Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell has saved his best performances for the Boilermakers’ biggest games so far this season. And he’ll get another big-time opportunity on Saturday when Purdue visits Ohio State.
Facing No. 2 Iowa on Oct. 16, O’Connell completed 30 of his 40 pass attempts for 375 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in Purdue’s 24-7 road victory. He finished with a passer rating of 170.3.
He was even better against No. 3 Michigan State on Saturday, setting a new career high with 536 passing yards. O’Connell went 40-of-54 and finished with a 175.8 passer rating as the Boilermakers pulled off the upset, 40-29. The victory was their 17th over a top-five opponent as an unranked team, the most among all FBS teams, and also makes the 6-3 Boilermakers eligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2018.
Now O’Connell is looking ahead to another top-five team, as Ohio State (8-1) sits at No. 4 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings; Purdue is No. 19. In the latest AP poll, OSU is sixth and Purdue is 26th.
O’Connell — who has more passing yards in eight games this year (2,087) than in his previous nine with Purdue (2,017) — received numerous honors for his most recent performance:
🎯 On target! QB Aidan O'Connell has been named the @WalterCampFF National Offensive Player of the Week.
— Purdue Football (@BoilerFootball) November 7, 2021
Yea, Aidan O’Connell balled out on Saturday.
— Purdue On BTN (@PurdueOnBTN) November 8, 2021
Highest-graded QBs in Week 10
1. Aidan O'Connell, Purdue – 91.8
2. Stetson Bennett, Georgia – 90.8
3. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh – 90.6 pic.twitter.com/EWtBUuQ83e
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 8, 2021
O’Connell eagerly gave credit to everyone except himself after the game.
“I don’t deserve any of it,” he said. “You know, God gave me the passion to even work hard to play football, [and] a lot of the opportunities. First of all, give credit to Him. And then it’s coaches believing in me, my parents supporting me, family supporting me, friends support me. So it couldn’t be less about me.”
The fifth-year senior took an unconventional path to becoming a starting quarterback in the Big Ten. He joined the Boilermakers as a walk-on in 2017 and did not see the field until 2019, when he played in six games and made three starts.
Sitting on the bench for two years allowed him to deepen his relationship with God and stay humble.
“My first two years here were pretty low key,” he told Rivals in 2019. “I was kind of doing my own thing. No one really knew about me. I think that was super important to me. In that process, God was showing me my heart and shaping me to become the person I am now. I think I needed those two years to not be in the spotlight.”
Just when O’Connell had entrenched himself as the starter, his 2020 season came to an end after only three games due to a foot injury that required surgery. He made his return in the Boilermakers’ second game this season and has completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 2,087 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games.
A win on Saturday would put Purdue in the thick of the crowded Big Ten West with two regular-season games remaining. Kickoff from Ohio Stadium is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET. Should Purdue win two of its last three contests, it would clinch the program’s first eight-win season since 2007 with a bowl game still to play.
And as O’Connell works to keep his team in the hunt for a trip to the Big Ten title game, he is also working to keep God at the center of his life.
“For the most part, my faith has always been an important part of my life. I haven’t always done a good job of making it a priority,” the Long Grove, Illinois, native told His Huddle last year. “When I was a young Christian, I wasn’t mature and often didn’t live how I knew I should be living. As I’ve matured, I have done a better job of making faith more important. Though I still have work to do, I am working every day to make sure I put God in the driver’s seat.”
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