Purdue Boilermakers head coach Ryan Walters watches his team play against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field.

Know the Huskers foes 2024: Purdue Boilermakers

After four straight weeks at home to start the 2024 campaign, the Nebraska Cornhuskers will head on the road for the first time to West Lafayette, Ind. to take on the Purdue Boilermakers. The Boilermakers are coming off a rough 2023 season under first-year head coach Ryan Walters and things don’t get any easier heading into a tough 2024 schedule. Here’s a look at what 2024 will be like for Purdue.

Know the Huskers foes 2024: Purdue Boilermakers

2023 was a disappointment

The road for success for the Boilermakers in 2023 was much more difficult right away after a successful 2022 season where Purdue took home the Big Ten west division title. The tough road began when former head coach Jeff Brohm took the head coach opening at his alma mater, Louisville, after six decent seasons in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers replaced Brohm with former Illinois Fighting Illini defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, which would be Walters’ first head coaching opportunity. To make things more difficult, Purdue had to replace Aidan O’Connell, who threw for over 3,000 yards in 2021 and 2022, which led to him being drafted by Las Vegas Raiders. Walters and his staff went into the transfer portal and brought in former Texas Longhorns junior quarterback Hudson Card.

Purdue Boilermakers quarterback Hudson Card (in the white jersey, white pants and black and gold helmet) throws the ball under pressure from Nebraska pass rush on Oct. 28, 2023 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Oct 28, 2023; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Purdue Boilermakers quarterback Hudson Card (1) passes against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

It was clear 2023 wasn’t going to be easy right away in non-conference play. The Boilermakers shot themselves in the foot, going 1-2 in non-conference play, which included losses to Fresno State and Syracuse. The first couple of weeks of conference play was mediocre, with a loss to Wisconsin in Madison and then thrashing Illinois to close out September. Any hope of making a bowl game in 2023 ceased to exist by the beginning of November as October was a very rough month for the Boilermakers. Purdue lost three straight weeks during October to Iowa, Ohio State and Nebraska. The Boilermakers’ losing streak continued into the first week of November against the Michigan Wolverines, before ending their losing streak against Minnesota.

Card was banged up for most of ladder half of the season and he missed Purdue’s game against Northwestern, where the Boilermakers were forced to rely on two freshman quarterbacks. It’s tough enough to win a game without your starting quarterback but with two inexperienced quarterbacks, it made the job very difficult to beat the Wildcats. Northwestern defeated Purdue 23-15, which the Wildcats gained bowl eligibility with the win. The Boilermakers were able to close out 2023 on a high note with a 35-31 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers, keeping the Old Oaken Bucket trophy in West Lafayette.

Card had a decent first season in the Big Ten, finishing the 2023 season completing 215 of 365 passes for 2,387 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Most of the rushing yards came from two different running backs, with the most coming from sophomore running back Devin Mockobee, who had 172 carries for 811 yards and six touchdowns. Sixth-year senior running back Tyrone Tracy Jr was right behind Mockobee rushed 113 times for 716 yards and eight touchdowns. On the receiving side of things, it was bit of a mixed bag. Sophomore wide receiver Deion Burks led the Purdue offense with 47 catches for 629 yards and seven touchdowns and senior TJ Sheffield had 32 catches for 381 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, freshman defensive back Dillon Thieneman led the way logging 106 tackles (74 solo, 32 assisted), six interceptions and two forced fumbles on his way to earning Freshman All-American honors and winning the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) Freshman of the Year award. Sophomore defensive lineman Nic Scourton had the best season in the trenches with 50 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 10 total sacks. Senior edge rusher Kydran Jenkins had a good season as well with 57 total tackles, 15.5 for loss and 7.5 total sacks. However, the defense didn’t preform well, allowing 30.4 points per game, which ranked 105th in the country.

Will there be improvement in 2024?

Head coach Ryan Walters watches Purdue quarterback Hudson Card warm up before matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Oct 7, 2023; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Purdue Boilermakers quarterback Hudson Card (1) warms up as head coach Ryan Walters looks on before the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Year two in the Walters era at Purdue will be pivotal in the Boilermakers future place in the new Big Ten (18) conference. Card is back under center for one more season and he will have a more experienced offensive line to protect him the backfield. Mockobee is back for his third season and former Illinois running back Reggie Love III transfers to Purdue for a fresh start. The Boilermakers lost Burks to the transfer portal and replaced him with junior Florida Atlantic transfer Jahmal Edrine, who comes to West Lafayette after a season-ending knee injury in 2023. If healthy, Edrine will be a big target for Card. Purdue also brought in two other wide receiver transfers. Those transfers being sophomore C.J. Smith (Georgia) and senior Kam Brown (UCLA).

On defense, Thieneman and Jenkins return for another season alongside senior cornerback Markevious Brown and senior nose tackle Cole Brevard, who all started for the Boilermakers in 2023. Purdue brought in a couple of transfers as well to help fill up the holes that were present in 2023. Junior Georgia cornerback transfer Nyland Green looks to be a potential starter and junior Colorado transfer Kyndrich Breedlove will help out on the back end as well. Sophomore Will Heldt will look to fill the loss of Scourton, who transferred to Texas A&M over the offseason. If Heldt struggles, veteran Boston College rush end transfer Shitta Sillah will play a role on the Boilermaker pass rush.

Now the question is: Will there be improvement in 2024? There is enough talent on the roster to get to a bowl game, however, Purdue’s schedule is a gauntlet. The Boilermakers open with Indiana State before going on a early bye week in week two. Purdue then gets to face off against Notre Dame before going on the road to Oregon State. They return home to take on Nebraska before back to back road games against Wisconsin and Illinois. The Boilermakers close October, hosting Oregon before going on their final bye week. November will once again be a rough month as they face Northwestern at home before going on the road to the “Horseshoe” to face Ohio State. Purdue returns home one final time to face Penn State before closing the season with back-to-back road games against Michigan State and Indiana.

There isn’t much wiggle room for Boilermakers in 2024. If they want to go bowling in 2024, they have to start strong with at least a 2-1 record going into the game against the Huskers. Regardless of what happens in that game, Purdue will have to find a way to get wins against at Illinois, Northwestern, at Michigan State and at Indiana to get six wins. That will be tough to do but they have the talent to do so.

Week five matchup

Now back to the matchup between Nebraska and Boilermakers. This year’s matchup between the two schools will be for the 13th time in both school’s history. The current series record is tied 6-6, with the Huskers taking the game last year 31-14. Purdue won the first ever matchup in 1958, winning 28-0. Since joining the Big Ten, Nebraska holds the series lead 6-5 over the Boilermakers.

This will be a test for both teams as it’s Nebraska’s first road trip of the season and it’s Purdue’s last home game until Oct. 19. The Boilermakers and Huskers face off at Ross-Aide Stadium on Saturday Sept. 28, 2024 at 11 a.m.

Main Image: © Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

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