West Lafayette, Ind. • Ross-Ade Stadium
Sept. 20th, 2003 • 12 noon EST/CDT (10 a.m. MST/PDT)
Radio: KNST (Brian Jefferies, Les Josephson)
Television: None, no where. Not even in Indiana
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PURDUE AT A GLANCE
Coach: Joe Tiller (42-28, 6 years)
Offense: One-back Defense: 4-3 2002 Record: 7-6; Big-10 4-4, T5th (Beat Washington in the Sun Bowl)
Site: West Lafayette, Ind.
Series Record: This is the first meeting between the two schools.
WHEN PURDUE HAS THE BALL
The Boilermakers typically line up in a one-back offensive set with three receivers or two tight ends. Tiller was one of the first coaches to introduce the spread offense to the Big Ten and since his initial success a number of teams in the conference have followed suit. The offense calls for quick strikes to the receivers, but this season the Boilermakers have been just as happy to grind it out on the ground. Tiller has been content to take what the defense gives him and that has led to vastly different styles in games played so far this season.
"They will play a low-scoring game, or they will play a high-scoring game," John Mackovic said. "Our defense is going to have to play very well against their run and pass."
Kyle Orton is still trying to find his groove at quarterback and played much better against Wake Forest than he did against Bowling Green in the opener. Orton has a cannon arm and if his decision making improves he can be a killer.
"There's always a right time to try to squeeze a pass in and there's times when you don't want to do that," Orton confessed. "Take it if it's there, and if not, just throw it away and live for another day."
Orton has several reliable targets including Taylor Stubblefield and John Standeford. The two have respective 24 and 23-game reception streaks and the pair led the Big Ten in per-game catches last year. In just six quarters of play, Stubblefield already has 23 catches and if his injured ankle is okay he will be the team's go-to guy this Saturday.
The Boilermakers have a player who may be familiar to many Wildcat fans. Kyle Ingraham, a 6-9 receiver from San Antonio, is the son of former Wildcat Corky Ingraham and almost committed to Arizona before heading to Purdue. Ingraham has already become a popular target inside the redzone where he will have almost a 12-inch height advantage over the Wildcat corners.
Purdue has been thought of as a passing team but they are really getting great production from their running backs. Expect the Boilermakers to attack the beleaguered defensive front of the Wildcats. Sophomore Jerod Void has claimed the starting running back spot and he could become the team's workhorse.
"We think Void's a 30-carry guy; certainly on the field 30 snaps," Joe Tiller said. "We expect him to improve as the weeks move."
Void is not alone in the backfield. Jerome Brooks will see his share of carries and Brandon Jones is quickly becoming a favorite when the Boilermakers run their hurry-up offense.
"It looks like Brandon [Jones] is our two-minute guy," said Tiller. "There are few guarantees in life, but one of them is I guarantee you Brandon Jones will be on the field when we're in the two minute game."
The Wildcat defense is especially thin up front. The Cats have had to all but abandon their 3-4 scheme due to a lack of interior defensive linemen. The Cats have lost five scholarship linemen since spring practice and have had to move their outside linebackers, most of whom were converted defensive ends, back to defensive end.
The Cats employ a 4-3 that actually features two linebackers and a rover safety. Clay Hardt has thrived in the rover spot and his love of the big hit has made him effective against the run.
The defensive backs are a strength of the team, especially the safeties. Darrell Brooks and Lamon Means are one of the better young safety duos in the Pac-10 and players like Tony Wingate, Gary Shepard and Marcus Hollingsworth give the unit fantastic depth.
WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL
The Wildcat offense is floundering. After a brilliant performance against UTEP, the Cats have been unable to move the ball. Ryan O'Hara had more success against Oregon than starter Nic Costa and could get the call this week for his first collegiate start. If he starts, expect O'Hara to be pumped up.
"That's what I have waited for, to start a Division-I football game," said O'Hara of a potential start. "It's been my dream since I started playing football when I was nine years old."
O'Hara is a tall, drop-back passer who has decent mobility. He is better in the pocket than the 5-11 Costa, and that makes him a little bit better suited for the offense. Regardless of who might start, Costa should see action and he gives the Wildcats an added dimension with his 4.3 speed and strong arm. The knock on Costa has been his inability to see downfield while standing the pocket, so it will be interesting to see if the Cats' move him around when he comes in.
The running game is led by the speedy Mike Bell and the more powerful Clarence Farmer. Both players have battled injuries and up and down performances. Farmer has been more consistent, but Mackovic says his conditioning is not where.However, it needs to be there after missing a lot of practice due to knee and shoulder injuries.
The offensive line is in shambles. The Cats lost two key players in the preseason and senior Brandon Phillips was lost for the season when he sustained a knee injury in the Oregon game. Due to the loss of Phillips, starting left guard Kili Lefotu will move to right tackle and redshirt freshman Keith Jackson will likely make his first start in Lefotu's guard spot.
The Purdue defense is a real strength. They have been great against the run and shut down a potent Wake Forest attack last week.
"Their defense is the strength of the team," said Mackovic. "That's what people overlook because they keep talking about their wide-open offense. They only allow 1.4 yards per carry, so nobody is running the ball effectively against them. Last year, they were strong against the run the same way."
Purdue does a great job limiting teams from breaking the big gain. The defense is designed to make you look underneath and take small gains. Teams may be able to move the ball on Purdue with short passes, but establishing the run or getting the quick hit is next to impossible.
"They play an umbrella-like defense, and they just make you slug it out one play at a time," explained Mackovic. "They don't give people many big gains. That is the most underrated part of their entire team. They are tough." Free safety Stuart Schweigert gets the bulk of the headlines and deservedly so. He's one of the best defensive backs in the nation.
"He is an All-America candidate as a safety," said Mackovic. "He has terrific speed, and he is a big-time runner. He is a great tackler."
Although he is getting love from the Walter Camp, Nagurski and Thorpe awards watch lists, Schweigert isn't the only weapon on the defense. Shaun Phillips is a stud at defensive end, as his 21 career sacks shows. In fact, the whole front seven is packed with returning starters. The entire defense returns nine starters from a year ago.
OUTLOOK: Purdue has yet to play like the team that was picked by many to compete for a Big TEN title, but Arizona could be the antidote that the Boilermakers are looking for. The Cats are reeling after two horrible blowout losses in a row. The Wildcat offense would normally have a difficult time with the Purdue defense, but that could be magnified with the injury to Phillips, who was the Cats' best lineman. Arizona has vowed to play better this week and they'll need to if they want to hang with Purdue. The Boilermakers should win handily.