Three Matchups to Watch: Vanderbilt at Purdue

Will the Vanderbilt Commodores win their first game of the season or will their first victory of 2019 continue to elude them?

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Three Matchups to Watch: Vanderbilt at Purdue

Photo by Hunter Long

Photo by Hunter Long

Photo by Hunter Long

Photo by Hunter Long

Luke Mukundan

The Vanderbilt Commodores started off the 2019 season on a sour note, as they were outmatched in multiple facets of the game in their 30-6 loss to #3 Georgia. 

This upcoming week, Vanderbilt looks to rebound against an intriguing opponent in the Purdue Boilermakers.

Similarly to the Commodores, the Boilermakers were on the losing end of their Week One matchup, losing to an underdog Nevada team, 34-31. Purdue, coached by former Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm, is not nearly as imposing of an opponent as Georgia. However, they remain a challenging foe that must be taken very seriously. 

Purdue is as good as any other team on Vanderbilt’s schedule and the way that the Commodores perform against them may act as a sign of things to come. As such, here are the matchups that should prove to be of the utmost importance in the Commodores’ trip to West Lafayette:

 

Vanderbilt Secondary vs. Rondale Moore

Although Purdue may not be the most heralded program in college football, the Boilermakers do have one of football’s most heralded players in sophomore wide receiver Rondale Moore. Moore burst onto the national scene last year as a true freshman, accumulating an FBS-leading 114 receptions along with 2,215 all purpose yards and 14 touchdowns. At the season’s end, Moore won Big 10 Freshman of the Year and was even more impressively a consensus All-American, only the third time in history that a freshman was a consensus pick. In Purdue’s first game of the season, Moore picked up right where he left off, making 11 catches for 124 yards and one touchdown. Needless to say, Vanderbilt’s secondary will have its hands full trying to contain the All-American. 

In the Commodores’ first matchup against Georgia, the secondary was able to hold the opposing passing game in check. Jake Fromm only threw for 156 yards and no Georgia receiver had more than 50 yards. This was all the more impressive considering Vanderbilt had to replace both starting cornerbacks from last year’s team, and starting safety Frank Coppet was a late scratch on game day. If the Commodores hope to stop the electric Moore, the secondary will have to show up in an even bigger way this Saturday.

 

Vanderbilt Offensive Line vs. Purdue Defensive Front

In Vanderbilt’s opening game, the offensive line gave a less-than-inspiring performance, as it was thoroughly outmatched against an imposing Georgia defense. This was not entirely unexpected, as the offense did have to replace stalwarts on the line in Justin Skule and Bruno Reagan. If that wasn’t hard enough, starters Devin Cochran and Saige Young are both currently injured, so neither were available to play in the opening game. The makeshift line that did take the field was often overwhelmed by Georgia’s defensive front, which resulted in some faulty snaps and constant pressure on starting quarterback Riley Neal. 

Luckily, Purdue’s defensive front doesn’t appear to be as great as Georgia’s front seven. In their upset loss to Nevada, the Boilermakers recorded one sack and no quarterback hurries throughout the entirety of the game. Additionally, defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal, who very well might be Purdue’s best defender, is injured and doubtful to play against Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt’s offensive line will want to rebound from last week’s poor performance, and the defensive front they are facing should give them every opportunity to do so.

 

Riley Neal vs. Purdue Secondary

After a lengthy and secretive quarterback battle that stretched the entire offseason, Riley Neal emerged victorious. However, the graduate transfer from Ball State was hardly impressive in his first game, completing 14 of 25 passes for a paltry 85 yards. Neal looked timid in the pocket, scrambling whenever there was any sign of pressure and relying on quick throws in the flat. When he did have time to throw, he was often on a different page as his wide receivers, and several routine throws missed their marks. 

All in all, it was far from the most ideal debut for Neal. 

However, any quarterback controversy that fans may speculate on is premature, as head coach Derek Mason publicly backed Neal as the team’s quarterback going forward. Neal will need to bounce back against the Boilermakers to make his coach’s decision look like the right one. If the first game was any indication, stopping the pass may prove to be an issue for the Purdue secondary. The Boilermakers allowed Nevada quarterback Carson Strong, who was making his first career start, to throw for 295 yards and three touchdowns. 

If there was any time for Riley Neal to have his first big game as a Commodore, the Purdue game is as good a time as any.

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