and it’s just something that comes very natural to him and he has a knack for always catching the ball.
He was without question targeted quite a bit. He came through and did a very good job once again. He’s one of those guys that doesn’t talk a whole lot, doesn’t have to brag or bring that to his game, he’s all about business. He’s a great teammate.
I do think the emergence of Milton Wright in the game was great to see. To me it was noticeable on TV that, hey, this guy is a very good player. He had great get-off and got open on routes and made strong catches and got the ball and got north and south, took a couple big hits, came back and played.
I think without having Rondale, having Milton Wright step up and make plays was crucial and critical to spread the wealth a little bit.
And then of course our tight end made a few plays and our other complementary receivers did a good job and we’ve just got to continue to get more out of them to make sure that they’re continuing to improve and making our offense better by having more weapons so that we can spread the ball around a little bit more.
- How did the offensive line grade out?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it was one of our better played games by the offensive line. We felt like we were making improvement. We felt like we had more capable guys that we could put in the game that while maybe were not where we need to be, there is competition now of about 10 guys that we’re going to rotate and we’re going to build off of that where they can compete against each other.
You know, there’s still strides to make. I think that really Greg Long, we were very happy with his performance for a guy who hadn’t been here. He stepped in and did a very good job as well as some other newcomers like Kyle Jornigan that was able to hang in there and do a good job, and Sam Garvin I thought played hard.
Cam Craig before he got injured did some good things. But we had more guys to spell our players and that helped us. Gus Hartwig got in there, Spencer Holstege, DJ Washington, Eric Miller and Will Bramel played. We need to work them and get them better. I thought they could have played better, but they played hard. So really it’s just a matter of continuing to work as many guys as we have right now, it’s about 10 that we feel like we can rotate in. If we happen to have a few more, even better.
But I think trying to be a little bit more balanced, trying to help our guys a little bit where it’s not always a pass play can really help us in the end, and we’ve got to continue to work that and continue to build upon that. Being down at the running back position did hurt us, but Zander was able to carry the load the entire game.
- Is Greg’s injury long term or could you get him back this week?
JEFF BROHM: I don’t know for sure yet. I would say it’s doubtful for this week, but we’ll continue to see how he progresses throughout the week.
- What about King Doerue?
JEFF BROHM: Well, that one we’ll have to wait until the end of the week. We were hopeful he could play last week. He had a little flare-up in practice so we’ve got to get him back because he could be a good player for us, so we need him in the mix.
- And Tyler Coyle?
JEFF BROHM: Tyler is going to be a little more long-term, but he’ll be back this year. But I would not say this week.
- Talk about maybe Neil Callaway’s impact on the running attack. I know he was up in the booth on Saturday Brian said. Talk about maybe his impact and how he’s been able to augment the running game.
JEFF BROHM: Well, Neil is a coach who brings a lot of experience at a lot of big-time programs and he’s worked with me before, so I’m very familiar with him. He loves football. He just wants to do his part.
I think him and Coach Williams get along great together. It’s actually been a very good relationship. So between Coach Williams, Coach Callaway, we’ve got a GA, Max Halpin that’s played the position at center that’s with us, we have another quality control coach, Justin Sinz, who played tight end here that helps with the O-line. We’ve got four guys working with our offensive line. So I think we’ve really tried to spend a lot of resources in making sure that we’re coaching that position as hard as we can and we’ve got to continue to do that. We’ve got some youth there, mixed in a with a few others with experience, but there’s still a ways to go, and while we always would want to be dominant, we still have to work at it, and it’s going to be a weekly battle where we can try to progress and get some positive yards out in the running game and be more physical and find ways to protect when we have to and find ways to play more guys to provide competition.
But Neil has done a great job, and I think he gels with all four of our O-line coaches because it is an important position of a lot of guys up front, and that’s — as you know, they don’t get a whole lot of respect and a whole lot of credit, but when things are going well, they’re normally playing pretty good.
- Gus Hartwig, you talked in camp how this guy was going to be part of the rotation. Sure enough, he played I think 13 snaps Saturday. Give us your breakdown on Gus.
JEFF BROHM: Well, Gus has done a great job since he got here. He’s actually been farther along than we thought he could be. Gaining strength in pop and power is something he’s just got to continue to work at and get in the weight room and that’ll take a little time. But with that said, he plays hard. He’s got good instincts. He loves to compete and he’s going to continue to play more. So I anticipate him playing even more this week.
He can play a lot of positions for us. Right now it’ll probably be center/offensive guard but we put him in in camp at offensive tackle when we had some guys down and he stepped up and did a very good job for someone who’s really never played that position much. He’s just kind of got some natural instinct and love for the game. He takes a lot of pride in representing Purdue and this state, so he’s got a very bright future.
- Will Marty Biagi be back Saturday, and are all your assistant coaches together once again? You’ve got a full staff?
JEFF BROHM: Well, Marty is going to come back the same day as me. Unfortunately we missed having him, but with this situation with everything going around, we’ve got to abide by the rules, but we’re looking forward to getting him back. I think JaMarcus Shephard and Ryan Wallace and Jesse Schmitt, another GA who stepped in, they did a very good job for running it while Marty was gone.
- Just going back real quick, going back to camp, at what point did you name Aidan a starter? How deep into camp were you when you said that’s going to be our guy?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we were very deep into camp. Really it wasn’t until the Sunday before the first game did we officially talk to our quarterbacks and name a starter. We had competition all the way up until then. Really it’s an extremely close battle. All three guys that have experience we feel like we can put in the game and do a very good job for us. Aidan just had a slight — I mean, a slight edge. He won some games for us at the end of last year. His strengths, he’s got good accuracy and he’s got good poise in the pocket, and the other have strengths in other areas that definitely are beneficial, so at any time we’re not going to be afraid to play any of our guys, but I think Brian did a good job of hanging with Aidan. We had a little lull there at the end of the second quarter, third quarter, and Aidan found a way to kind of pick it up when he needed to, and that’s what he’s been good at. He’s had great poise, and when he has time and things are going well and the guys are open, he does a good job of distributing the ball.
- I just want to ask how you’re feeling and if you feel like you’ve recovered well.
JEFF BROHM: Yes, I do. I think that this isolation I’ve had took a little time to get over a few of the symptoms, but it’s like a normal sickness that you get, and it might last a little longer than some of the others that we’ve had, but I feel good and ready to get back, and I can’t wait for Wednesday for myself.
- How well do you think Brian ran the plays last week and would you consider letting your assistant coaches call the plays in the future?
JEFF BROHM: I thought Brian did a very good job, and I had great confidence that he would. He’s played the quarterback position for a long time. He’s been with me, as well. We’ve got the same blood. We kind of think alike a little bit even though he’s much calmer and cool and collected than me, which is a great quality to have. So I applaud him.
I think his patience with the offense and his patience with Aidan throughout the game was critical, and it definitely played a big factor, and I think with him and our assistant coaching staff I have great confidence in those guys.
Really when it comes to play calling, yeah, I would feel great with them calling them or even other guys on our staff because I think we all meet together and we work together. I just have been the one over the years to do it, but I have great confidence in all of our guys.
- So Aidan mentioned in a press conference a couple of days ago that he feels like some of the offensive struggles came from some mental errors. What do you think you’re going to do maybe in practice this week to help reduce those mental errors going into next week?
JEFF BROHM: Well, Aidan, when you throw the ball 50 times, you’re not going to make all your decisions correctly. I think that he forced the ball into coverage more than a few times that he shouldn’t have, so those are things that he has to work on improving and making sure that he doesn’t throw interceptions. We had two. There were probably a few others that were very close to being intercepted that he threw into coverage. So he’s got to be smart and he’s got to understand that sometimes plays are going to have to be made by throwing the check down and throwing the underneath throw and plays are going to have to be made even by him running some. I think that is something that’s just hard for some quarterbacks to understand, but when you’re playing good football teams, your legs have to be ready to go, you have to be active. If things aren’t there, you have to make plays with your feet, so even though that’s not his strength he still has to do that, so I think he needs to work hard at that.
He has to understand that turnovers are critical to success. The two we had hurt us, but fortunately for us our defense got two turnovers when they were driving to score and that really was the difference in the game in my opinion is that we found a way on defense to create some of those, but I think Aidan just has to make sure that turnovers are something that we can’t have and he’s got to be very smart in his decision making.
- How do you think this comeback win will affect the momentum going into this week’s practice and maybe next week ace game?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it was great to get a win against a very good opponent. It was great to come back in the end and win on our home turf. It was something we needed to do. This is a shortened season so we’ve got to make the most of every game. I think the challenge this week is our guys got to understand that that game is over. As to whether we won our lost, we’ve got to move on to the next opponent, so it’s going to test our maturity level. I would like to think that our guys have the game last year in the back of their head. We got our tails kicked up and down the field for 60 minutes and it was an ugly picture, and credit to Illinois for playing a good game.
We’ve got to come ready to play or it’ll happen again. This team is physical. They play downhill. They control the ball. They find ways to get turnovers. They’ve led the country in that category for the last couple years, so this will be a great challenge, and we’ve got to come ready to play or it’ll be the same result, and no games in this conference are easy, and especially going to Illinois.
- Aidan, is he a comeback artist? Would you define him as that?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I think the results speak for itself. He is very good in the fourth quarter. That is a strength of his. He’s got great poise. Nothing rattles him. So when you have a guy like that, you can always count on him to have a chance, and he’s definitely come through deep in the clutch.
- When Rondale first went out, David Bell and Milton Wright hadn’t really established themselves yet, and now that they have, once Rondale comes back, what do you expect to see out of that trio all playing together?
JEFF BROHM: Well, the more weapons to have, the better we can be. While David played a great game, I’m very proud of him, I think the emergence of Milton Wright in the last game, I was very proud of Milton. It was a performance he had shown us in practice because he works extremely hard that he can do that, but carrying over to the game and just his consistency on route running and catching the football strong and getting north and south after he catches it, really was fun to watch. As I watched it on TV it was noticeable. If we can continue to get other guys to step up in the mix, which I think we have some other good young receivers but they’ve got to prove it during a game, whether it’s Amad Anderson, TJ Sheffield, Maliq Carr, down the line, Jared Sparks did a few good things coming back from injury. The more weapons we have, the better we’re going to be.
Still, with that, we’ve got to get the running back corps healthy and we have to run the football and find ways to get positive yards and control the ball that way because it’s critical for our success. If we want to win running the football successfully it has to happen.
- What’s the biggest thing you see out of Illinois so far?
JEFF BROHM: Well, Illinois is going to be angry, mad and coming to this game ready to play. I think defensively Coach Smith has coached a lot of football in his life. They have good size up front. They’re physical, they play downhill, they play a couple normal coverages, but they play it well. They take chances. Their corners are aggressive.
And like I said, they flat-out kicked our tail last year, so this is going to be a team that has experience. Their offense maybe didn’t put up the points they would like to we have to find a way to have a great game on defense and limit points by their offense, but at the same time we’ve got to create some explosive plays and control the ball by running the football ourselves, and we did not do that last year. We got beat very handily.
- What do you think the unique challenges of playing on the road this year might be?
JEFF BROHM: Well, there’s some things that we’ve had to adjust, how you eat your meals, how you spread out, the different timing of those things.
I think playing in a stadium where there’s not a lot of people is something you have to come prepared for and you have to understand you’ve got to bring your own juice and your own energy and we’ve done that at home but now we have to go on the road and figure out a way to make sure we realize this isn’t a scrimmage, this is a real football game against a very hungry opponent.
I think trying to just communicate and talk to your players about that and let them understand that nothing just happens, you’ve got to make it happen, and you’ve got to continue to prove each and every week, otherwise you’re going to lose, and that’s the way this season is going to work and the way it’s going to work just playing a conference only schedule for sure is that whoever plays the best is going to win. If you’re not ready to play, you’re not going to win in this conference, and we’re definitely not going to win.
- Traveling under these conditions, probably having smaller less comfortable accommodations on the road, you have to — does that run the risk of throwing guys out of maybe their comfort zones or whatever and is that something that guys are going to have to overcome?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we’ll see. I mean, we’ve got a simple bus ride over. We’ll be in a hotel like normal. We’ve spaced some things out, and maybe more people have their own room than before, so there are some adjustments. But in the end every team is going to have to do the same thing, and when you get on the field and you play for 60 minutes, those things don’t change.
I think we’ll make the adjustments just like every other team that’s playing college football, and we’re all happy to be on the field playing, so whatever we have to do to make it work we want to do, and I do think the testing that we’re having to go through has been successful to this point. Obviously it’s going to knock some people out that get it, but keeping guys safe and making sure that we’re playing a game where people are not positive because we’ve had daily testing is crucial, and hopefully that will continue.
- You haven’t had to scale down your travel roster or anything like that, right? You can bring the same amount of players this year as you always have?
JEFF BROHM: Yeah, we’re going to take what we need. Yeah, we may scale it down some. I know this past week we maybe didn’t take as many to the hotel as we normally would, but yet we had our full scale meetings done before we went to the hotel, and that was different, so we had our pregame meal, then we came back to the facility and did all of our meetings before we went to the hotel, so going to the hotel wasn’t as big of an issue.
We didn’t dress as many guys as we’d like to. I mean, I would love to dress the entire roster for home games because I think they deserve and earned that opportunity, but because of COVID and the situation we did not, but our guys were in the stands and they were cheering us on and I saw that, so yeah, there’s adjustments to make. But we’ll take what we need, it’s just a matter of we want to be careful and cautious with the amount.
- We always hear coaches talk about the chaos of the sideline; I’ve got to look at the film later to know what went on, that kind of thing. How would you describe what the silence, the relative silence was like? What was the biggest difference do you think?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I wasn’t on the sideline so I can’t tell you from firsthand —
- I’m sorry, I mean for you to sit in silence as opposed to your normal role.
JEFF BROHM: Well, that was no fun for sure, and I’m sure it wouldn’t be for anybody, especially when you’re supposed to be coaching the team and you’re sitting on your rear end while everyone else is doing all the work.
It’s one of those things. There’s not a whole lot you can do with it. We tried to make some appeals. In the end you try to develop a coaching staff of guys that love football that are good people that understand and think alike and that you get all your thoughts down on paper and you communicate during the week, which I was in constant communication with our guys, but on game day it’s just about going out and playing.
Sometimes maybe we put too much pressure on our guys when we take the field, and because we had some people missing maybe they were more relaxed and they were maybe able to go out there and just cut it loose and play and understand that yeah, we’re not at full strength but it doesn’t matter. You guys have prepared hard and you’ve earned the right to compete. I think our coaches did a good job of being calm on the sideline and being composed and making sure our players understood that we were always in the game and that we had a chance to win, and I think that’s what helped us win against Iowa.
- From which room or rooms did you watch? Did you stay seated? Did you pace? Did you kneel? Did you run around? Are there any pets involved? What did it look like?
JEFF BROHM: Well, that’s a good question. Like I said, my wife and daughter — of course my son is always at the games. My wife and daughter got out of the house and went to the game, and I said, yeah, you need to get out of this house with me around here.
So there were multiple TVs on in the house and the little pool house we have outside, and yes, I did have a dog and there were a few times when I yelled, the dog knew to get in the corner and get very quiet. So I felt bed that I scared the dog a few times.
But I think for the most part I was somewhat calm and collected, and I felt our guys did a good job, and while there was a little bit of a lull there during the game where I had some concerns, we hung in there and our guys played hard and it was fun to — I didn’t enjoy it but it was fun to watch our team compete to the end and win, so I was very proud of our football team and our coaching staff.
- What kind of dog?
JEFF BROHM: Well, we’ve got a three-fourths poodle, a fourth St. Bernard. I told my wife and daughter for years I didn’t want a dog but they snuck away during the pandemic and brought one to the house. But since we have it, I do like it now, even though I won’t admit it, and it’s like having another child, and as you guys know that have pets, they’re fun to have around, and they keep you occupied and they give you something to do, and during this isolation I’ve had, actually walking the dog around the neighborhood is about the only thing I can do where I feel like I’ve accomplished anything.
When I said I didn’t want a dog, my family got it and turns out I’m the one who normally walks to take care of it more so than the others.
- I wanted to ask you, I know you’re back on Wednesday, but what does this week in practice look like since you’re going to be away from the program again today and tomorrow, as well? What kind of alters heading into game day on Saturday with you gone for two more days?
JEFF BROHM: Well, it’ll just continue to be the same. I have my video equipment here, so I’m able to watch video or able to Zoom in the meetings and talk about the plan going forward. I’m able to Zoom in and talk to the team, I’m able to continue to prepare and plan for practice and put that together. Really it’s kind of the same as last week where I’m heavily involved, but at the same time I’m not on the field and in practice. That’s the bad part. That’s the boring part that we have to deal with.
Luckily today we’re just preparing and prepping for Illinois and we’re not on the practice field, but I’ll miss one more practice on Tuesday and then be back Wednesday morning. You adjust to things. With COVID anyway, we’ve had a few issues in our office, as you guys know, we don’t talk about it a whole lot, but we’ve had some things happen. We’ve had to adjust how we meet as coaches, and there’s more remote meetings than we’re normally used to, but that’s just a sign of the times.
We didn’t really want to lose any more coaches than what we had. We had a breakup in an area of the office and we wanted to be very cautious, and we’re still continuing to be cautious because this thing, you don’t know when it’s going to pop up, and at least from what I understand it can stay in your body for seven to ten days when you maybe have been infected by someone that’s contagious and it doesn’t show up for a long time. We’ve had to adjust, and we’ll continue to do that.
- What’s your dog’s name?
JEFF BROHM: His name is Coco, and I treat it much better than Matt treats Vladimir, his dog, much better.
- We haven’t talked really a lot about your defense and the new staff, the new alignment. There seemed to be a rotation of a lot of guys in there. Did you feel like your defense was still pretty strong as you got into the second half and the fourth quarter, and if so, how much did that maybe help them keep Iowa out of the end zone?
JEFF BROHM: Well, I was very proud of our defensive staff and our players. That was the plan going in is to play more guys. I think even throughout fall camp when I’ve talked before, I feel like we’re two deep at a lot of positions there, and while there may be a slight dropoff, whether it’s through inexperience or slightly in talent, we feel like we have some capable guys, and quite a few guys that have played and played last year, and while it wasn’t up to par at times, they gained a lot of experience.
You know, I think our defensive staff did a great job of rotating those guys, trying to keep them fresh. We gave up a few chunks here and there on some plays, we gave up some yardage, but we didn’t give up the big play and we were able to create some turnovers when they were driving that was crucial to our success. We were able to make a stop at the end of the game when we took the lead, which we had not been very good at in the past, so it was great to see our defense do that.
I think we’ve made strides, and I think that our guys understand the package. I think there’s a thorough education going on where our guys are up to speed and not having misalignments and miscommunication and guys running free up and down the field. We have gotten better in that this past game against a solid football team that maybe isn’t the best offense in the conference but it’s a solid offense that runs the ball and play actions off of it.
I think we made an improvement, and we’ve got to continue to build upon it and we’ve got to continue to find ways to get stops and turnovers, but I like the progress that we’ve made.
- Assuming you’re back Saturday, will Brian go back up into the press box?
JEFF BROHM: Yeah, more than likely that’ll probably happen.