WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Tackling in space. Those three simple words that have been engrained in the heads of Purdue defenders this week as they prepare for Saturday night's game against the TCU Horned Frogs.
Even though it's something that the secondary has focused on all season, coaches and players have made it a point of emphasis even more so this week. TCU's skill-position players are that dangerous.
“They’ve got some good outside receivers and like to run a lot of screens,” Purdue cornerback Dedrick Mackey said. “It’s going to be a lot of tackling on the outside.”
Saying that TCU has some good receivers might be putting it lightly when Jalen Reagor is part of its receiving core. Reagor enters the game having caught a touchdown pass in eight of his last nine games and posted five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown in their Week 1 win against Arkansas Pine-Bluff. TCU had an early bye week last week and comes into this game 1-0 and well-rested.
“He's another great athlete that you're going to have to know where he's at and you're going to have to contain him,'' Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “When you have a good player, you just have to know where he's at, and your players have to always know where he's located.”
Facing a spread offense won’t be the only unique challenge facing the Boilermakers this weekend.
The Horned Frogs implement two quarterbacks — senior Alex Delton and freshman Max Duggan from Council Bluffs, Iowa — into their spread offensive system. In the season opener, Duggan made the bigger impact in the passing game, finishing 16 for 23 passing with one touchdown. Delton made his mark on the ground, running seven times for 67 yards.
“We're going to have to be smart in our approach, and still stay on the attack and make sure we're not letting those quarterbacks get comfortable,” Brohm said.
An attacking approach on defense hopefully will take much needed pressure off of a secondary that currently ranks 125th out of 130 teams in passing yards allowed.
That Boilermaker attack begins and ends with the defensive line getting pressure on the quarterback, no matter who's back there.
“This is one of those games that we call sack season,” Purdue defensive end Derrick Barnes said. “Facing a spread offense like that, it opens opportunities for the defensive ends and the defensive line.”
Two games into the season, the Boilermakers have given up 715 yards through the air. That per-game average of 357.5 yards per game needs to come down drastically if the team wants to have success this season, starting with Saturday night against the Horned Frogs.
Follow SI/Maven Purdue beat writer Brady Extin on Twitter at @BigB_1