West Lafayette is home to the rebirth of a series that began during World War II
One game was close, the other was not, but regardless, both the Vanderbilt Commodores and Purdue Boilermakers will look to rebound from season-opening losses when they meet in West Lafayette in Week 2.
On Saturday, the Commodores and Boilermakers will renew a series that began during — and has not been resumed since — World War II. Vanderbilt came away victorious in what must have been a scintillating 3-0 game in West Lafayette in 1941, and followed in 1942 with a more decisive 26-0 win in Nashville.
Purdue should not need to worry about being shut out again by Vanderbilt this weekend, as its offense put up 31 points in a losing effort to Nevada last Saturday. But its defense will certainly need to finish the job this time around: Vanderbilt mustered only six points last week against Georgia but played well in non-conference games a season ago, scoring over 32 points per game.
Vanderbilt at Purdue
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 7 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Purdue -8
When Vanderbilt Has the Ball
When head coach Derek Mason finally named a starting quarterback for the opener against Georgia, he tabbed Ball State grad transfer Riley Neal. Neal got the lion's share of the work, but Deuce Wallace also saw the field in the final minutes against the Bulldogs. The two combined for just 109 yards passing on 31 attempts, which kept the Commodores' playmakers on the outside from building much momentum — Kalija Lipscomb and Jared Pinkney together mustered only five receptions for 19 yards. Pinkney especially will no doubt look to return to the elusive mix of efficiency and volume he found in 2018, as he was one of only two tight ends nationally with 50 or more receptions and at least 15 yards per catch.
Ke'Shawn Vaughn was the offensive MVP of the game for Vanderbilt, managing nearly five yards per carry on the ground against a stingy Georgia defense. Vaughn tallied 74 yards rushing — which led all Commodores, who as a team rushed for 116 yards — but was held well below his 2018 average of 103.7 yards per game.
Linebacker Markus Bailey's decision to return to West Lafayette for his senior season was a big boost to the Boilermakers' front seven, and he showed why as he led the team in tackles on Saturday with 10, including one tackle for a loss. As a team, Purdue totaled six TFLs in the opener but could not force a single turnover, while Nevada scored 13 points off turnovers in the win.
When Purdue Has the Ball
Quarterback Elijah Sindelar was busy on Saturday, going 34-for-52 through the air for 423 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions mixed in. The second pick was very costly, though, as it gave Nevada possession with under 40 seconds remaining for a drive that ultimately resulted in a game-winning field goal at the buzzer.
Zander Horvath is the primary rushing threat for Purdue, and he led the Boilermakers on the ground with 66 yards on 19 carries, while Sindelar chipped in with 26. The ever-dangerous Rondale Moore and fifth-year tight end Brycen Hopkins will likely be Sindelar’s go-to targets throughout 2019, and both played well in their season debuts. Moore eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards for the eighth time in a Purdue uniform, catching 11 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, and Hopkins added 84 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. Hopkins will definitely be one to watch, as the Nashville native takes on his hometown team.
Vanderbilt can look back and take some positives from its Week 1 loss, most notably that it kept Georgia out of the end zone after halftime. The Bulldogs' only second-half points came via three Rodrigo Blankenship field goals, after three early touchdowns in the opening 22 minutes put the visitors up by 21. Dashaun Jerkins led all Commodores with 14 tackles, but the Commodores mustered only two tackles for a loss and no sacks, so their pressure will need to improve in the coming weeks.
The quest for positive momentum will be big here as both sides hope to avoid an 0-2 start to the season. Both Vanderbilt and Purdue have plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball, so this game will likely come down to which defense can make a difference late in the game.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 31, Purdue 28
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.