WEST LAFAYETTE — A nonexistent ground game, injuries to several key players and a redshirt freshman quarterback running the offense all spelled certain doom Saturday for Purdue as Texas Christian rolled to a 34-13 win at Ross-Ade Stadium.
It’s not that Jack Plummer was bad. It was his first career start as a fill-in for the injured Elijah Sindelar, the nation’s leading passer through the first two weeks of the season who sustained a concussion last week against Vanderbilt and was held out of action. Plummer finished with 181 yards on a 13-for-29 performance, with one touchdown and two interceptions.
"I knew this would be a tough matchup for him in his first start out of the gate," Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. "We didn't make any breaks early on and wasn't a good performance even by our best players, so a lot of pressure was on him. But he hung in there and he will get better. But we have to get better around him, as well."
That includes the ground game, which failed to show for a second straight week. Purdue (1-2) amassed just 23 yards on 25 attempts against the Horned Frogs (2-0). In the last two games, the Boilers have 54 rushing yards on 43 carries.
The Boilermakers defense — without Markus Bailey, out for the season after sustaining a season-ending knee injury last week during practice — yielded 346 yards on 58 carries — with 160 of those yards coming in the first half.
Despite the injuries, Brohm said he expects more out of his squad, especially when they’re playing under the lights in front of 60,000-plus fans. It was the largest non-conference home crowd since Sept. 14, 2013 vs. Notre Dame.
"I'm very thankful for the crowd that showed up," he said. "They were in full effect, every seat was taken and they were electric, but we disappointed them. It's something that is going to hurt us and it should. We'll see what we're made of moving forward.
"In the last six games, we've had three losses of nothing good. We've got to go back and try to figure it out. It doesn't matter who we have in there, who we are missing. We have to play better and it starts with me. We've got a lot of work to do."
Purdue has lost six of its last nine – including Saturday’s loss to TCU — since last October’s 49-20 upset over Ohio State. They’ve lost to Michigan State (23-13), Minnesota (41-10), Wisconsin (47-44, 3OT), Auburn (63-14, Music City Bowl) and Nevada (34-31).
Things started off well for the Boilers. George Karlaftis picked off a deflected pass deep in Horned Frogs territory on TCU’s first drive, leading to J.D. Dellinger’s 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
TCU took a 10-3 lead on a 24-yard field goal by Jonathan Song and a 32-yard scoring run by Darius Anderson, who finished with 179 yards on 16 carries.
Purdue cut the lead to 10-6 early in the second quarter when Dellinger split the uprights from 53 yards out, tying him for the third-longest field goal in school history. Song added another field goal for TCU to give the Frogs a 13-6 halftime lead.
It was all TCU in the second half. Al’Dontre Davis caught a 22-yard scoring pass from Max Duggan, Sewo Olonilua plunged over the goal line from a yard out, and Anderson added his second TD on an 8-yard run.
Plummer tossed a 54-yard TD pass to Amad Anderson Jr. late in the game to account for the final scoring. It was the first career touchdown for both players.
Purdue wideout Rondale Moore, who entered the game as the nation’s leading receiver, faced tight coverage all night from the Horned Frogs and finished with 25 yards on three catches.
Purdue linebacker Ben Holt had 17 tackles to pace the defense, the most tackles in a game by a Boilermaker since Willie Fells had 20 tackles against Iowa in 1997.
Cornel Jones had 10 tackles, while Anthony Watts and Simeon Smiley both had a sack.
Purdue has a bye week before hosting Minnesota on Sept. 28.
Notes: In addition to injuries to Sindelar and Bailey, Matt McCann also missed the TCU game because of an injury, as did wide receiver Jared Sparks. … Karlaftis became the first Purdue true freshman since Torri Williams (vs. Iowa on Nov. 6, 2004) to record a sack and an interception in the same game. … Purdue’s 23 rushing yards were the fewest in a game since having 23 against Minnesota on Nov. 5, 2016. … Saturday’s game was the first of a home-and-home series with the Horned Frogs. The next game will be Sept. 14, 2030, at TCU.