Crossroads College Football: Purdue Loses Leader to Injury

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The world of sports can often be unpredictable. 

Some could say that unpredictability is what drives the passion of fanhood, others may say unpredictability is what keeps sports trucking. Underdogs win, competitors rise from the depths of the unknown, and new champions are crowned on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, there’s another set of unpredictable circumstances that surround sports: injury.

At 3:14 p.m. Wednesday, that abrupt, menacing, unpredictable nature of injury nipped Purdue, a potential contender in the Big Ten West Division. It was reported that linebacker Markus Bailey, a fifth-year All-Big Ten senior and leader of the Boilermakers' defense, will be out for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury. 

Bailey’s injury is a critical blow to a defense that was already struggling to begin the season. Though it is early, Purdue’s defense ranks 91st in yards allowed, allowing opponents to gain 447 (90 rush, 357.5 pass) yards per game. Furthermore, opponents have averaged 5.7 yards per play and converted 34.38% of third down attempts. 

While the Boilermaker defense was far from stellar in 2018, Bailey was astounding.  Bailey recorded 115 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and an incredibly famous interception against Ohio State. He ranked third in the Big Ten in total tackles and led in solo tackles (82) by 9. It’s also notable that he was tied for 12th in the Big Ten for sacks.

The news of Bailey broke shortly after the media learned that starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar is dealing with a concussion that may leave him sidelined this weekend against TCU. While the injury is likely to be short lived, the Boilermakers are now faced with some major adversity. How teams respond to such adversity is what makes or breaks a season in college football. For example, fellow Big Ten school Maryland has been playing phenomenal since the tragic preseason death of offensive linemen Jordan McNair. While Bailey’s injury isn’t nearly as serious as a death, it’s important to note that how the team chooses to respond to the loss of one of their leaders.

Fortunately for Purdue, star defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal’s return is visible on the horizon. While it’s unclear when the senior will return, he will be an immediate plus on defense once when it happens. Neal, whose statistics show little about his impact, is a constant disturbance to opposing offensive lines.

All of these factors will present a true testament to everything head coach Jeff Brohm has been working towards. Not a stranger to adversity, trust Brohm to keep Purdue afloat in the Big Ten this season. The loss of Bailey hurts, but it doesn’t have to be season-breaking.

The Boilermakers welcome TCU to West Lafayette in their next matchup on September 14. 

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