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We grilled a Purdue writer ahead of Illinois’ big game

How does a Boilers writer feel about the Boilers?

NCAA Football: Purdue at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of a MONUMENTAL matchup for first place in the Big Ten West, we asked some tough questions to our friends over at Hammer & Rails.

1. Despite both our teams losing to put a damper on the whole affair, this is still easily the highest-stakes Cannon game in recent memory. Don’t hold back, buddy: how does that make you feel, as a Purdue fan, to actually have something on the line besides the Cannon? What’s your vision of this rivalry? What game or moment do you think best sums it up in your mind?

It is weird that the cannon trophy means something other than for the rivalry which honestly I think is the rivalry that Purdue fans think about the least. I don’t know if it’s the same way for Illinois fans. I’m not trying to be dismissive either I just don’t really have a deep hatred of Illinois in my heart like I do for IU and for Notre Dame who ran away from our rivalry to play their “national schedule” every year. Illinois versus Purdue just doesn’t summon up a deep hatred in my heart like for those games. Maybe that’s not the answer you’re looking for but I think it’s a fair assessment.

2. Last year, the Boilers had a breakthrough that was enabled by the best defense Jeff Brohm has put out during his stay in West Lafayette. Why are things not working as well now? Can it really all be chalked up to the impact of George Karlaftis?

Losing Karlaftis is obviously huge but Purdue didn’t have him in their bowl game last year against Tennessee and still found a way to win so while his loss is huge he can’t be the only reason. I think a lot of Purdue fans will point to Big Ten retread Ron English as the DC as one reason this defense can’t seem to get it all together. He’s getting a lot of heat on our boards and in our Twitter mentions which as you know is where all the peak football minds hang out. Truth be told the secondary of Purdue is just so bad that I think it forces the rest of the defense to be perfect which as we’ve seen they cannot do through four entire quarters.

3. Purdue has had a few games this year where they’ve actually gotten some production from the running game. Did anyone have any idea that the long search for a lead back would finally end with Devin Mockobee? What else has contributed to the newfound balance of the offense in neutral game situations?

If you asked 100 Purdue fans in the offseason how the running game would go this year I can almost guarantee that one of them would have said Devin Mockobee would be our lead back, unless you talked to Mockobee’s parents. He’s been the biggest surprise of the year (Charlie Jones is neck and neck) for this offense. When injuries hit the top two backs early in the year Mockobee stepped in and stepped up admirably. Jeff Brohm has talked for years about wanting to be more balanced on offense and now that he seems to have a RB who can make some plays I think he’s trying to actually achieve that result. Of course, sometimes you get down to the 2 yard line and throw three passes so who can really say what goes on in Jeff Brohm’s mind at times.

4. How did things go so horribly wrong against Wisconsin and Iowa? Personally, I genuinely believed Purdue would win both of those games. Is Jeff Brohm still Him?

You aren’t alone. Purdue is seemingly cursed against Wisconsin due to someone stealing the cheese curds off of Barry Alvarez’s plate at a Culver’s all those years ago. Purdue hasn’t beaten them since 2003 but like Charlie Brown with the football us fans keep thinking this will be the year to beat them only to see it be pulled away time and time again. These last two losses have really seen the knives come out from Brohm amongst our fans. People are questioning his play calling now more than ever. For me personally I would like to see him relinquish play calling duties and be able to focus more on the rest of the squad. His brother Brian had to step in a couple years back when Jeff had Covid and he did a really good job. Seems like it would be easy to slide those duties to him and be able to use more mental energy to try and fix the defense.

5. What’s the pathway to victory for Purdue? What’s the pathway to victory for Illinois? Which path do you think the game will take and what’s the final score?

The pathway to victory for Purdue has to involve some combination of the offense finally figuring things out again, no interceptions from AOC and competent play calling from Brohm, and the defense preventing big plays. That’s been the flaw of the secondary all year and now the run defense is starting to crumble so it’s not looking good for Purdue. For Illinois the path seems more clear, let the defense do their thing. The Purdue offense is fragile and if they get punched in the mouth that may be enough to keep them off balance for the entire game and see them struggle once again.I have to lean more toward Illinois here just because of the defense and we saw what Purdue did against a similarly rated Iowa defense last week (only 3 points). I’ll go Illinois 35 - Purdue 14.

Check out Hammer & Rails’ website here!