Round 2 after last year’s classic. Primetime on NBC. A potential must-win game for Syracuse. There are storylines aplenty heading into SU’s clash with Purdue Saturday night. With the marquee matchup drawing ever nearer, let’s figure out what the Orange are up against.
This is not the same Boilermakers team we saw last season. Purdue made it to the Big Ten title game in 2022 only to get eviscerated by Michigan, followed by an even more lopsided affair against LSU in the Citrus Bowl. QB Aidan O’Connell and WR Charlie Jones- the architect’s of last season’s dynamic offense- are gone, as is Head Coach Jeff Brohm. This is a new look Boilermakers squad that has looked shaky to begin the season. Fresno State came into West Lafayette and won 39-35 in week 1, while Purdue nearly blew a 17-point lead against Virginia Tech last weekend. It’s been very uneven under the new regime early.
HEAD COACH RYAN WALTERS
Walters’ rise in the coaching ranks has been both steady and quick since his playing days at Colorado. A former safety, Walters coached defensive backs at multiple schools from 2009-20 before settling into the defensive coordinator role at Illinois. The Fighting Illini were number 1 nationally in scoring defense and number 2 in yardage in 2022. When Brohm left for Louisville, Purdue hired Walters at just 37 years old, making him the eighth-youngest head coach in the FBS.
QB HUDSON CARD
The stars at night were not big and bright for Card during his time at Texas. Many pegged him as the Longhorns’ quarterback of the future before he was usurped by Quinn Ewers. It’s not as if Card was awful during his time on the 40 acres- he completed well over 60% of his passes and had an 11:2 TD:INT ratio, but Ewers is a projected top-10 pick for a reason. Card has thrown for over 500 yards and two touchdowns with no picks in his first two games as a Boilermaker. Even if his career hasn’t panned out like some thought it would, Card is still a very talented signal-caller.
RB DEVIN MOCKOBEE
Mockobee walked onto Purdue’s team after originally committing to Navy, but it’s not hard to see why he earned a scholarship. He led the Boilermakers in rushing yards and touchdowns as a redshirt freshman while setting program records for rushing yards, attempts, and 100-yard games en route to being named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. Mockobee had just 7 carries for 22 yards against Syracuse last year, but found the end zone, and this was in a much more pass heavy offense. Mockobee has earned a much larger role, and the Orange front seven will have its hands full.
LB KYDRAN JENKINS
If Jason Beck has had the offense watching film from last season’s matchup, chances are Jenkins’ name has been brought up a few times. The Georgia native only had two tackles, but it was quality over quantity. One was a tackle for loss, the other was a sack. Jenkins carried that momentum to an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten recognition, and he’s been a force with 10 tackles, 3 TFL, and 2 sacks in Purdue’s first two games. Garrett Shrader and the offensive line must keep an eye on him.
DB DILLON THEINEMAN
It’s rare for a true freshman to come into a Big Ten program and make as big an impact as Theineman has made in West Lafayette. He comes from Carmel, Indiana about an hour away from the Purdue campus, which only adds to his fandom. Theineman has 17 total tackles (as a defensive back!) and a pair of interceptions through just two games. Solid would be an understatement to describe Thieneman’s play early on.
The scene is set for one heck of an atmosphere. It will likely be a sold-out crowd as Syracuse faces a potential turning point in its season while Purdue tries to get its own on track.