Penn State Football: an early look at Nittany Lions’ week 1 opponent following Purdue’s spring game

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 05: Sean Clifford #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions runs for a touchdown against Purdue Boilermakers during the first half at Beaver Stadium on October 5, 2019 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 05: Sean Clifford #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions runs for a touchdown against Purdue Boilermakers during the first half at Beaver Stadium on October 5, 2019 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

After getting an early look at Penn State Football’s week one opponent, what are a few takeaways of Purdue following their spring game?

While it’s certainly wise to take everything you see in a college football spring game with a grain of salt, there are still some noteworthy takeaways of the Boilermakers, who will host the Nittany Lions on Thursday, September 1st, to kick off the 2022 season.

The first half specifically stuck out, as the offense was shut out by the defense 28-0 in the first 30 minutes of action, much of which used a running clock.

For clarity, Purdue splits their team up in an offensive team vs defensive team approach in their spring game, as opposed to splitting them into two teams, each with offensive and defensive players, and playing a regular game like Penn State Football does.

The defensive scoring was as follows: a stop was worth two points, a forced three-and-out was worth three points, a turnover or safety was worth five, and a defensive touchdown was worth seven. Once a drive was complete, the ball was re-spotted, and another drive began.

The defense’s 28 first half points was fueled by a few three-and-outs, and also a pair of interceptions. One of the two interceptions was thrown by sixth-year quarterback, and projected starter, Adian O’Connell. Interceptions happen, and it’s only April, but it was an ugly interception in which no offensive players were even in the area.

Hopefully, a talented Penn State Football secondary, led by Ji’Ayir Brown and Joey Porter Jr, can capitalize on similar mistakes come September.

While some of Purdue’s primary receivers were inactive for the scrimmage, the offensive struggles in the first half were still somewhat shocking. Considering the fact that the quarterbacks do not have to worry about getting hit, and the defense was not quite going 100% in terms of hitting pass-catchers and ball-carriers, it is strange that the offense was not able to move the ball downfield and get into field goal range at all in the first half.

One talented receiver that did play, however, was Tyrone Tracey, a transfer from Iowa. He had a few nice catches in traffic, including a touchdown. He also took some handoffs out of the backfield and is expected to do some of that in the regular season as well, in a role similar to the one that Rondale Moore was highly successful in, in Jeff Brohm’s offense.

Following the slow first half offensively, the third quarter began with the offense getting the ball deep in the defense’s territory, at their 30-yard line, as opposed to starting drives in their own territory like they did in the first half. This allowed the offensive scoring to pick up for awhile, as they rattled off four touchdowns, all of which came with a short field to work with.

Last season, the only team in the Big Ten with a worse rush offense than Penn State Football was Purdue, who averaged just 2.8 yards per carry, and 84.2 yards per game on the ground, compared to Penn State’s 3.2 and 107.8 in the same categories.

The announcers mentioned that improving the running game was the focal point of the offseason for Purdue, specifically in the redzone, where they averaged just 1.2 yards per carry, according to the Big Ten Network.

Will the Boilermakers be able to make significant strides with their running game, led by senior running back King Doerue? If so, it would give them a much more balanced attack, making things difficult on Manny Diaz and his defense.

One final note from the Boilermakers’ offense was wide receiver Preston Terrell, who was solid as a pass-catcher, but what stuck out was the two times he threw the ball.

The first was a solid throw on a double pass that he completed deep down the field to Tyrone Tracey. On the second, he took an end around handoff and threw a great ball on the run, hitting his receiver in stride, on a play that resulted in a touchdown.

Were they having a little bit of fun since it was the spring game? Absolutely, but he did look very comfortable and effective throwing the ball, so keep an eye out for a trick play or two where Terrell might throw the ball against Penn State Football in week one.

Defensively, one name that stuck out was sophomore defensive end Khordae Sydnor. He made a few nice plays, and was able to consistently get pressure on the quarterbacks, though he obviously wasn’t allowed to hit them. The announcers from the Big Ten Network mentioned that the Purdue coaching staff talks very highly of him and really thinks he has a bright future, beginning with a potential breakout campaign in 2022.

With Penn State Football looking to improve along the offensive line and cut down on sacks, keep an eye on Sydnor (#96), as he matches up against Olu Fashanu and Caedan Wallace out on the edge.

Finally, the Boilermakers are extremely thin at cornerback, and even had a backup quarterback getting some time at corner in their spring game as a result, which also makes their offensive struggles that much more worrisome for the Purdue faithful.

They already have a pair of cornerback transfers on campus in Reese Taylor (from Indiana) and Tee Denson. Their 247Sports page doesn’t have any of their 2022 signees listed as cornerbacks, so unless they land some more transfers at that position from now until fall camp, their lack of depth there will continue.

This could prove to be highly beneficial for Penn State Football, as they will have a veteran quarterback in Sean Clifford, throwing to an excellent wide receiver trio of Parker Washington, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, and Mitchell Tinsley, against a very thin Purdue secondary.

There are still 144 days until the Nittany Lions and Boilermakers will clash inside Ross-Ade Stadium, but some of these takeaways could give an early indication of what to expect out of Penn State Football’s week one foe.