INDIANAPOLIS — Purdue running back Markell Jones said toward the end of fall training camp that it felt good to be healthy again after injuries caused him to miss a number of spring practices.
Unfortunately for Jones, the injury concern resurfaced in the season opener against Louisville on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. He hurt his knee on a kickoff return toward the end of the first quarter and never returned to the field.
The former Columbus East standout ended the game with two kickoff returns and a fumble on the play that he tweaked his knee. Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm said after the game that he didn’t know how serious it was, but hoped it wasn’t anything major.
“We had a pretty good game plan of getting him the ball in multiple ways, in passing,” Brohm said. “We didn’t really get a chance to get to it, and I’m not sure how long he’s going to be out.”
The Boilermakers have multiple options for the kickoff return position, but Brohm said they felt Jones was their best guy. KeyRon Catlett took over after the Jones injury and had four returns for 51 yards.
“Special teams is important,” Brohm said. “That’s the side of the game if you find a way to win it, which I’m not for sure we did this game, you can have a chance to go win some football games when it’s all even between offense and defense.”
Purdue put up a good fight against Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the No. 16-ranked Cardinals. The Boilermakers fell 35-28 but had a three-point halftime lead and led 21-13 in the third quarter.
The Cardinals scored 12 unanswered points to take a 25-21 lead. Purdue was within seven points with 4:18 seconds left in the game a chance to tie the game on a final drive with 1:14 left to play. It ended on a failed fourth-and-4 conversion attempt.
“I thought we showed some fight today,” Brohm said. “We gave it the whole game, kind of took it down to the wire. Unfortunately, we came up short. I was really proud of the effort from our team. I think that throughout spring, summer and fall camp, our guys have worked hard.”
Sophomore Tario Fuller entered the game as Purdue’s No. 1 running back on the depth chart and led the Boilermakers with eight rushes for 31 yards. Jones was listed as the No. 2 back, but his early exit prevented him from getting any carries.