A Sneak Peak at Purdue

ATHENS -- Sometimes it feels like Purdue has given up the passing game entirely, Joe Tiller said.<br><br> "We only threw it 55 times this time up in Wisconsin," the Boilermakers' head coach said.

The last time Georgia played Purdue, it was led by quarterback Drew Brees, who set an NCAA record and made national headlines when he attempted 83 passes in a game against Wisconsin. This year, the 55 passes at Wisconsin were an aberration, nothing more than an excuse for another Joe Tiller one-liner. (The Boilermakers devote a page of their media guide to the coaches "greatest quips.")

The No. 12 Purdue team (9-3) that will face the No. 11 Bulldogs (10-3) Jan. 1 in the Capital One Bowl is led instead by its defense.

"We're really looking in a mirror in a lot of ways," said Georgia's Mark Richt, another offensive coach winning with defense.

The Boilermakers finished the regular season third in the Big Ten in total defense (290.5 ypg) and fifth in the total offense (379.9 ypg). It is the second year in a row, and second in Tiller's eight years, that Purdue has run the ball more than 50 percent of the time.

"The metamorphosis here at Purdue has been from offense to defense," Tiller said. "We were disgustingly shameless in our approach (to passing) early on."

In Tiller's first three seasons, the Boilermakers threw the ball more than 60 percent of the time and never finished higher than fifth in their league in total defense.

"When we came on board we felt like we were going to bring a style of offense that would be difficult for people to defend because they weren't used to defending it," he said. "We really enjoyed a two-year honeymoon here and then people started catching up with us."

Purdue reacted by digging in defensively. Last year, the Boilermakers led the Big Ten in total defense (317.2 ypg).

"There's not a defensive team in the country that has made more progress in the last five years than Purdue," former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie told The Indianapolis Star. "What (defensive coordinator) Brock Spack has done is incredible."

The Boilermakers are eighth in the nation in scoring defense (16 ppg) and 10th in rushing defense (95.6 ypg).

They are led by their linebackers and safety Stuart Schweigert. Middle linebacker Niko Koutouvides leads the team in tackles (90), and outside linebackers Landon Johnson (87) and Gilbert Gardner (72) are second and fourth, respectively. Schweigert has 78 tackles and leads the team with four interceptions.

Purdue starts eight seniors on defense. Four of the Boilermaker defenders who will start against Georgia started the Rose Bowl four years ago and three more are three-year starters.

"The experience level of our defense, along with the fact that we run well, puts that type of level on us," Tiller said. "It's a defense, and I touch wood as I say this, that hasn't made a lot of mistakes, hasn't put itself in a lot of bad positions."

Three of Purdue's top six defensive efforts under Tiller have come this season, in wins over Arizona, Illinois and Penn State in the Boilermakers have allowed 204 total yards or fewer. They have also set the school's single-season sack record (38), thanks largely to defensive end Shaun Phillips' 13.5

"As a coach you take some joy in watching your team develop and play to its strength and grow as a team as the season unfolds," Tiller said. "To me that shows some maturity on the part of your program. Who knows? A year or two from now, we might be back to winging it."

No. 12 Purdue Boilermakers
9-3 overall, 6-2 Big Ten
Total offense -- 379.9
Passing offense -- 223.5
Rushing offense -- 156.4
Total defense -- 290.5
Passing defense -- 195.5
Rushing defense -- 95.0

Leading Passer
Junior Kyle Orton 231-380 passing, 2,655 yards, 14 TDs, 6 INTs

Leading Rusher
Sophomore Jerod Void 220 carries, 889 yards, 13 TDs

Leading Receiver
Junior Taylor Stubblefield 78 catches, 736 yards, 3 TDs

Leading Tackler
Senior Niko Koutouvides 90 tackles, 5.5 TFL

Leading Sacker
Senior Shaun Phillips 13.5

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