SOUTH BEND – In each of his first four seasons at Purdue, coach Jeff Brohm's teams played multiple quarterbacks in big moments.
Brohm extended that streak to five Saturday in a 27-13 loss to No. 12 Notre Dame at Notre Dame Stadium.
With the Boilermakers (2-1) trailing 20-13 in the fourth quarter, coming off back-to-back punts and pinned at their own 1-yard line after a beautiful punt from the Irish, Brohm inserted backup quarterback Aidan O'Connell into the game in relief of starter Jack Plummer.
O'Connell completed a 27-yard pass and led Purdue into the red zone later in the fourth quarter before throwing an interception off the hands of tight end Payne Durham in the end zone, sealing the win for the Irish.
In all, O'Connell, who was the Week 1 starter in 2020 over Plummer, went 11 of 18 for 104 yards and two interceptions, while Plummer, who won the 2021 starting job in fall camp, was 25 of 36 for 187 yards. The latter accounted for Purdue's only touchdown of the afternoon, a 2-yard fade to Milton Wright in the third quarter, set up by a perfectly-lofted 32-yard strike to David Bell three plays earlier.
“Plum(mer) likes to bring a lot of energy, he's good with his feet, he'll extend plays for you and that's always good,” slot receiver Jackson Anthrop said. “And then when Aidan came in, he was just very poised back there. He understood what he was doing. You could see it in his face, there wasn't any panic in his eyes, he was just playing.”
Brohm said Plummer remains the starter, but suggested O'Connell will play in the future, as well.
“We feel we've got two guys, multiple guys that can play for us at any point in time,” the Boilers coach said. “We're going to play multiple guys. Jack had been hit a lot and under duress. Aidan came in and distributed the ball pretty good. Unfortunately we got the two interceptions at the end, but other than that we did move the ball up and down the field (with O'Connell). “Jack's our starter. But we're not going to hesitate to play multiple guys if we need to. All those guys can bring value to the team.”
Plummer was hit seven times before he was removed from the game. He originally won the job out of a group of four vying for the position, a list that includes O'Connell, UCLA transfer Austin Burton and redshirt freshman Michael Alaimo.
The Boilermakers' quarterback situation might rise or fall depending on whether the passer has the luxury of throwing to Bell, a two-time All-Big Ten receiver.
The Indianapolis native made eight catches for 73 yards Saturday, but was knocked out of the game by a big hit from Irish safety Kyle Hamilton in the fourth quarter.
Bell was down on the field for several minutes as Purdue's entire sideline waited worriedly on the field. He was eventually carted off, though he did get into the cart under his own power.
Brohm did not have an update on when Bell might be available, but the Boilermakers released a statement after the game that the 2019 Big Ten Freshman of the Year was awake, walking and interacting with teammates.
“We appreciate the well wishes and kind thoughts for David,” Purdue football's Twitter account wrote.