116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Purdue certainly does not have a No. 4 next to its name or the undefeated record that Penn State had, but the Boilermakers (3-2, 1-1) still have some intriguing players.
Here are five to watch Saturday at Kinnick Stadium:
WR David Bell
David Bell is essentially the centerpiece of the Boilermakers’ pass-heavy offensive unit.
Bell has more than twice as many receiving yards as the next-best receiver despite missing one game with an injury.
His 439 receiving yards and 27 receptions are both second-best in the Big Ten West division.
Bell also had a 26-yard run against Kirk Ferentz’s alma mater UConn earlier this year.
The 6-foot-2 wideout’s success this season doesn’t come as a surprise to many people, though.
He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2020 and was Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2019. Pro Football Focus ranked him last offseason as the ninth-best wide receiver returning to college football this year.
The Boilermakers have been 4-1 when Bell picks up more than 120 receiving yards since the start of the 2020 season. When Bell has recorded 120 or fewer receiving yards, they’ve been 0-6.
DE George Karlaftis
George Karlaftis has been a key part of the Boilermakers’ defense.
He leads Purdue with five quarterback hurries and is the only player to have multiple sacks this season. His 4.5 tackles for loss are second-best on the team.
His stats don’t necessarily stand out in the Big Ten, but he has garnered some high praise.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly called Karlaftis “arguably the best pass rusher in football,” the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier reported. The Fighting Irish had a 27-13 win against Purdue earlier this season.
Karlaftis missed significant time in 2020 because of an injury and COVID-19, playing in only two games. One of those games was Purdue’s win over Iowa, when he recorded three tackles and one sack.
QBs Aidan O’Connell and Jack Plummer
Aidan O’Connell is Purdue’s starting quarterback, at least for now.
He started the first three games of 2020, including the Purdue-Iowa game, before missing the rest of the season with an injury.
Then he began the 2021 season behind fellow quarterback Jack Plummer on the depth chart. Plummer completed 69.5 percent of his passes and threw for seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm switched to O’Connell in the second half of Purdue’s 13-9 win over Illinois and gave the graduate student the starting nod in Purdue’s most recent game against Minnesota.
O’Connell completed 65.4 percent of his passes, threw one touchdown and one interception and was sacked four times in the loss against the Gophers.
Purdue’s win over the Hawkeyes last year was arguably O’Connell’s worst of his three starts in 2020. He threw three touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 62 percent of passes.
The Boilermakers have also used Austin Burton as a mobile quarterback this year, albeit more sparingly than O’Connell or Plummer.
K Mitchell Fineran
Mitchell Fineran doesn’t quite have the numbers Iowa’s Caleb Shudak has boasted, but he’s been statistically one of the better kickers in the Big Ten this year.
That’s good for the Boilermakers because they’ve needed him a lot recently, too.
About 46 percent of Purdue’s points in its last three games have come from field goals. For comparison, that number is about 21 percent for Iowa.
Fineran has hit nine of 10 field goals — the fourth-best percentage in the conference — although a 48-yard field goal against Oregon State was his only time firing from deeper than 40 yards this season.
His one miss was a 37-yarder against Minnesota.
Fineran transferred from FCS-level Samford, where he had more experience with deeper field goals.
He hit all seven attempts from 40 or more yards last season, which occurred in the spring after the Southern Conference canceled its fall schedule because of COVID-19.
His longest career field goal is from 50 yards.
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