Posted on: March 6, 2012 10:46 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Purdue.
Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 7
Spring Game: Saturday, April 14
Returning Starters: Eight on offense, seven on defense, one specialist
Three Things To Watch For:
1. Quarterbacks competing. It wouldn't be a spring practice at Purdue if there wasn't a quarterback competition, would it? This spring there will be four signal-callers vying for the privilege, and all four of them have started at some point in their Purdue careers. Caleb TerBush started for the Boilermakers last season, but he's still going to have to hold off Robert Marve, Sean Robinson and Rob Henry. Marve was granted an extra year of eligibility and he won't want to waste it on a sideline. Then there's Henry who missed last season with an ACL injury (that ligament is the bane of Purdue football) after having a spectacular spring. He may have started for Purdue last season if not for the injury, and he'll want to shine again now that he's been cleared to return.
2. The offensive line. Purdue was one of the deeper teams in the Big Ten on the offensive line last season, but that won't be the case in 2012, and it will be interesting to see how it handles the situation this season. While replacing left tackle Dennis Kelly will be important, it'll be just as important to find competent backups at each spot on the line in case of injury. Purdue did have five offensive lineman as part of its latest recruiting class, and it's possible guys like Cameron Cermin, Joey Warburg and Jordan Roos are forced into action earlier than Danny Hope would like. So I'd expect to see them get a lot of work this spring.
3. Who is playing safety? While Purdue is no doubt happy to have both of its starting corners back in Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen, the Boilermakers lost both their starting safeties to graduation. The Purdue defense gave up a lot of big plays last season, and having to play two new starters as your last line of defense can't be the most comforting thought when you're trying to fix that. Max Charlot is likely to grab at least one of starting spots, but the second spot is wide open.
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Posted on: October 23, 2011 6:57 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
WINNER: The fans at Spartan Stadium
The scene in East Lansing Saturday night was Big Ten football at its best: a packed house under the lights, a national audience, and two highly-ranked programs duking it out for all 60 minutes. The end of the Wisconsin-Michigan State game was phenomenal beyond comparison, of course, but even without the miracle touchdown from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol to finish the game off it was still probably the best of the year in the Big Ten. This time, there was no collapse, no widespread ineptitude, nothing but a mighty good football game.
So being that the fans at Spartan stadium were nice and loud (and probably, ahem, well-lubricated by the time of the late kickoff) and they got to see such a stellar effort by both sides, the myriad big plays by MSU -- including the blocked punt for a touchdown being celebrated above -- and the astonishing game-winning play, yes, they are all the winners here. I've personally been part of a home crowd who saw a game anywhere close to that once: Purdue at Iowa, 2002. That was an incredible, euphoric experience, and Saturday's MSU win hit those notes of amazement even better than the 2002 game did. Sparty fans, you don't need to be told this, but you just witnessed a game for the ages. Treasure it.
LOSER: Russell Wilson's Heisman campaign
For the first half of the season, Russell Wilson looked like a great quarterback making fools of bad defenses (Nebraska included). His yards per throw not only led the NCAA, it was a full yard ahead of the pace to set a new FBS record, at 12.16. Wilson was a legitimate Heisman contender, and hey, with what Wisconsin was doing to everybody on its schedule, why not?
Unfortunately, on Saturday, Wilson looked like a quarterback who hadn't played a good defense all year, playing a good defense. The end result was several ill-advised throws, two picks, an intentional grounding call for a safety, and easily the worst start of his brief Badger career: 14-21, 223 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs (Yes, that is his worst start. Like we said, bad defenses). Now, Wilson did engineer four touchdown drives, so it's not as if he was beaten into submission all night, but the offense completely fell apart when Montee Bell was on the sidelines, leading one to wonder if the key to keeping the Badger offense rolling has never actually been Wilson to begin with.
WINNER: Keith Nichol
Keith Nichol, seen at right with a very good reason to smile, hasn't had very many opportunities to be a hero in his college career, though it seemed at the start that he'd have chances at every turn; he was originally recruited by Bob Stoops to be a quarterback for Oklahoma, and he only went to MSU because of the emergence of one Sam Bradford down there. Once Nichol transferred to Michigan State, he split time in a QB platoon with Kirk Cousins at the beginning of 2009 before Cousins was named the full-time starter.
Now, there are plenty of quarterbacks who would have simply transferred to an FCS school in search of immediate playing time at that point, and nobody would have begrudged Nichol if that was the path he had chosen. Instead, a spate of WR suspensions going into the 2009 Alamo Bowl against Texas Tech prompted Nichol to switch to wideout, and while he hasn't set the world on fire there, he has at least remained a productive 4th option for Cousins -- and a loyal teammate to the rest of the program. It takes a lot of maturity to catch passes from the guy who beat you out for a starting role at QB, and if that doesn't sound true, try beign forced into a different job at work and taking orders from the person who took the job you wanted. Right. Not fun.
So, seeing Nichol go through the first 59 minutes and 59 seconds of the game without a catch, only to become the hero on the last play like that? That's not only a joy, it's a testament to program stability. Does a hypothetical freshman backup wideout in Nichol's stead know to be in that position to look for a deflection? Does that hypothetical WR also have the will to push the ball across the plane against multiple tacklers? Neither is a given, but we do know the answer is yes for Nichol. The phrase "couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy" is trite to the point that it's usually used sarcastically, but it absolutely applies here.
LOSER: Ron Zook, again
Forget the 21-14 final score of the Illinois-Purdue game, please, because it paints a very inaccurate picture of how close the contest really was. The Boilermakers ran out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, and Illinois never touched the ball again after bringing the game to 21-14. Despite the large lead Purdue rang up in the win, we'll refrain from saying the game "didn't feel like an upset," because it absolutely did; Illinois had scoring chances but blew them, while Caleb TerBush and the rest of the Purdue offense just flailed ineffectually in the second half and got a win to show for it anyway.
Illinois should not have been so mentally flat coming into the game, though, especially coming right off a loss to Ohio State (who, like Michigan, was off this week) where the Illini handed the anemic OSU offense scoring chances in the second half time and time again. The mental errors need to be corrected coming off a game like that, not magnified. That is on Ron Zook and his coaching staff, 100%. And so even with Illinois at 6-2, it's that "2" that looms larger at this point in the season, and that threatens to balloon in a hurry if Zook doesn't get the team back on track. Otherwise, there's really no telling how much more patience the Illinois brass will have for him.
WINNER: Marvin McNutt
Coming into this week's action against Indiana, Iowa WR Marvin McNutt just needed one TD to break the all-time Hawkeye receiving touchdown record of 21 that he shared with Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes. McNutt got that touchdown on Saturday. Then he got two more. In the first half. In related news, the Hawkeyes-Hoosiers game was not very close.
McNutt now has 41 catches for 757 yards and eight TDs in seven games thus far, all of which lead the team by substantial margins. If he keeps that pace up for the rest of the year, he would shatter Iowa single-season receiving records in both yardage and scoring -- and he would also set Iowa career marks in receptions and receiving yardage to go with his touchdown mark. So keep your eyes on No. 7, Iowa fans; he's probably the best wide receiver in school history.
It would be inappropriate to lay the struggles of Northwestern at the feet of Dan Persa, since he's hardly the worst performer on the Wildcats; for one, Persa isn't responsible for the defense, which currently gives up about 250 yards of passing per game and can't crack the top 100 in FBS in pass efficiency defense.
That said, though, Persa is at least the most visible of the Wildcats, and is so by the direct actions of an athletic department that hyped him as "PersaStrong," even as he (understandably) struggled to recover from a severe Achilles injury. And the fact is, Persa's just not at the level he played at last season. His mobility is hampered to the point that he doesn't run designed rushes, and he doesn't have the same timing down with his receivers that he did last year. He also doesn't seem entirely recovered from that injury, though he's at least at the point in the process where it's going to take play on the field to get back to the "100%" of 2010 and not more time with team doctors.
All in all, though, Persa's barely even beating out Kain Colter for the starting QB role, and while we expect Persa to at least continue that mastery of the starting lineup, the fact that Colter's still getting snaps there every week demonstrates that even the Northwestern coaches don't fully trust Dan Persa's leg yet. And given that, it seems more than a little silly that he was the focus of a Heisman campaign coming into the season, doesn't it?
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Big Ten, Bob Stoops, Caleb TerBush, Dan Persa, Danan Hughes, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kain Colter, Keith Nichol, Kirk Cousins, Marvin McNutt, Michigan State, Montee Ball, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Ron Zook, Russell Wilson, Sam Bradford, Texas Tech, Tim Dwight, Week 8, What I Learned, Winners and Losers, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 22, 2011 4:33 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 6:16 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
PURDUE WON. A late rally by No. 23 Illinois wasn't enough to erase a 21-0 deficit, and Purdue came up with a 21-14 upset victory. Caleb TerBush was efficient in victory, completing 16 of 25 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns -- his best passing performance against an FBS opponent so far this season.
WHY PURDUE WON: Although it wouldn't be fair to take anything away from the Purdue defense, the truth is that Illinois blew this game. The offense was mostly flat for three quarters, Ron Zook punted from midfield or Purdue territory three times, backup QB Reilly O'Toole threw an interception deep in Purdue territory, and Illinois blew a scoring opportunity at the end of the half by throwing a lateral and struggling for yardage as the clock ran down to one second left, then spiking the ball after the clock hit 0:00 on the next snap. That's plain poor game management, and it's enough to lose a game.
WHEN PURDUE WON: After Nathan Scheelhaase took a QB keeper in from two yards out, Illinois needed a great onside kick to keep its hopes alive. Kicker Derek Dimke's effort was fine; the ball took a high bounce and got 10 yards on the correct angle. It's just that nobody for Illinois thought to look for the ball. Justin Siller corraled the kick with nobody near him and could have taken off with it, but he was content to hit the ground and preserve possession. With only one timeout left, Illinois couldn't get the ball back from Purdue, and that was that.
WHAT PURDUE WON: This was a huge win for a Purdue team that finds itself on the edge of bowl contention this year. With the victory, Purdue finds itself at 4-3 with five games left -- four of which come against teams that were 2010 bowl teams (and are likely 2011 bowl teams). Moreover, the win over a Top 25 team is going to be huge for program morale at a time when the Boilermakers could use it the most.
WHAT ILLINOIS LOST: Not only are Illinois' hopes at a division championship basically out the window, but so is the team's spot in the Top 25 -- and so is its confidence. Whatever mojo Scheelhaase had at the beginning of the year is basically gone; even though he led the team to two late touchdown drives, those drives took up so much time that Illinois just didn't have enough time to have a chance to complete the comeback.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Everything about Illinois' offensive performance was crazy -- and not the good, fun kind. It takes an unusual coach to be at 6-2 in the Big Ten and still on the hot seat, but it appears Ron Zook might be on the verge of accepting that challenge.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 11:45 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 11:45 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
NOTRE DAME WON. Notre Dame finally looked like the team it was hoping to be this year, and all it took was a date against Purdue to do so. This game was never really in doubt as the Irish scored a touchdown within the first 30 seconds of the opening kickoff, and finished the night with 549 yards of total offense. The majority of that damage came on the ground, as well, with Cierre Wood rushing for 192 yards and a touchdown while Jonas Gray rushed for 93 yards and a score of his own. Tommy Rees threw for 3 touchdowns and Michael Floyd returned to form with 12 receptions for 137 yards.
HOW NOTRE DAME WON. To put it simply, Notre Dame just has a lot more talent on its roster than Purdue does, and unlike the first four games of the Irish season, the Domers didn't hurt themselves with turnovers. That's right, for the first time this season, Notre Dame played a full 60 minutes without turning the ball over. And it was also the best that the Irish have looked all season. Coincidence? I don't think so.
WHEN NOTRE DAME WON. This one was over early. Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush's first pass of the evening was picked off after he tried to force a bad throw into coverage, and two plays later Tommy Rees was connecting with Michael Floyd on a 35-yard touchdown. It was only 24 seconds into the game, but after those first three plays, you already had the feeling that Notre Dame wasn't going to have a lot of trouble on Saturday night.
WHAT NOTRE DAME WON. It's always nice for Notre Dame to beat an in-state rival, but really this is a game that the Irish should have won. Of course, considering the trouble that the Irish had in their first four games, coming out and dominating a team that it should dominate is a good sign. Outside of games with USC and Stanford, Notre Dame is through the toughest part of its schedule this year, and a 9-win campaign isn't completely out of the question.
WHAT PURDUE LOST. Purdue fans seemed to take exception to Brian Kelly's comments that this game was Purdue's "Super Bowl" earlier in the week, and I hope those Purdue fans were right, because if this was Purdue's Super Bowl, then there's a lot to worry about in West Lafayette this season. Purdue is now 2-2 on the year, and looking at the rest of its schedule and the way this team has played, it's hard to see the Boilermakers getting much more than 4 wins this season.
THAT WAS CRAZY. I repeat, Notre Dame played a full game without turning the ball over.
Posted on: September 17, 2011 11:41 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
ILLINOIS: Consistency. Ron Zook-coached teams and mental toughness don't often go hand-in-hand, but that's a trait the Illini will need when No. 22 Arizona State comes to town. With QB Brock Osweiler, WR Aaron Pflugrand, and LB Vontaze Burfict, ASU has a plethora of playmakers. And yet, Missouri nearly pulled off a fourth quarter comeback win on ASU last week by staying focused and taking advantage of the Sun Devils' mistakes. Illinois will likely need to do both to pull the upset today.
INDIANA: Just get the win. Indiana's had two games and two disappointing close losses to start the year, and now South Carolina State comes to town. The Hoosiers should be easily capable of defeating the Bulldogs here, and only a continued mental letdown from the first two losses can or should stand in Indiana's way.
IOWA: Avenge Jake Christensen! In 2008, Iowa travelled to Pitt with embattled QB Jake Christensen starting under center. Iowa lost a 21-20 heartbreaker, Christensen was benched for Ricky Stanzi, and that was that. Now, Pitt comes to Iowa City with junior QB Tino Sunseri struggling mightily. Can Iowa bury Sunseri and the Panthers?
MICHIGAN: That's enough drama for one month, thanks. The Notre Dame comeback was one for the ages, but Michigan's got Eastern Michigan and San Diego State to close out the month of September. Brady Hoke's got to be looking for safe, low-blood-pressure wins tomorrow and next week before Big Ten season begins.
MICHIGAN STATE: Score points (because Notre Dame sure will). Unless Notre Dame has one of the worst cases of the yips in football history, it won't turn the ball over five times again, which means that potent offense is going to put up points -- even against MSU's underrated defense. But Michigan State has major-league talent at every skill position, and that talent's going to have to pay off early and often today.
MINNESOTA: Jerry Kill wants you to kill. We're continually buoyed by the good news coming out of Minneapolis about Kill's improving condition, but meanwhile there is a game to be played, and as head coach, Kill must want nothing more than to see his players take the fight to Miami University -- and take the spotlight off him and his seizure condition.
NEBRASKA: So what's Taylor Martinez here to do? Nebraska has looked unstoppable on the ground at times this season, but good heavens is Taylor Martinez hit-and-miss when he throws the ball. Today's a good day to show the coaches he's been watching game film -- and to make better reads and passes against Washington's sturdy secondary as a result. Otherwise he's a glorified tailback running the wildcat.
NORTHWESTERN: The Kain mutiny. This is likely Kain Colter's third straight start under center for Northwestern, and since there's a bye week coming up and Dan Persa's at least suiting up for today's game against Army, it's also likely Colter's last start. His last, that is, unless he earns the spot over Persa with play on the field. What I'm saying is, he should aim for at least eight touchdowns today against our troops. It's not patriotic, but neither is any team that beats Army, so what're you gonna do.
OHIO STATE: Win the aerial battle. Both Ohio State and Miami have somewhat suspect situations at quarterback, with Joe Bauserman and Jacory Harris both seemingly one or two bad weeks away from a spot on the bench. OSU's got the better secondary, but not by much, so execution on both ends of the passing game is going to be critical in this night game.
PENN STATE: Don't sleep on Temple. The Alabama nightmare is gone and done, and Penn State can get back on track this week. Except... Temple's off to a hellacious start. It beat FCS powerhouse Villanova 42-7, then stomped MAC rival Akron 41-3. The line on this game is seven points. SEVEN! Temple RB Bernard Pierce vs. Penn State's front seven should be great fun to watch.
PURDUE: A new peace at quarterback? Purdue fans are probably eager for a familiar face under center against Southeast Missouri State, and to that end, Robert Marve appears to be ready to take snaps today. Caleb TerBush is still the starter, but it's generally accepted that he was just placeholding until Marve's rehab from last year's ACL injury; he wasn't even expected to play much this year, but putative starter Rob Henry tore an ACL before Week 1. Sophomore Sean Robinson has had his expected redshirt burnt for the second straight season, and has struggled in his limited opportunities. Sound like a mess? It is. So if Marve looks good today coming into next Saturday's bye week, expect him to be written into the starting role for Week 5.
WISCONSIN: No alarms and no surprises. Wisconsin is headed for a classic "trap game" at Northern Illinois this weekend, and Northern Illinois is better than you think. The Badgers have the horses to win handily, but they're on the road and facing former defensive coordinator Dave Doeren, who's now helming NIU. A fast start and a minimum of mistakes will help put this game away early -- and keep blood pressures down back home in Madison.
Tags: Aaron Pflugrand, Adam Jacobi, Akron, Alabama, Arizona State, Army, Bernard Pierce, Big Ten Bullet Points, Brady Hoke, Brock Osweiler, Caleb TerBush, Dan Persa, Dave Doeren, Eastern Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Jacory Harris, Jake Christensen, Jerry Kill, Joe Bauserman, Kain Colter, Miami, Miami University, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Ricky Stanzi, Rob Henry, Robert Marve, Ron Zook, San Diego State, Sean Robinson, South Carolina State, Southeast Missouri State, Taylor Martinez, Temple, Tino Sunseri, Villanova, Vontaze Burfict, Washington, Wisconsin
Posted on: August 24, 2011 5:15 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2011 5:45 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
No program in the Big Ten has been hampered worse by ACL injuries over the last couple seasons than Purdue, so it stands to reason that head coach Danny Hope would be hoping to have a normal, healthy set of practices before the season this year.
Clearly, whatever cruel football deity is taking residence in West Lafayette has other ideas.
Purdue announced Wednesday that starting quarterback and co-captain Rob Henry tore his right ACL in a non-contact injury during Tuesday's practice. The extent of Henry's injury isn't yet known, but a torn ACL should be enough to end Henry's season before it starts; the real question is how quickly in the offseason he can get back to work.
“Rob Henry is a huge part of our football program, our heart goes out to him,” Hope said in a statement. “He was voted a captain by the team in the spring, and I know he will continue to inspire and push Robert (Marve), Caleb (TerBush), Sean (Robinson) and all of his teammates forward.” Marve, TerBush, and Robinson are all fellow quarterbacks.
The specter of ACL injuries haunts the Boilermakers' quarterback situation even past Henry's injury, though. One of the injured players last season was Marve, who began the season starting at QB before his knee gave way against Toledo early in the year. So while Marve would ostensibly be the new starter in Henry's stead, he's still dealing with soreness in his own surgically repaired knee, and told reporters yesterday he's trying to get his knee ready for conference play -- which, for Purdue, starts October 1.
That's not good news for a Purdue team that needs a quarterback a little sooner than that, so TerBush -- who missed last season to academics but is eligible and ready to roll this season -- is probably first in line for Week 1. Past TerBush, Robinson played in emergency duty as a true freshman last year, and he was planning to redshirt this season as the presumptive fourth-string QB. That plan, clearly, might need to be revised yet again.
The Boilermakers also still have Justin Siller, a senior wide receiver who was a converted quarterback, and who made one start against Michigan last season before (yikes) being lost for the rest of the season with a foot injury on the first play from scrimmage. At this point, Siller's not part of the QB conversation, but there's no telling whether the Boilermakers might need him or not again.
It's, to say the least, too bad that these injuries continue to plague Purdue. The team showed a great deal of competitiveness last season, even with backups (and their backups) all over the place on offense. With any luck, the injury spree will stop here, and the Boilers can get something approximating their best eleven on the field this season.